Welcome to ‘Monday Musings’!
A new segment from Teenplicity, ‘Monday Musings’ will explore personal interests and thoughts in a multitude of ways. Whether it be through lists, fan interaction, or discussion posts, each week will offer a different topic and new perspective from Teenplicity about what is on our mind. The range of topics, just like our interests, will be vast. Some might be familiar, as it could highlight previous feature stars, while others will discuss uncharted subjects for Teenplicity. They might be fun posts with a silly twist or a more serious discussion about something that could concern you.
The goal is for Teenplicity to become more engaged and involved with our readers. The Teenplicity Team is made up of fans, just like you. Let us know what you care about – a show, a film, music, an event or aspect of your life. There are no limits for what can be explored in ‘Monday Musings’ or how we present it to you.
Let’s take it back to the scene of the crime, shall we? The year is 2017. The month is February. It’s a Sunday night and it seems as if the award show will never end because these award shows never do. We all have school or work in the morning, but still, social media is alive watching the show together.
There was a ton of good music that came out during the qualifying period of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Some were rightfully nominated, some weren’t. Some won, some didn’t. But, it’s almost nondebatable that two of the biggest travesties was how the Recording Academy allowed Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Rihanna’s ANTI to be robbed what was rightfully theirs.
Here are the facts:
Fact #1: Lemonade was the Album of the Year in 2016.
You know it. I know it. Adele knows it and she even knew it then. It was bold, really, for the Recording Academy to attempt to force a reluctant Adele into taking Beyoncé’s award. And during Black History Month of all times? A very bold move. Especially after Beyoncé performed not one but two songs, while pregnant with twins and giving deity visuals. Leaning on chairs. The whole nine yards. You could practically hear Vivian Ward saying “Big mistake. Huge.” as the robbery happened.
According to the Recording Academy, their awards (especially) including Album of the Year is meant to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception.” In the year of 2016, that was without a doubt Lemonade. As I mentioned before, 2016 had so much amazing music, that said, with all due respect to Adele and every other nominee (and non-nominee) there was perhaps no other album in 2016 with the same level of cultural relevance and artistic range as Lemonade offered. The album crossed genres and still managed to be cohesive. It introduced us to an entirely different era of Beyoncé without erasing Beyoncé. And it shouldn’t go ignored to note that Lemonade was an album and a visual piece of work that centered blackness (more specifically black womanness) through R&B, country, rock, soul, etc. in a way that I’m sure a white artist (especially a white man at the same point in his career as Beyoncé) would have won for. And they for sure would have won for it as opposed to being accused of crossing genres in order to rack up nominations. But, I won’t make this about white counterparts or the fact that people keep pretending like just about every Western music genre doesn’t have roots in Black culture. (Although…I mean….I just wanna make sure we see/realize that they do.)
Instead, this will be made about how it almost feels like black artists (especially black women/girls as artists) are often times damned if they do and damned if they don’t in terms of their reception. If an artist gets “too mainstream” they’re looked at as overrated or the obvious choice for the win, therefore, it’s assumed that they don’t deserve to win. But this can very often ignore all of the hard work that went into that artist’s achievement and success. This is most evident in a ton of black women who are artists (artists in general but I’m talking about black women right now so that’s who I’m centering.) But there’s no more perfect example than that of Beyoncé.
It’s at this point that I also wanna remind you that in 2013, she changed the game with Self-titled. It was yet another album that showed artistic achievement, technical proficiency, and overall excellence in a way that required pretty much every artist to rethink the way they released, designed, and made their music. The album still lost to Beck who maybe made a good album, but by comparison of artistic innovation? Questionable. Actually, it’s not questionable. Self-titled wins and yet, it didn’t. (His song “Loser” is still a bop though don’t get me wrong.)
Fact #2: ANTI Should Have Won Best Urban Contemporary Album. But Also, ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album’ is a Questionable Category.
In a perfect world, Lemonade would have won Album of the Year and ANTI would have won Best Urban Contemporary Album. Instead, Lemonade took home that trophy. Which is fine, but it left ANTI Grammy-less and that just is not fine. Anyone who has heard ANTI should be on the same page that it’s a masterpiece. Going back to Grammy standards, it excels in artistic achievement, technical proficiency, and overall excellence. This is just facts. And yet, ANTI went home with nothing. The level of disrespect.
Urban contemporary as a genre is classified historically as a mix of rhythm, blues, R&B, disco, and rap. The name was coined by Frankie Crocker, a popular New York radio DJ in the 1970s. Since then, like every music genre, it’s grown to include different sounds and the like. Now, urban contemporary tends to be associated with classic old school R&B and (in my opinion) any music that is considered “unapologetically black” so usually aka rap/hip hop. Urban contemporary is a valid genre. But, it’s hard not to watch the Grammys handle the category and it not feel like they’re essentially just looking at it as the “not quite hip hop enough but not quite R&B enough” category.
There’s also just the connotations that come with whiteness describing something relating to blackness as “urban.” It’s difficult. I feel like I’m talking in circles just coming to terms with it.
Especially because sadly, the inclusion of the word “urban” makes it one of the few categories that no matter what, I can feel confident feeling like a black artist really has a chance being nominated for it and winning it. I don’t want to assume that others feel the same way. But, I will say that every year, it seems like more and more people hint towards feeling the same way.
Fact #3: It’s Not Too Late to Give Lemonade Album of the Year or ANTI Best Urban Contemporary Album.
