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With most Grammy wins, Beyoncé has perfected the art of longevity

The reigning queen of pop Beyoncé has kept a fickle music industry on its toes. At the 65th Grammy awards, she was finally recognised for it.

February 06, 2023 / 08:56 AM IST
Catch all the Grammys 2023 action live.

Catch all the Grammys 2023 action live.

Beyoncé has won her 32nd Grammy, surpassing the late British-Hungarian conductor Georg Solti for most Grammy awards of all time.

At the 65th annual Grammy awards, Mrs Carter had nine nominations — the highest any musician — including the top three categories, i.e. Best Album, Best Record, and Best Song of the Year. She already holds the record for a female musician with the highest number of wins. She now has the most nominations in Grammys history, tied with Jay-Z, with 88 each.

Beyoncé’s place is already cemented in history books. Few other musicians in any genre have had the sort of longevity that the pop diva has had. November marked 25 years of Beyoncé’s immense career. In that time, she has grown from teen pop idol to superstar and an icon for female empowerment. Femme pop notwithstanding, not only has she doled out fresh, superlative music at a consistent pace like a pro, she has revamped the survival strategy for musicians in the streaming era. Remember when surprise drops were all the rage? Beyoncé started it.

She has elevated the live pop performance to never-seen-before heights — Beychella is unforgettable. To her fans, this has been evident from her early days as a musician. There was a prehistoric time — the 1990s — when pop music was produced with all the precision and speed of an assembly line. Boy bands and girl bands and pop icons were manufactured and served up as the primest ribs, each morsel of music they produced to be relished, until it was exhausted. It was in this factory that Beyoncé Knowles’s career was born, as one third of the mega popular girl group Destiny’s Child, along with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.

There’s a clip of a Destiny’s Child circa 2000 that’s been circulating lately. In it, wearing orange tops and black pants, they synchronise and sing Say My Name, their Billboard No 1 megahit. At one point, Beyoncé breaks from the group and begins to ad lib as the others continue to sing the written verse. This clip, shared millions of times on Twitter, has been taken as proof that Destiny’s Child was a vehicle to launch Beyoncé’s career.

Whether that is true or not is irrelevant for many reasons. For one, in 2011, a 29-year-old Beyoncé told Cosmopolitan UK (five years after Destiny’s Child had disbanded) that she’d thought she would be retired by the time she turned 30. "Now I'm nearly there I can't believe how much more I want to do," she said. And so much more she has done in that time — coming into her own with groundbreaking music albums and formations, but also taking up space in film, art, fashion, and going on to wholly dominate the whole creative circuit.

For another, Beyoncé is a mother, a wife, a style icon, a successful businesswoman, a performer par excellence. She’s also a Black woman who once hired a Black photographer and posed for the cover of Vogue magazine, sans make-up, surrounded with flowers, while she was heavily pregnant. It’s a powerful image: Here was a woman who had unlearned how to shrink herself in every sense of the word.

With her latest album, Renaissance, still sitting pretty at the top of charts, she delves deeper into her truth. An hour long homage to her late Uncle Johnny, who she calls her godmother and who died of HIV, Renaissance is also a joyful tribute to black queer and trans icons — in its mission and the lyrics, of course, but more obviously in the sound, cooked up by longtime collaborator The-Dream. This disco, funk, R&B-soaked record that’ll have you dancing from start to finish invokes the freedom and empowerment of the safe spaces in which marginalised people didn’t only exist, but thrived.

It’s this commitment to speaking her truth, and to documenting the world as it changes under her eyes in her music, that keeps the world’s largest and most rabid fandom coming back. The Beyhive is as much an assertion of loyalty as it is a community that protects their queen bee at all costs; it gives back as much as it takes meaning and inspiration. The rapper Kid Rock probably rues the day he decided to criticise Beyoncé in public, saying he didn’t think too much of either her looks or her talent. Even now, that day is commemorated by the Beyhive which leaves bee emojis all over his social media, lest he forget.

Whole generations have grown up with Beyoncé, and value her commitment to hard work, her perceived perfectionism and her knack for the most subtle subversion. She (and her team) have invented the dance moves that we continue to ape in clubs and on Reels. Her music is, in a sense, clairvoyant — in sound and substance, it magically taps into things and absences we might be unknowingly craving at a mass level. And those words, that have for at least the last decade, been the realest that Beyoncé can be at that moment in her life.

Last Friday, days before the 65th annual Grammy awards night, music Twitter was unusually aflutter with excitement. News of Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour had just been announced. Suddenly everyone was scrambling to check their bank balances, praying for tickets, joking about buying tickets and not being able to eat for four months: double win because they’d finally look exactly as thin as they needed to. Even for those of us who do not have that privilege, now’s the time to practise that viral dance to “Cuff It” — not created by Beyoncé but by a TikToker. Whatever Beyoncé wins at the Grammys, “we gon’ fuck up the night.”

Ahead of the Grammys

Expectation was that the Internet might break.

But bigger still — overdue even — would be Beyoncé taking home the Best Album award, something that has eluded her throughout her career, despite multiple nominations. In 2017, even Adele, who did win the award for her album 25, admitted on stage that she thought Beyoncé should’ve taken that trophy for Lemonade, that very experimental, highly original auteur piece.

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And yet, here we are, with both of them tied in the same category, along with Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Brandi Carlile, Coldplay, ABBA, Mary J Blige, Lizzo and Harry Styles. In this case, history is unlikely to repeat itself — especially given the Bad Bunny juggernaut Un Verano Sin Ti in competition as well. But the Grammys were never about popular opinion alone, so it’s anyone’s guess.

Nidhi Gupta is a Mumbai-based freelance writer and editor.