Friday, May 24, 2024

Beyonce’s Grammys Problem: She Will Never Win Album of the Year Until She Makes a Record of Original Songs


On Sunday, Harry Styles won Album of the Year at the Grammys for his “Harry’s House.”

It had nothing to do with being a guy or being white. “Harry’s House” is an album of all original songs. You may not like them, but they are not sampled. They may sound like old songs, but they stand on their own.

Beyonce once again did not win Album of the Year. Everyone has a theory, but mine is this: her album, “Renaissance,” is full of samples of other music. That’s right. About 20 samples are spread over a dozen songs.

One more thing: the songs on “Renaissance” are full of expletives. The F word is dropped liberally. It’s crude and coarse.

And that’s it. Beyonce has an exceptional voice. I love hearing it. She’s got an ego, but she also has a nice smile. Yes, she shows up late for everything, even the live Grammys, but you’re happy to see her when she arrives. She now has the record for most Grammy Awards, so it’s not like she’s unloved by the Recording Academy.

No, the issue is with her albums’ lack of originality. “Harry’s House,” like Adele’s “30,” is all original material. Even Mary J Blige’s “Good Morning Gorgeous” album is almost sample-free. The rest of the Grammy nominees were largely without samples.

So really, “Renaissance” is lucky to be in the category at all. I know people will tell me that samples are the foundation for hip hop. That’s fine. But to make that final cut for Album of the Year there is a higher standard.

Last year’s winner of Album of the Year was Jon Batiste. A lot of people were surprised. But Batiste combined all new songs with clever covers. He didn’t create Frankensteins.

Add to this the story I wrote at the end of last week. Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” was nominated for Song of the Year. But it was basically a sample of a 1993 disco hit called “Show Me Love.” Beyonce and her producers added some frills and their names to the credits. But the Grammys wouldn’t nominate the original writer, Allen George, because it was a sampled work. Sampling is never going to win the main awards.

Beyonce’s best bet: make an all original record, even if it’s covers of old songs. They can be existing songs. But they can’t be songs made up of particles of other songs. Natalie Cole won for an entire album of covers with her “Unforgettable.” Beyonce can do it. It’s in her power. Everything is, according to her fans. Convene a meeting of the best songwriters and ask for their newest material. Then you’ll have Album of the Year.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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