The Grammys are considering adding an Afrobeats category – if not the most exclusive one ever, at least the most exciting. But no one is quite sure what to call it. Is it pop, soul or rap? The only thing we do know is that Beyoncé and Rihanna each have a chance to win the award.
“I think it’d be cool for them to show that they’re black,” says Johnnie To, a member of the Recording Academy’s voting panel. “I love all three of the artists on the show, so it’d be cool for us to give them a chance.”
Even that description would be too narrow. Beyoncé released a self-titled triple album in 2007, featuring collaborations with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to The Neptunes. Her fourth album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like, was out last week, and the pop star’s latest album, Lemonade, dropped on Friday. The singer has earned a reputation as a performer of high stature, but this new album is her most accessible in years. Rihanna, meanwhile, is the only black artist ever to win the award for best pop solo performance, as well as the first black woman to win best new artist, and the last to win at least once in her four nominations.
“We’re going to get to an award show with the biggest pop acts in the history of the Grammys,” says Mariah Carey, who was also nominated in the music program category in 1985 for her album The Emancipation of Mimi. “But there’s no way we’re just going to give that to Beyoncé and no way we’re just going to give that to Rihanna. Because it’s an awards show, it’s a celebration and it’s kind of a big thing to do – and a lot of music is about those kind of things.”
Not that all music is about celebrating. Most of the music that has earned the top prizes at this point is in the field of pop, meaning no rock or folk music is as much a part or as integral to the show as those songs that have captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
A representative from the Recording Academy says the selection