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How Beyoncé Became the Most-Awarded Woman in Grammy History

Photo: Getty

Yesterday, the music industry’s biggest event — the 63rd Grammy Awards — took place, but with a few crucial changes. Some of the categories were renamed (Best World Music Album has been renamed Best Global Music Album, for example), while the pandemic, which had delayed the ceremony by two months, meant social distancing was in full effect. However, the ceremony still managed to deliver on multiple unmissable moments, with women such as Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion and Taylor Swift dominating the awards.

There was, however, one star who shone a little more brightly than most: Beyoncé. Queen Bey led the Grammy Awards nominations with nine, giving her a grand total of 79 nominations throughout her career. Last night, she added a staggering four more trophies to her previous 24 wins, picking up Best R&B Performance for Black Parade, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for her part on Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage remix, and Best Music Video for Brown Skin Girl featuring her nine-year-old daughter Blue Ivy Carter and Wizkid. In another first for the family, Blue Ivy became the second-youngest ever Grammys winner.

“As an artist, I believe it’s my job to reflect the times, and it’s been such a difficult time,” said Beyoncé when accepting her final and history-making award of the evening for Black Parade. “So I wanted to uplift, encourage, celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the world.”

Photo: Getty

But what’s the key to her awards-show dominance? Here, Vogue examines the ongoing power of the 39-year-old superstar.

Beyoncé was a child when the first wave of pop megastars hit

In the halcyon days of the 1980s, the Grammy Awards were the ultimate popstar status symbol. They helped cement each prospective superstar-in-waiting, elevating them to new heights where commercial success was joined by industry recognition and credibility.

For example, Michael Jackson — who famously moonwalked off with eight Grammys on one night in 1984 — was followed on to the fairly roomy megastar pedestal by Prince (three wins in 1985), Madonna (three nominations in the 1980s) and George Michael, who won Album of the Year in 1989 for Faith. For a young Beyoncé — born in 1981, and the star of her first girl group, Girl’s Tyme, by 1990 — this equation of Grammys plus megastar equals legendary status would have left its mark on the pop star-in-training, who is now one of music’s hardest working, and most studious, practitioners.

She’s never been confined to one genre

Since her first Grammy nominations in 2000 — two nods for Destiny’s Child’s Bills, Bills, Bills, which lost to TLC’s equally huge No Scrubs — Beyoncé has chalked up a ludicrous 79 nods in total, the most of any female artist. Of those nominations — including nine this year — she’s taken home 28 statuettes.

Beyoncé’s victories have been spread out over a career that includes Destiny’s Child (two wins for Say My Name), and award-guzzling collaborations with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Shakira, Kanye West and, of course, husband Jay-Z. In terms of her musical influence, her genre-hopping has also been recognised with nominations and wins coming in various Grammys categories, including Pop, R&B, Traditional R&B, Urban, Rock and, this year, Best Rap Performance with Megan Thee Stallion on Savage (Remix).

Her musicality, mixed with songwriting and production credits from the start of her career, has also meant that she’s elevated herself above some of her more pop-leaning contemporaries who rarely venture into the world of writing and producing (Britney Spears, for example, also landed her first nomination in 2000, but has only won once — for Toxic — out of eight nominations).

Beyoncé with Blue Ivy and Jay Z Photo: Getty

She’s already passed her skills on to Blue Ivy

Like all good superstars, especially ones evolving with the internet, Beyoncé understands the importance of good visuals. This year recognizes her as a director for Black is King, her Disney+ musical film set in the world of her Lion King spin-off album, The Gift. Meanwhile, Brown Skin Girl won Best Music Video.

The latter is perhaps the most interesting because it also gives Blue Ivy — who appears on the song alongside her mother, Saint Jhn and Wizkid — her first Grammy award, making her the second-youngest winner ever. The first of many? Blue Ivy has already won an NAACP Image Award, a Soul Train Music Award and a BET Her Award. Now, the Carter household has an astonishing 160 Grammy nominations in total, with only twins Sir and Rumi, yet to step up to the plate.

Photo: Getty

She’s still got one more Grammy to win

Beyoncé’s Grammy Awards journey hasn’t been without controversy. While she walked out of the 2010 ceremony with six awards for her I Am… Sasha Fierce album, she’s been relatively snubbed for the big awards for her more recent, critically adored classics. The often-overlooked 4 — a real turning point in terms of forging her own path after splitting with her manager (and father), Mathew Knowles — was only nominated twice. Its 2013 follow-up BEYONCÉ — an emotionally complex, deliciously loved-up visual album that changed the way music was released — won three of its five nominations and one of those was for, er, Best Surround Sound Album.

After 2016’s breakup-to-makeup opus Lemonade cemented her status as one of music’s biggest icons, it seemed like another Grammys sweep was in order. Instead, she left with two wins out of nine nominations, and one of those found her trapped in the Urban Contemporary Album category (it’s now been renamed as Best Progressive R&B Album). This was strange, given the album’s vast array of genres including country (Daddy Lessons) and rock (the Jack White-assisted Don’t Hurt Yourself). That same year also represented the third time Beyoncé had been nominated for and lost the prestigious Album of the Year category. As Adele, the winner that year for 25, put it afterwards: “What the fuck does she have to do to win Album of the Year?”

In a career strewn with success, broken records and the sort of cultural clout that means you’re studied in actual universities, perhaps not yet having an Album of the Year Grammy means there’s something to aim for. While she might not admit it — music is so much more than awards — you don’t get to Beyoncé’s position without wanting to be credited with your industry’s highest accolades. Fingers crossed that there’s another surprise album drop on the horizon and then maybe she can fulfil that last one come 2022.

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