“Twice as good.”
Be twice as good to get half of what they have. Growing up black in white America, this phrase is your constant companion. Passed down by your parents, it’s part-gift, part-curse, and supposed to be the ultimate motivator—do your homework, go to class, get good grades, work hard, rise above, go high. Always aim to be better than yourself.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles has won 240 awards and been nominated for 712. She is the most-awarded artist of the BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. With 22 Grammy wins and 62 nominations she is the shows most nominated and second-most awarded femme artist. As a solo artist, she has sold over 100 million records (plus 60 million from her time in Destiny’s Child) making her one of the best selling music artists of all time.
Even putting statistics aside, Beyoncé is doubtlessly one of the most talented performers of this era and has never shied away from showing us exactly how hard she has worked to get there. With her most recent work extending beyond the boundaries of pop stardom, Beyoncé has left that label behind and ascended to the level of a true visual artist. From her radical visual albums to her breathtakingly intricate performances, Beyoncé skillfully crafts every element of her cultural productions to the service of a vision all her own. You don’t even need to be a fan to understand that the impact Beyoncé has on the music industry is absolutely unparalleled. Beyoncé exists on a level by herself, doing things that the rest of us can only dream of.
The outrage at last night’s Album of the Year Award going to Adele (a talented artist in her own right) is not just over the fact that Beyoncé really needs another award. It is over the fact that with Lemonade Beyoncé produced something in quality that soars above any other album made this year in technical elements alone and still lost simply because of it was and is a love letter of black femininity. It is over the fact that Beyoncé constantly does better than herself. It is over the fact that Beyoncé is more than twice as good.
While it’s not like there is any shortage of (completely deserved) love going in Beyoncé’s direction, the hate she does receive focuses on one central claim: “She so full of herself.” Constantly parroting the idea that she is somehow overhyped or overrated, almost all criticism of Beyoncé comes from some perception of narcissism. A notoriously private person, Beyoncé routinely denies interviews and plans any public speeches beforehand. All that we know of Beyoncé is what is shared with us through her music, her website, and her Instagram—carefully crafted to present us with Beyoncé exactly as she would like to be seen (she is a Virgo y’all). The image she builds for us is of a woman who loves her family and God, loves her work, loves her people and her home and her culture. All love. There is not one thing in the world I could say I know Beyoncé hates. This same woman, this lover, rarely ever talks about herself—twice as good, and never says a thing about it.
Where then is the self-obsessed narcissist that people love to hate? She lives in the misogynoir of a culture that forces the black femme—disgraced on two counts against the white heteropatriarchy—into the space between rejection and desire. The narcissist exists in a culture that is disgusted with and afraid of the black woman who knows exactly what she is worth and never questions it. The black woman who dares adorn herself in gold, who dares sing of her strength, who dares sanctify herself in her own love. People are uncomfortable with Lemonade-era Beyoncé taking ownership over black womanhood in a way she hasn’t before. They’re uncomfortable with an album that asks every black woman listening to do that too. They’re uncomfortable with Beyoncé returning the black woman to the center of narratives we are historically and presently systematically excluded from. Beyoncé’s narcissism is simply loving herself for the exact reasons she shouldn’t. Lemonade didn’t win because it rewrote history in the black women’s image.
While I’m well aware Beyoncé losing the Album of Year Award at the Grammys is like one of the smallest problems in the world right now (considering, you know, the entire political climate) but it still needs to be discussed. Beyoncé is not the first black artist to lose when they definitely deserved to win and she definitely won’t be the last. This loss is simply an illustration of complex tangle of social issues that lead to black artists being profited upon but never getting the credit they’re due. It’s about black people being the foundation of culture but still excluded from it. It’s about being twice, ten, a hundred times as good, but somehow still not being enough.
Beyoncé did not need that Grammy, but she deserved it.
Words by Chaia
All images from beyonce.com