FiveGram­my­gongs, but Bey­oncé missed the big one

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

All the breath­less re­ports from this year Grammy Awards have it that Bey­oncé Knowles was the big­gest win­ner on the night. Bey­oncé won six awards, a new record for most wins by a fe­male per­former, and she has been duly anointed “Queen of the Gram­mys”.

What’s wrong with this pic­ture? Plenty. Bey­oncé wasn’t the big­gest win­ner on the night – that was a 21-year-old woman who could prob­a­bly walk down Grafton Street without be­ing recog­nised. But Bey­oncé takes good pic­ture, and in to­day’s me­dia that’s enough to dis­tort the real story.

Now, noth­ing against Bey­oncé. She’s an amaz­ing singer, a fan­tas­tic per­former (her live shows are world-class) and nowhere near as inane and vac­u­ous as so many of her con­tem­po­raries. Granted, all the “Thank you Je­sus for bless­ing me with such tal­ent” is more than a bit off-putting. But looking at the big­ger Bey­oncé pic­ture, that’s not a deal-breaker.

Let’s look at what Bey­oncé ac­tu­ally won last Sun­day night: gongs for Song of the Year, Best Fe­male Pop Per­for­mance, Best Fe­male R’n’B Per­for­mance, Best R’n’B Song and Best Con­tem­po­rary R’n’B Al­bum. Some of those are du­pli­cate awards: in to­day’s mu­sic there’s not that much dif­fer­ence be­tween Best Pop Per­for­mance and Best R’n’B Per­for­mance . The same goes for Song of the Year and Best R’n’B song.

Bey­oncé was given all th­ese awards for her work on I Am . . . Sasha Fierce, so you’d think the al­bum would be a shoo-in for the all-im­por­tant Grammy Al­bum of the Year. For­get ev­ery other mu­sic award and ev­ery other Grammy cat­e­gory – Al­bum of the Year is the big­gest gong in the mu­sic busi­ness. Pre­vi­ous win­ners in­clude Sgt Pep­per’s Lonelyhearts Club Band, Ru­mours and Thriller. It’s a higher level of award, and the sales bounce is in the mul­ti­mil­lions.

For I Am . . . Sasha Fierce, the la­bel and the pro­ducer as­sem­bled an über-team of song­writ­ers and stu­dio wizards, in­clud­ing the most pro­lific song­writer alive to­day in terms of hits: the awe­some Ryan Ted­der. Un­like nearly ev­ery other award, Al­bum of the Year is shared by the artist, the pro­ducer, the en­gi­neer, the mixer and the mas­ter­ing en­gi­neer. So, if Bey­oncé’s al­bum had won (and it was nom­i­nated), some 32 peo­ple may have risen to ac­cept the award.

There’s also the song­writ­ing ques­tion. The Al­bum of the Year al­ways leans heav­ily to­wards artists who have writ­ten their own ma­te­rial, with few ex­cep­tions over the years. While Bey­oncé is cred­ited as a song­writer on all but one of Sasha Fierce’s 11 songs, she was not work­ing alone.

This in it­self is not al­ways im­por­tant (Elvis Pres­ley and Frank Si­na­tra didn’t write their own ma­te­rial), but mat­ters in this case be­cause Bey­oncé makes a big deal of her song­writ­ing abil­i­ties.

For ex­am­ple, she has said that her big­gest hit, Crazy in Love, was “re­ally hard to write be­cause there was so much go­ing on. I mean, I had writ­ten, what, seven, eight No 1 songs with Des­tiny’s Child in a row.” True, Bey­oncé is cred­ited on some of the Des­tiny’s Child songs, but her name ap­pears in the cred­its along­side those of other song­writ­ers.

As for “writ­ing” Crazy in Love? Back in the 1960s Eu­gene Record of the Chi-Lites wrote Are You My Woman (Tell Me So). You can lis­ten to it on YouTube. Crazy in Love’s pro­ducer, Rich Har­ri­son, has given us a new song that, to me, sounds very sim­i­lar. Jay-Z added a rap and Bey­oncé added new lyrics.

It could be boast­ing like that that lost Bey­oncé the Grammy she re­ally wanted. Or it could be that while 32 peo­ple were in­volved in her al­bum, it took only six to de­liver the win­ner: Tay­lor Swift’s Faith­less. And Swift, who’s all of 21, didn’t need any “help” with her song­writ­ing.

The big kiss-off? Bey­oncé missed out on the top Grammy

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