I think Adele is a genius. I love her music. I have rolled up my windows and driven along passionately singing the chorus to hello many a-time. So this isn’t a knock on Adele. It is an acknowledgement that Adele, and all white artists such as myself, benefit from white privilege in all aspects of our careers.
Our biases affect how we perceive an artist and their work. As soon as we find out the gender, or race, or sexual orientation, or body type, and all the other aspects of their identity, our minds immediately place them into the boxes our collective and personal biases have created. For most people, this process happens without our realization, or even permission, and is formed through our subconscious and implicit biases.
If Adele was a Black or Brown Women, perceptions of her, and her music, and the words used to describe her and her music, would be completely different. Her entire experience of becoming a rising star would have been different. And it is hard to imagine that she would have received the amount of awards she has this far. Rather than being a star in her own category, she would constantly be compared to other Black or Brown Women who vaguely sound and/or look like her.
Let’s check the stats: only 10 black artists have won Album of the Year in Grammy history: Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Lauryn Hill, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Lionel Richie, Outkast, Whitney Houston, Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones.
We all remember Macklemore’s Grammy night. Macklemore has won more rap grammy awards than “2Pac, Biggie, Nas, DMX, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Big Pun, Jeezy, Ja Rule and Kendrick Lamar, combined” (Complex, 2015).