Okay, so this technically isn’t a fact. I don’t have some kind of wacky plan to make this happen. All I’m saying is that it’s not too late. Give them the award Recording Academy. I beg of you. Reread the two facts I just gave you and figure something out. Or mail two Grammy’s to my home and I’ll engrave them myself.
Fact #4: While We’re Here I Just Wanna Point Out That Janelle Monáe Not Receiving An Award for Dirty Computer is Also a Travesty and It’s Not Too Late to Fix That Either.
The original idea for this weeks Monday Musings post was actually going to be a list of why Dirty Computer deserved Album of the Year even though it lost it. (I had this idea for a literal week because even though I wanted it to win, I felt like it wasn’t going to win.) The reason this went a different route was because of time and also because it would have been impossible for me not to acknowledge that this wasn’t the first time the Recording Academy committed a robbery.
For the sake of time, I will spare coming up with a complete list. But, I will give you five:
- One of the most important and best anthems of our lifetime, “Make Me Feel” deserves to be on a Grammy award-winning album in all of its glory.
- I’ll be the first to admit that the emotional picture as a whole wasn’t perfect and could have benefitted from some more rewrites and cohesion. (Here is me shooting my shot to help write the Jane, Zen, [and Che] love story.) That said, the album itself was very creative, unique, profound, and complex in how it explores identity (in this case, blackness, womaness, and queerness) and self-acceptance when holding identities that are shamed by society.
- The music video visuals????????? I mean??????????
- The way that she delivers, “Uh, I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off // And you rated me a six // I was like, “Damn” // But even back then with the tears in my eyes // I always knew I was the sh*t” in “I Like That.”
- Prince would have voted for and I’m sure if he were alive he probably would have appeared during her performance and they would have done some cool guitar break together. Her performance last night was perfect, but that would have been the cherry on top. And since we couldn’t see that, the least you could have done, Recording Academy, was give me the opportunity to see her potentially thank him in her speech.
Here is the thing, I 100% understand that awards shouldn’t determine the worth or merit of an artist or a body of work in the bigger picture. I also understand that as an artist, you shouldn’t make art with the intention of winning an award for it. But also as an artist, I know that there are people who do. Getting a Grammy doesn’t suddenly make you rich(er), nor does it make you the best artist of your genre despite the word “Best” being in some of the category names. However, no one can deny that awards such as the Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, etc. hold a certain power in artistic mediums and winning them opens doors. I’m establishing all of this stuff because I can picture someone reading this and understandably going, “Who cares?! It’s just an award!” And I wanna establish that to an extent, I do think you’re absolutely right.
All of that said, in the 60-year history of the Album of the Year category, so many amazing, creative, and influential albums have won. In the midst of all of these amazing and influential albums, it’s absolutely ridiculous and questionable that only three were black women: Natalie Cole (1992), Whitney Houston (1994), and Lauryn Hill (1999).
I just have to ask, what will it take for a black woman to win Album of the Year again? I’m aware that black women have won and been nominated for multiple Grammys. I’m also aware that Beyoncé and Rihanna have Grammys of their own. (Janelle has been nominated for 8 but has yet to win.)
That’s not necessarily the point I’m getting at. It’s more like the preface.
The question I’m more so posing is this: what will it take for the innovative black women in the music game to receive the same credibility for their innovation and their range that their white and/or men counterparts get? There are countless black women in the industry (past and present) who make or have made such dope and creative music. And yet, they get most of their roses only after the men and only after white artists and only after they’re no longer making music and only after they’ve died. And that’s if they get them at all. (Perhaps a dramatic and overly general statement, I’ll admit, but truth lies within it.)
The goal of my Monday Musing Black History Month posts is to honor, celebrate, and educate on the past and present of Black existence, right? Here is how I recommend honoring, celebrating, and educating yourself on Black existence this week: listen to more Black women in music. And also learn about and discover different Black women in multiple music genres. There’s this preconceived notion that Black women in music are supposed to compete. And regardless if they are or aren’t competing, there can only be one on top while the rest have to wait their turn or for the other(s) to step down. It’s not true. It’s never been true. It will never be true. And we’re all so much better off when we refuse to even humor the very idea of that getting to be a thing. If Imagine Dragons, OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Coldplay, The 1975, and any other band adjacent to these get to all be successful at the same time, there is nothing you can possibly say that would convince me that we can’t hype up more Black women in the industry simply because artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna are still in the game.
And also, just because a Black woman makes it big and is super talented (and knows it), that doesn’t mean they no longer deserve love and recognition! If Black women can’t get love and recognition because they go ignored for the sake of more recognizable Black women and yet, more recognizable Black women also can’t get love and recognition because they’re too known, when in the world are Black women supposed to receive love and recognition? Riddle me that catch 22?!
Maybe I’ll create my own little recommendations playlist to go with this post eventually. (Until then, our current Teenplicity Radio lineup features some amazing Black woman and yet it’s also just a taste of what Black women in music offers. You can also look at my previous selections for Teenplicity Radio and the black women that we’ve interviewed on this site–here’s where I point out that we could do such a better job featuring so many more Black women who make music. Trust me, I’m trying.) But, I think it’d be very dope if this post inspired you to just on your own, go explore and find some gems that you’ll hopefully share and uplift.
Did you like ‘Monday Musings’? If so, you’re in luck! Each week, Teenplicity will feature a new ‘Monday Musings’ post about things we are looking forward to, topics close to our hearts, or suggestions from readers!