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Spike Lee says that Beyoncé’s album of the year loss at this year’s Grammys was “some straight-up bullshit” while discussing the “tricky territory of validation” Black artists find themselves in during awards season.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Oscar winner shared his feelings about how the most awarded artist in Grammys history has been snubbed four times in the album of the year category. While Lee admitted he’s “not the male president of the Bey Hive,” he does, like her fan base, “love and support” her. That includes supporting her getting her due for the “amazing” Renaissance album.
“I know she’s won multiple Grammys, but four times nominated for album of the year and she’s lost every time?” he said. “No disrespect to those artists like Adele or Harry Styles who won. It’s not their fault, but that’s some straight-up bullshit.”
In addition to Renaissance’s album of the year nom — an honor Harry Styles’ Harry’s House ultimately took — Beyoncé has been individually nominated three other times in the category. That includes a nomination for Lemonade in 2017, which she lost to Adele’s 25; in 2015 for her self-titled album, with the award going to Beck for Morning Phase; and in 2010 for I Am … Sasha Fierce, with album of the year going to Taylor Swift’s Fearless. (Beyoncé was additionally nominated in 2011 for Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster as a featured artist, a win that went to Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.)
For critics of the Recording Academy‘s voting choices, adding to the four-time loss in the category — even as Beyoncé broke the record for the most Grammys awarded to a single performer in the award show’s nearly 70-year history — is the fact she’s lost every time to white artists.
It’s a particular pain point that Lee acknowledged, pointing to a larger discussion about how Black artists engage with entertainment bodies that have historically excluded them.
“There’s a history of great Black artists who come up for these awards and don’t win. We all know their work is great because art speaks for itself,” he explained. “But then it always comes down to this tricky territory of validation. Do Black artists say: ‘Fuck it’ — or seek white validation and chase awards?”
The director didn’t explicitly answer, but in giving “a shoutout” to Beyoncé, stated, “We know what the deal is.”
“It’s straight-up shenanigans, skulduggery, subterfuge,” he added. “Or as the British say: It’s some poppycock!”
During the interview, Lee was also asked about the issue as it relates to the Oscars, which faced its own backlash over the surprise best actress nomination of Andrea Riseborough for To Leslie, which she secured thanks to a nontraditional, celebrity-fueled campaign.
Riseborough’s nomination sparked a review by the Academy following the snubs of Black actresses and 2023 award season contenders Viola Davis for The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler, who led Till.
This time, Lee — who prefaced his comments by saying, “I’ve really got nothing to say about it” — chose to focus on praise for the Black women who were nominated while acknowledging the Film Academy’s issues with historical exclusion.
“I’m happy Angela Bassett got nominated. I’m happy Ruth Carter — who for a long time was my costume designer — got nominated,” he said. “It gets tricky when you get these award things. And the Academy has a history with … The Academy has a history, let’s leave it at that. But the whole #OscarsSoWhite hashtag definitely made an impact. The Academy, to their credit, made changes to bring diversity to the voting body.”
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