Jay-Z Brings Blue Ivy Onstage to Defend Beyoncé in Grammys Speech

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Standing beside daughter Blue Ivy, Jay-Z addressed Grammy voters and executives with a callout that's been a long time coming: It makes absolutely no sense that Beyoncé is the most nominated and most awarded Grammys artist and yet she's never won its highest, most comprehensive honor, Album of the Year. Unless, of course, you're an institution known for its implicit and systemic biases against non-white musicians.

“When I get nervous, I tell the truth," Jay-Z said at the Grammys 2024 to an audience of artists and execs, including a cowboy hat-clad Beyoncé who was there to celebrate her husband's achievement. The Grammys honored Jay-Z on Sunday evening with the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, and he used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to call attention to the awards' documented shortcomings in acknowledging some of the most impactful figures of and contributions to pop culture.

Jay-Z accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award onstage with Blue Ivy Carter during the 66th GRAMMY Awards on February 4, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

66th GRAMMY Awards - Show

Jay-Z accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award onstage with Blue Ivy Carter during the 66th GRAMMY Awards on February 4, 2024 in Los Angeles, California
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“How far we have come with Will Smith, the Fresh Prince winning their first Grammy in ’89 and boycotting, because it was not televised. And then they went to a hotel to watch the Grammys," he recounted at the beginning of his speech.

“I don’t even understand, it was not a great boycott,” he joked, "But then in ’98, I took a page out of their book and was nominated for Best Rap Album. And DMX put out two, they were both number one, and he was not nominated at all. So I boycotted and I watched. I’m just saying, we want you all to get it right. We love y’all, we love y’all. We want you to get it right — or at least get it close to right. And obviously, it’s subjective, because it’s music and its opinion-based, but some things…”

He trailed off, and decided to say what needed to be said as he looked directly at Beyoncé. “I don’t want to embarrass this young lady, but she has more Grammys than everyone and never won album of the year. So even by your own metrics, that doesn’t work. Think about that. The most Grammys, never won album of the year. That doesn’t work.”

His point is clear. Beyoncé has been nominated for Album of the Year four times, and she's lost to a white artist all of those times. In 2010, I Am… Sasha Fierce lost to Taylor Swift's Fearless. In 2015, her industry-changing self-titled album lost to Beck's Morning Phase. In 2017, Lemonade lost to Adele's 25. And in 2023, Renaissance lost to Harry Styles's Harry's House.

There's an inconsistency in Grammys voting, and these inconsistencies rarely seem to go in Beyoncé's — or any other Black woman's — favor. Some years they acknowledge fame above all; sometimes they take in overall cultural impact; sometimes they go for musicianship and attention to detail. Each of Beyoncé's projects could align with one of those movements (and often all three) and yet… and yet.

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“Some of you are gonna go home tonight and feel like you’ve been robbed,” Jay Z continued in his speech, with Blue Ivy standing stoically next to him in support. “Some of you may get robbed. Some of you don’t belong in the category.”

Grammys voting works like a continuously-culled pool of names. Academy members and record labels submit entries, which could be argued inherently prioritizes mainstream big label-supported acts, and they are then screened by more than 350 experts, and sent out in ballots to members — there are more than 11,000 members who are eligible to vote each year — who then do a second round of voting. (Read more about the process here.) “To ensure the quality of voting, members are directed to vote only in those Fields in which they are peers of the nominees,” the Recording Academy site says.

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And still, a Black woman has not won Album of the Year since Lauryn Hill in 1999. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift made Grammys history this year with her fourth AOTY win, for an album that, while impactful, is certainly not her best musical work.

Music is subjective, as Jay-Z noted, and voting processes, especially when an award show holds such institutional power, are vulnerable to biases. But something has to give. Either the Grammys continue their downward spiral into irrelevancy, or they commit to undoing years of systemic racism by adjusting the voting process to better and more accurately acknowledge the best work in a given year.

“But outside of that, we got to keep showing up. And forget the Grammys for a second, just in life — as my daughter stares at me, nervous as I am — just in life, you gotta keep showing up," Jay-Z ended his speech. "Keep showing up until they give you all those accolades you feel you deserve. Until they call you Chairman. Until they call you genius. Until they call you the greatest of all time.”

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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