By Terrance Turner
Nov. 24, 2020
The nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards were announced today, and Beyoncé leads the pack with nine nominations. Her song “Black Parade” has been nominated for four Grammys, including the prestigious prizes of Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The record is also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance. Those four nods make it the most nominated song at the Grammys this year. Also nominated for Record of the Year: “Savage”, her collaboration with rapper and fellow Houstonian Megan Thee Stallion. The record is also up for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.
Beyoncé, who has won 24 Grammys, is now the most nominated female artist of all time. She has 79 nominations, according to USA Today. Significantly, her nominations this year come for music that reflects the growing awareness of Black culture, Black people, and specifically Black women.
“Black Parade” is a celebration of Blackness and Black people. “We got rhythm, we got pride/We birth kings; we birth tribes,” Beyoncé sings. “I can’t forget my history is herstory. We black, baby. That’s the reason why they always mad.”
The song’s lyrics address African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” she sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.) According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa as a work shirt for African men; it dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride.
“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. The song arrives just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative for black-owned businesses. The initiative, posted on beyonce.com/black-parade-route, features a dizzying array of Black-owned designers.
The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. One featured restaurant, soul food café This Is It, is located in Beyonce’s hometown, in Houston’s Third Ward. The Lemond Kitchen, which caters gourmet Southern cuisine, is also based in Houston. (Its Heights location, on 612 Archer St, now offers home delivery and pickup!)
“Happy Juneteenth,” Beyoncé wrote on her website. “Being Black is your activism.
Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.” Also noted: “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need.
“Savage,” while more light-hearted, also has major import. A collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, Bey’s verses perfectly match Meg’s cocky, tough-talking style. “Queen Bey, [don’t] want no smoke with me/Gone turn this motherf—er up 800 degrees,” Bey says. “My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat/ Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit”.
Speaking of food, Beyoncé and Megan donated the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, serving hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church. According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly but eventually ended up serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s.
Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve quality of life for the needy. The project works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief. More recently, Bread of Life also teamed up with Beyonce and her mother Tina Knowles Lawson to provide housing for 40,000 flood victims in Houston.
Black is King, directed by Beyoncé, is nominated for Best Music Film. The film, which premiered on Disney+ in July, tells the story of a young African prince, exiled from his homeland, who reclaims his throne. “‘Black Is King’ means Black is regal and rich in history in purpose and in lineage,” Beyonce told GMA. “”And my hope for this film is that it shifts the global perception of the word ‘Black,’ which has always meant inspiration and love and strength and beauty to me.”
That intention comes through loud and clear in the video for “Brown Skin Girl”, which is nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video. The song is a celebration of dark-skinned women; the video is a touching tribute, featuring Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter, fellow bandmate Kelly Rowland, actress Lupita N’yongo, and British model Naomi Campbell. In the video, Beyoncé is shown wearing a variety of African-themed hairstyles. In the photo at left, Beyoncé wears a crown braid. The style was inspired by the eastern Congo’s Mangbetu people, according to Beyoncé’s hairstylist Neal Farinah. He wrote on Instagram that the style was created to accentuate elongation of the skull, which “represented royalty and was a status symbol”.
The importance — and beauty — of Black hair and Black skin loom large in both the video and the song. “I love everything about you from your nappy curls/To every single curve/Your body natural,” Beyoncé sings in “Brown Skin Girl”. She adds: “Same skin that was broken be the same skin takin’ over.”
“You’re beautiful,” Beyoncé sings. “Your skin is not only dark; it shines, and it tells your story.”
UPDATE: Beyonce has won the Grammy for Best Music Video for “Brown Skin Girl.” Her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, who also appeared in the video, wins her first Grammy.