How Did Harry Styles Win the Album of the Year Grammy Over Beyoncé?

We all knew it was possible, even likely, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. On Sunday night, the Grammys had a lot of room for error. There was only one category they absolutely, positively could not mess up in the eyes of pretty much every viewer: At the end of the night, the show needed to bestow its marquee award on Beyoncé for Renaissance. Instead, a dead-eyed Harry Styles—whose performance of “As It Was” earlier in the evening felt utterly lethargic—wound collecting the trophy for Album of the Year and delivering a speech about how no one sets out to make the “best” music.

At this point, the Grammys’ failure to properly honor Beyoncé is the stuff of legend. Sure, Sunday’s ceremony celebrated her for breaking the all-time record for Grammy wins, but, notably, only one of those 32 wins has been in one of the four major categories (that was in 2010, when “Single Ladies” won Song of the Year). This was her fourth turn competing for Album of the Year, after previously losing out with 2008’s I Am…Sasha Fierce, 2013’s Beyoncé, and 2016’s Lemonade. In 2017, Adele even used her acceptance speech to explain why Beyoncé should have won the award for Lemonade instead.

“I can’t possibly accept this award,” Adele said on stage at the time. “The artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental. Beyoncé, so monumental. It was 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.”

Lizzo seemed to call back to Adele’s speech as she accepted her award for Record of the Year (a category in which Beyoncé was also nominated) during Sunday’s ceremony. She recalled skipping school to watch Beyoncé perform and told the singer during her acceptance speech, “You changed my life. … You sang that gospel medley—and the way you made me feel, I was, like, I want to make people feel this way for my music. You clearly are the artist of our lives.”

The Recording Academy’s failure to recognize Black talent has been an ongoing discussion for years; major artists including Drake and The Weeknd have continued to boycott the Grammys over their perceived snubs. Sunday’s ceremony seemed determined to present a more inclusive face, including an impeccably produced segment honoring hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. When it came time to hand out awards, however… well, it was Harry Styles and not Beyoncé.

Styles, for his part, seemed stunned to learn he’d won Album of the Year. “I’ve been so, so inspired by every artist in this category with me at a lot of different times in my life,” he said as he accepted the award. “I think, on nights like tonight, it’s obviously so important for us to remember that there is no such thing as best in music.”

Following his big win, the Harry’s House singer was asked backstage if he, like the rest of the world, had expected Beyoncé to win Album of the Year. His answer was nothing short of diplomatic: “You never know with this stuff. I don’t think you can look at any of the nominees and not feel like they’re deserving. When I look at this category, it’s all people who have inspired me.”

A polite sentiment, but it probably won’t do much to help his case with the Beyhive.

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