It wasn’t really a surprise that Beyoncé paced this year’s Grammy nominations with nine noms. Who doesn’t love Beyoncé? Even Adele, her rival in the four of these nine categories, is a big fan. What was surprising was the range of genres in which Beyoncé was nominated.
Lemonade is vying for Best Urban Contemporary Album, while tracks from the album are nominated in three varied fields. “Hold Up” is up for Best Pop Solo Performance. “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (featuring Jack White) is nominated for Best Rock Performance. “Freedom” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) is nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
This is in addition to noms in five categories that are open to all genres of music—Album, Record and Song of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Music Film.
There are two main reasons for Beyoncé’s strong, multi-genre showing. Grammy voters really like her. And she’s really versatile. (I’ll grant you, the reasons are fairly obvious!)
A select committee of Grammy insiders determined the final nominees in the top four categories (Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist), as it has every year since 1995. That committee may well have helped boost “Formation” to noms in the Record and Song categories. “Formation” wasn’t nearly as big a hit as many other songs with which it was competing. But the noms in the genre categories were determined by the voters.
Beyoncé isn’t the first artist with noms spread over many genres. Michael Jackson won eight Grammys 33 years ago, the year of his landmark album Thriller. The album won for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, while tracks from it won in two other genres. “Billie Jean” won for Best New Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Performance, Male. “Beat It” won for Best Rock Performance, Male.
The following year, Tina Turner was nominated in all three of these same genres, winning in two of the three. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” won for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. “Better Be Good to Me” won for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. Turner’s cover version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, but lost to Chaka Khan’s fiery version of Prince’s “I Feel for You.”
Other artists who have been nominated in a wide range of categories (though not necessarily in the same year) include Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Béla Fleck and Jackson’s superstar sister, Janet Jackson.
Beyoncé has won 20 Grammys since 2000. Sixteen of them have been in the R&B field, but she has also won in two other musical genres. “Crazy in Love” (featuring Jay Z) won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (2003). “Halo” won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (2009). (Beyoncé’s two other Grammys came in categories open to all genres.)
Adele has won 10 Grammys since 2008. Four have been in the pop field. The other six have come in categories open to all genres.
Again this year, Adele’s noms are mostly confined to the pop field. This doesn’t mean she’s less loved or respected by Grammy voters than Beyoncé is. Adele is a pop singer who stays in the pop realm. 25 includes no collaborations that might have netted additional noms. Beyoncé’s album includes four collabos—with The Weeknd and James Blake in addition to the nominated collabos with Jack White and Kendrick Lamar.
So even though Beyoncé leads in overall noms this year, and has noms in more genres, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she will win in the four categories in which she and Adele will go head-to-head: Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. There will be a re-set. Either artist (or some other nominee) could win. Adele’s album, 25, was far more commercially successful than Beyoncé’s album. Likewise, Adele’s single, “Hello,” was far more commercially successful than Beyoncé’s “Formation.”
What’s more, in following a gargantuan album like 21, Adele faced a harder challenge than Beyoncé did in following Beyoncé, which was a successful album, both critically and commercially, but not an all-time blockbuster. Many artists would have frozen up under the challenge that Adele faced, but she handled it like a pro.
Beyoncé did beat Adele in one category this year. “Formation” is nominated for Best Music Video. “Hello,” though eligible, was not nominated.
Here’s a sign of how closely these two superstars are matched in Grammy love. In the years that both have been active, both have won exactly the same number of Grammys (10). Beyoncé’s two-to-one lead in total number of Grammys won is entirely the result of her head-start in collecting these awards.
Bottom line: Either of these gifted artists could come out on top when the 59th annual Grammy Awards are presented on Feb. 12. Who do you think will win? Place your bets.