Numerically speaking, Beyoncé has received more love from the Grammy Awards than virtually any other artist. The 39-year-old performer is the most-nominated female artist in the awards’ history (both solo and as a member of Destiny’s Child), and is tied with Paul McCartney for second place on the all-time list — just one behind her husband, Jay-Z, and legendary 87-year-old producer-composer Quincy Jones. She’s also seventh on the list for most wins, with 24, and second for most Grammys won by a female artist, behind 27-time champ Alison Krauss. There have been only two years in this century that Beyoncé hasn’t been nominated for a Grammy.
Added to that, she’s the most-nominated artist for the 2021 awards, with nine — oddly, in a year when she released no album. She’s nominated for the sole song she released as the lead artist in 2020 (“Black Parade”); for the one number on which she’s featured (Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” remix); for a video (2019’s “Brown Skin Girl”); and her “Black Is King” film, a companion to last year’s “Lion King.”
But a look beyond the big numbers reveals that the Grammy love has been a bit lukewarm of late. Three of her past four solo studio albums have been nominated for album of the year, without a win — in 2017, Adele even tried to give her album trophy to Beyoncé instead of herself. “I can’t possibly accept this award,” Adele said onstage, after winning for her “25” album. “The artist of my life is Beyoncé, and the ‘Lemonade’ album is just so monumental.”
And although many consider Beyoncé to be the most influential Black female singer since Aretha Franklin, over the years she’s often been similarly ghettoized into R&B and other categories, and away from the “Big Four” (album, song and record of the year, as well as new artist). None of Franklin’s 18 wins and 44 nominations were in the Big Four, and if it weren’t for the R&B and gospel races, she’d have less than a handful of nominations in total.
While Beyoncé’s 15 Big Four nominations have given her a much bigger presence in those categories than Franklin ever had, she’s only won one of those trophies — song of the year in 2010 for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” — and only four of her 24 total wins have been outside the R&B contests. Similarly, with two exceptions, Destiny’s Child’s 14 nominations and three wins all were in R&B and minor categories.
And she’s had some very big years: In 2004, the year of “Dangerously in Love,” Beyoncé won five out of six nominations, and in 2010, with her “I Am … Sasha Fierce” album, she scored 10 nods and six wins. But although she scored nine “Lemonade”-related nods in 2017 — even one for rock performance for her Jack White collaboration, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” — she took home just two awards that year: urban contemporary album and music video (for “Formation”). Adele swept album, song and record of the year categories.
In fact, to put the imbalance in perspective, Adele has won each of the past 13 Grammy Awards for which she’s been nominated, and has lost only three of her 18 total bids, half of which were in the Big Four categories.
The rationale behind the Grammys’ reluctance to fully embrace the dominant female artist of the century is beyond this article’s purview (and word count). But Beyoncé’s nine 2021 nominations include three in the Big Four: “Black Parade” for song and record of the year, and “Savage” in the latter category as well (which means she’s competing with herself). Given the skewed logic that Academy voters have displayed throughout Grammy history, it would almost make sense that one of Beyoncé’s least-prolific years would be the one when she takes home the most trophies.