Critics say deck was stacked against Beyonce for album of the year

Even Adele, who won album of the year, thought it should have gone to Beyonce.

February 13, 2017, 8:18 PM

— -- Adele was the first to say that Beyonce should have won album of the year for her critically acclaimed "Lemonade."

As Adele was accepting the top prize of the night, she said it should have been Beyonce up on stage.

"I can't possibly accept this award," she said, fighting back tears. "And I'm very humbled, and I'm very grateful, and gracious. But, my artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the 'Lemonade' album, was just so monumental. And 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, and we appreciate that."

As a teary Beyonce looked on from the audience, Adele continued, "All us artists here adore you. You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel; the way you make my black friends feel is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have, and I always will."

Later backstage, Adele, who won all five awards she was nominated for, including song and record of the year, explained why she felt compelled to give Beyonce her due, even breaking her trophy in half to share with her idol.

"I felt like it was her time to win," she said, revealing that she had voted for her. "What the f*** does she have to do to win album of the year? That's how I feel."

Apparently, Adele is not alone in feeling that way.

Beyonce's loss -- she's been nominated in the top category three times -- has highlighted longtime claims of apparent racial bias made by critics of the music industry's biggest awards. While black artists are honored in the genre categories, especially rap and R&B -- Beyonce, for example, took home the award for best urban contemporary album as well as best music video -- they rarely win the top award.

Beyonce would have been only the 12th black artist to win album of the year in The Recording Academy's history.

"The Grammys is doing what it’s always done, similar to the Oscars," Alex Gale, executive editor of Complex magazine, told ABC News. "Beyond having a history of overlooking black music, the Grammys tend to overlook innovation. Beyonce is more of an innovator."

Gale added, "The difference now, there is social media. People are paying much more attention to issues like this and how institutions are awarding people."

Considered the most prestigious award of the night, album of the year, which encompasses all genres, has been presented at the Grammys since 1959.

In that time, there have been only 11 black winners. Stevie Wonder is the biggest, having garnered the album of the year honor three times, in 1974, 1975 and 1977.

Lauryn Hill, like Adele, has won twice, first for "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" in 1999 and as a collaborator on Santana's "Supernatural" the following year.

Other winners include Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones and, in 2014, Pharrell Williams in collaboration with Daft Punk.

Last year, Frank Ocean told The New York Times that he chose not to submit his music for consideration and was planning not to attend this year's Grammys in protest of its weak record of awarding black artists, particularly in the album of the year category.

"That institution certainly has nostalgic importance," he said of the Grammys. "It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down."

Ocean, who took home two Grammys in 2013 but lost out on the top prize to Mumford & Sons, later pointed out on Tumblr that Taylor Swift's album should not have beat out Kendrick Lamar's last year.

"1989 getting album of the year over To Pimp A Butterfly. Hands down one of the most 'faulty’ TV moments I’ve seen," he wrote.

After Beyonce's loss, her sister Solange, who picked up her own Grammy for best R&B performance, seemed to agree with Ocean. She tweeted a link to his Tumblr post, along with a shout-out, "Wuddup Frank."

There's even a new hashtag trending on Twitter: #GrammysSoWhite.

Gale points out that this isn't the first time in Grammy history that artists have fought for more inclusion. In the late 80s and 90s, rappers such as Salt-N-Pepa and LL Cool J, who would later host the awards show, boycotted the Grammys because they felt the Recording Academy wasn't acknowledging rap.

These days, there's no denying the impact that black artists have had on music and popular culture overall.

"You look at how dominant hip hop and R&B are and then at how few black artists win in the categories that are supposed to recognize overall dominance," Gale said. "These are crossover artists. Rock is a genre too. If that can cross over and win, why can't hip hop and R&B."

Gale thinks it will over time. "As things are diversifying overall in society, I'm hoping that the Grammy committees are doing the same," he said.

The Recording Academy did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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