A night in music brimming with shocking upsets, historic wins, tributes for artists like the late rapper Takeoff and hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, the 65th Grammys were back in full swing Sunday. Once again, Beyoncé was in the running for the top honor.
Once again, the show ended with someone else winning album of the year.
This year was widely seen as a chance for the Grammys to honor the superstar with a marquee award, especially on a night where she could have ( and did ) become its most decorated artist.
Instead, Harry Styles won, and a line from his acceptance speech stung those who thought Beyoncé should have won.
Here’s what happened, how it’s been perceived and who picks the Grammys’ top honors.
WHAT’S CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT STYLES’ WIN?
Styles won for his third album, “Harry’s House,” and even he seemed surprised when his name was called.
The British pop star was competing against other giants in the industry: acts like ABBA, Adele, Bad Bunny, Brandi Carlile, Coldplay, Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé.
While accepting the award, he said, “This is really, really kind. I’m so, so grateful… I’m just so — This doesn’t happen to people like me very often. And this is so, so nice. Thank you very, very much.”
The line, “this doesn’t happen to people like me very often,” drew criticism in the hours after his win.
Styles was born and raised in Northern England and rose to fame in 2010 when he auditioned for the Simon Cowell-led talent competition show “The X Factor.” He placed third with the boyband One Direction. His solo career has earned him several Grammys and Billboard-charting albums and singles.
Styles hasn’t said what he meant by his words. Some have interpreted it as him trying to express how far he’d come from his youth. Others, however, see the remark as an example of white privilege.
WHY ARE PEOPLE MAD AT STYLES’ WORDS?
Many of Beyoncé’s fans are fiercely protective of the singer. They’re called the Beyhive, after all.
Despite Beyoncé’s 32 Grammy wins – the most of any artist in history – many are troubled by the fact she has yet to win album of year and that she’s lost to white musicians every time she has been nominated.
Washington Post pop music critic Chris Richards, in a story headlined “Beyoncé just made Grammy history. Why does it feel like she still lost?” wrote that her historic achievement feels hollow.
“Why does that feel like not enough,” Richards asked. “Because for the past 20 years and counting, the Recording Academy has routinely failed to recognize Black artists at their creative peaks — and to her credit, Beyoncé keeps updating that peak with each new album.”
Similar criticism was raised in other stories and by online commenters, some of whom noted a Black woman hadn’t won album of the year since Lauryn Hill in the late ‘90s.
Ashley Smalls, a Black feminism and pop culture doctoral student at Penn State University criticized Styles’ speech in a tweet: ”‘this doesn’t happen to people like me very often’ when a Black woman hasn’t won that award since 1999 is crazy lol.”
WHAT IS BEYONCÉ’S GRAMMYS HISTORY?
The artist is tied with her husband, Jay-Z, for most nominations all-time with 88 but she has only won 32 times. Most significantly, Beyoncé has lost album of the year four times to Taylor Swift, Beck, Adele and now Styles.
Beyoncé has been nominated in each of the most prestigious categories across her decadeslong career but she has won in these categories just once for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).”
A Black woman has not won album of the year since Lauryn Hill received the accolade for her breakout album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1999. The last Black person to win the award was Jon Batiste, last year for his album “We Are.”
WHO DECIDES ALBUM OF THE YEAR?
According to Billboard, the Recording Academy boasts more than 12,000 voting members. The entire membership is allowed to vote in the big four categories — best new artist, record, song and album of the year. Members are also responsible for nominating in their area of expertise, as well as voting on the winners this categories.
Numerous artists have criticized how the Grammys nominate artists. The Recording Academy is undergoing a campaign to diversify its membership and has a goal of having 2,500 female members by 2025.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BEYONCÉ AND STYLES?
Both are hitting the road for international tours.
Styles’ next show is in Thailand next week and he’ll play shows in Asia and Europe into the summer.
Beyoncé will be starting her “Renaissance” tour in May in Sweden and will play dates in Europe and the United States.
—Nardos Haile, The Associated Press