We all remember that infamous moment of Taylor Swiftdom when Kanye West stumbled onto the VMA stage and declared that Beyoncé had been robbed of the night’s top honor. Last night he almost did that again—not to Swift, but to the suit coat-garbed, oft fedora-topped Beck Hansen.
Beck’s lovely 2014 record, Morning Phase, was crowned Best Album of the Year at last night’s ceremony. The album revisits collaborations with many of the same musicians with whom he worked on his critically acclaimed 2002 LP, Sea Change. His latest effort recaptures the delectably languid pace of the artist’s groundbreaking record, as well as the amicable lushness that helped make Beck so ubiquitously adored.
During his acceptance of the award, Beck was joined onstage by an ostensibly pissed off Kanye soon after he got to the mic. Just when it looked like sh*t was about to hit the fan (again), though, the hip-hop icon waved it off in jest and returned to his seat to many (relieved) laughs. However, despite the ruse’s farcical appearance, it turned out West was actually pretty upset after all.
In a post-event interview with E!, Kanye expressed his thoughts on Beck’s victory:
“The Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain't gonna play with them no more. 'Flawless,' Beyoncé video. Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it. Because what happens is, when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you're disrespectful to inspiration.”
“We as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place. Then they [the show's producers] do this whole promotional event, they'll run the music over somebody's speech, the artist, because they want commercial advertising. Like, no, we not playing with them no more. By the way, I got my wife, my daughter and my clothing line, so I'm not going to do nothing to put my daughter at risk but I am here to fight for creativity. That's the reason why I didn't say anything tonight. But you all know what it meant when 'Ye walks on the stage.”
West’s argument may be rather vague and simplistic, and his implied knocks to Beck are more than a little biased/unfair, but considering the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and other notable award snubs (see Kendrick Lamar vs. Macklemore), it’s not entirely unfounded. Still, it’s difficult to imagine someone so omnipresent in the industry wholly discrediting Beck’s artistry—something that has arguably been as important to contemporary music as Kanye’s own monumental contributions.
Beck responded to the situation quite amiably: “I was just so excited he was coming up. He deserves to be on stage as much as anybody,” Beck told Us Weekly. “How many great records has he put out in the last five years, right?” When asked about Kanye’s claim that Beyoncé should have won, he said, “Absolutely, I thought she was going to win. Come on, she's Beyoncé!”
Indeed, there's no one like Queen B. That being said, it’s important to remember that opinions constituting what is and what is not artistry are inherently biased, and quite often deluded. Both Beyoncé and Beck are exceptionally talented artists and both should be revered for their respective contributions to music. Whether the voting for these institutionalized ceremonies is in any way racially motivated is definitely an important issue to consider, but Beck’s Morning Phase was not undeserving of the award.