When Adele accepted the award for Album of the Year at last night’s Grammys, she was thinking the same that everyone else was thinking. This award actually belongs to Beyoncé. So she carved a good chunk out of her speech to acknowledge Queen Bey and the impact of Lemonade, an album that is so clearly better than anything else that was nominated. But Adele ruffled some feathers when she made an important distinction about how the album was received by different people. Adele said “I can’t possibly accept this award,” before calling Lemonade “so monumental.” [Where is the lie?] The singer went on, “The way 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.” This is where the singer ran into trouble for those who thought her comments were inappropriate and tokenizing.
But I think this outrage is a result of Adele’s comments being taken completely out of context. In fact, Adele’s clarification was meaningful because it subliminally points to why Lemonade likely lost. By acknowledging that Beyoncé’s album means something uniquely specific to Black people as opposed to other listeners, Adele successfully avoided the trap of colorblind feminism that ignores intersectionality. Lemonade was absolutely an album for Black people, especially Black women. It would have been a disservice to pretend like it wasn’t, especially when it can be argued that the Recording Academy didn’t acknowledge the project for that very reason. This is actually the kind of honest allyship I’d like to see more of. Tokenism is when you use the race of your friends to bolster your own credibility. That’s not what Adele did. She kept it real about how her Black friends — no matter how many of them there are — experience the world around them differently than she does. I appreciate that.