Beyonce at the Grammys is like Lucy and the football: every time Charlie Brown tries to kick it, it’s pulled right out from under him. She has been nominated for Album of the Year three times and lost three times. She’s not the only person who has failed to snag the top award that often, but the last two times she lost were both upsets. Could she finally win with her latest critically acclaimed set, “Homecoming”? If so, it would be the first live album to prevail in a quarter century.
“Homecoming” was a Netflix concert film that Beyonce herself directed. It centers around her buzzed-about performance at the 2018 Coachella Festival, which paid tribute to historically black colleges and universities. Critics adored the documentary, which scored 92 on MetaCritic based on 12 reviews and was described as “a career-defining document” for Beyonce. The almost two-hour-long soundtrack album was just as acclaimed, scoring 98 on MetaCritic based on five reviews.
The album includes every performance from the concert, including Beyonce’s past hits “Single Ladies,” “Drunk in Love,” “Crazy in Love” and many more. And there are two bonus tracks that were recorded in the studio: “Before I Let Go” and “I Been On.” The fact that most of the album consists of songs Grammy voters already know might hurt Beyonce and so might the fact that, well, the Grammys just don’t like live music very much, at least not in the general field.
Only four live albums have prevailed over the years: “Judy at Carnegie Hall” by Judy Garland (1962), “The Concert for Bangladesh” by George Harrison and Friends (1973) and two “MTV Unplugged” albums recorded before live audiences: Eric Clapton‘s (1993) and Tony Bennett‘s (1995). Since then, live versions of songs have won in genre categories (like Adele‘s “Set Fire to the Rain” and Pharrell Williams‘s “Happy” in the pop field), but no live album has claimed Album of the Year.
Beyonce has a big Grammy IOU to cash in, but the recording academy has been reluctant to pay it out. Her first Album of the Year bid was for “I Am… Sasha Fierce” in 2010; she won six Grammys that year, which is the most for a female artist in a single year, but Album of the Year wasn’t one of them. Then she was nominated for her self-titled album in 2015 but unexpectedly lost to Beck‘s “Morning Phase.” And when she was nominated for “Lemonade” in 2017, her loss to Adele’s “25” was such a shock that Adele even apologized to her on stage.
But when Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z released their joint album “Everything is Love” in 2018, it wasn’t even nominated for Album of the Year despite the category being expanded that year to eight slots. That means the nominating committee that makes the final decisions on general field nominees was either tired of Beyonce losing or maybe just tired of Beyonce. If so, a live album might be an especially tough sell for voters. Nevertheless, Beyonce is one of the most awarded individuals in Grammy history, so don’t count her out completely.
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