At the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12, 2017, the two singers went head-to-head in four categories. Adele won all four of these contests. The British superstar’s blockbuster hit “Hello” beat Beyoncé’s socially conscious “Formation” for record and song of the year. “Hello” also topped “Hold Up,” the third single from Beyoncé’s Lemonade album, for best pop solo performance. Finally, 25 bested Lemonade for album of the year.
In her acceptance speech for the latter award, a highly emotional Adele all but handed the Grammy to Beyoncé, who was standing in the front row with her husband, Jay-Z, as the audience rose to its feet to celebrate Adele’s win. Adele’s speech stands as one of the most selfless and gracious in awards show history.
After some introductory thanks, Adele addressed the issue of competing with a friend and an artist she greatly admires. “I can’t possibly accept this award and I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious, but my artist of my life is Beyoncé and this album to me – the Lemonade album – was so monumental.”
Addressing the singer directly, she continued: “Beyoncé, it was just so monumental and so well thought-out and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see, and we appreciate that. And all us artists here, we fu—ing adore you. You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel – the way you make my Black friends feel – is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves and I love you. I always have and I always will.”
Beyoncé didn’t go home empty-handed that night. She won two Grammys – best urban contemporary album for Lemonade and best music video for “Formation.” And she has won seven more Grammys since that night.
And Queen B could make more history this year. If she receives four nods when the 65th annual Grammy award nominations are announced later this year, she’ll tie Jay-Z for the most nominations by anyone in Grammy history (83). If she nabs five, she’ll take the title outright — assuming the current nominations leaders – Jay-Z, Paul McCartney (81) and Quincy Jones (80) – don’t add to their nominations tallies too.
If Beyoncé wins three Grammys at the 65th annual Grammy Awards, expected to be held at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles in late January, she’ll tie the late classical conductor Georg Solti for the most wins by anyone in Grammy history (31). If she wins four, she’ll take that title outright.
How likely is it that Beyoncé will put up those kind of numbers this year? Pretty likely. She has amassed four or more Grammy nominations in a given year (the number she needs to tie the nominations record) nine times. She has won three or more Grammys in a given year (the number she needs to tie the awards record) four times.
If Renaissance wins album of the year, Beyoncé will become the first Black woman to win in that category (as a lead artist) since Lauryn Hill won for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 24 years ago. Two other Black women had previously won in the category (as lead artists) – Natalie Cole for Unforgettable with Love in 1992 and Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1994.
But Adele is also in line to make history. If her latest album, 30, wins, she’ll become just the second artist in Grammy history to win album of the year with three consecutive studio releases. Stevie Wonder was the first, with Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life.
Adele previously won the award for 21 and 25. Her three consecutive studio albums have been released over the course of 12 Grammy years, which is much more spread out than Wonder’s, which were released in a four-year period. (That prompted Paul Simon, on winning in 1976 for Still Crazy After All These Years, to famously say “And most of all I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder who didn’t make an album this year.”)
Both Beyoncé and Adele are among the most successful artists in Grammy history. Adele has won 15 awards from just 18 nominations, an astonishing winning average.
The main difference between the two artists’ Grammy track records is that Beyoncé has won just one of her 28 Grammys in a Big Four category – album, record and song of the year plus best new artist. It happened in 2010 when “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” won song of the year. Adele has won seven of her 15 Grammys in Big Four categories. She is the only artist in Grammy history to sweep the awards for album, record and song of the year twice.
The voting membership of the Recording Academy has changed since 25 beat Lemonade for album of the year. The membership has grown younger and more diverse, by both race and gender, as a result of an aggressive Academy push to bring in new members.
The nominations process has also changed. Last year, nominations review committees were disbanded in favor of direct vote by voting members. (The Academy retained some craft committees.)
The review committee in the Big Four categories may have helped push “Formation,” which was not a pop radio smash, into the record and song of the year finals.
In a rematch, the membership drive may work in Beyoncé’s favor. The elimination of nominations review committees may work in Adele’s favor. These changes are so recent, it’s hard to know for sure. And the Grammys have always been mysterious and hard to predict.
It’s surprising that Adele and Beyoncé will have both released their follow-ups to 25 and Lemonade in the same eligibility year. You might think that Columbia Records, which distributes both artists’ recordings, would have encouraged them to release in different eligibility years.
With Adele and Beyoncé both seeming like sure-fire nominees for album of the year, that leaves eight spots on the final ballot. (The Grammys expanded from eight to 10 nominees in each of the Big Four categories last year.) So, who else is likely to be nominated?
On May 24, my colleagues Katie Atkinson and Keith Caulfield named 10 top album of the year candidates on their popular Pop Shop Podcast. The front-runners that they discussed were Brandi Carlile’s In These Silent Days, Ed Sheeran’s =, Summer Walker’s Still Over It, Silk Sonic’s An Evening With Silk Sonic, Adele’s 30, The Weeknd’s Dawn FM, Rosalia’s Motomami, Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers and Harry Styles’ Harry’s House.
The eligibility period for the 65th annual Grammy Awards runs from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022. Which means we have more than three months to go. Even more top contenders are likely to emerge before the eligibility year ends.