It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Beyoncé‘s Renaissance has been nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for the 2023 Grammy Awards. Even before the album arrived in late July, fans could safely assume that the pop star was going to explore dance music and its many forms thanks to “Break My Soul,” the Big Freedia-featuring lead single that was something of a spiritual successor to beloved house anthem “Show Me Love” by Robin S. Once the album finally dropped, it was clear that Bey wasn’t just referencing dance music, but Black dance music, touching on Chicago house, Detroit techno, ballroom, disco and more.
However, even though it was obviously a dance album, the Recording Academy’s dance committee didn’t initially see Renaissance as such, which almost led to the album not being considered as a nominee for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album — even though Beyoncé submitted the album specifically for that category.
As The Hollywood Reporter wrote back in late October, the dance committee felt that Renaissance “might be better placed in pop, where it would be nominated for best pop vocal album alongside projects by Adele, Harry Styles, Lizzo and more.”
“The debate landed in the hands of the academy’s National Screening Committee — a group of music industry experts including songwriters, producers, musicologists and more — who listened to Renaissance several times to determine where it should compete,” the report continued. “That group — which also selects which artists are eligible for best new artist — eventually decided that Beyoncé’s project should be in contention in dance.”
It’s interesting that the album being submitted for this category led to a debate (although it’s worth noting that, according to the report, no questioned if “Break My Soul” should compete in dance at the Grammys), but other music institutions like Billboard even seemed to have a problem with listing it as an official dance album, too. As the report noted, even though “Break My Soul” appeared on both Billboard’s Dance and R&B Songs charts, it didn’t appear on its Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart (although Drake’s own dance-centric album Honestly, Nevermind did).
It’s a moment that brings to mind how Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” led to debate on what is and isn’t country music, and how the hit song was removed from Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart early on and only received one nomination at the 2019 Country Music Awards for “Musical Event of the Year” (which it won).
That the Recording Academy almost removed Renaissance from the dance category would’ve been a misstep that showed just how limited their view of dance music is, despite the album being a primarily dance-centric project. On a larger level, it would’ve added to the erasure of Black people’s contributions to electronic dance music (EDM). Specifically in regards to Bey, it would’ve dismissed what was a very intentional ode to Black dance music, as well as a reclaiming of the genre as a Black genre, too. And lastly, it would’ve stopped her from making history within the category. Last year was the first time in the Grammys’ history that a Black artist won the award for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album, which was Kaytranada’s Bubba. If Bey were to win, she’d be the second Black artist to receive the award ever.
So, it’s important that Renaissance is nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album, because it deserves to be acknowledged in this category. To recognize it isn’t only for Bey but the team of Black artists within the genre she tapped to help her bring the album to life — from DJ and producer Honey Dijon to drag legend Moi Renee.
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