Beyoncé’s History Making Album Is A Love Letter To The Black Queer Community

Beyoncé’s History Making Album Is A Love Letter To The Black Queer Community

Beyoncé has just become the artist with the most Grammy awards in history.

Once again, Queen Bey has proven worthy of her nickname, “the first lady of music” during the 65th annual Grammy Awards. After taking home her 32nd Grammy, Beyoncé finally surpassed Hungarian-British conductor George Solti, whose 31 wins held the record for over two decades.

The 41-year-old musical behemoth took home an award for Best Dance/Electronic Album, Best R&B Song, Best Dance/Electronic Recording, and Best Traditional R&B performance for her latest album Renaissance; a fitting name for her monumental feat. During his opening monologue, Trevor Noah, who hosted the award show for the third time on Sunday night, foreshadowed the singer’s groundbreaking win.

“Beyoncé is nominated for her album Renaissance, which by the way, was better than anything from the actual renaissance in my opinion,” Noah joked, saying that the singer had taken it “to another level.”

Renaissance is considered by many to be a love letter to black queer culture. More than a simple homage, Beyoncé highlights the unsung heroes of the culture through her purposeful use of imagery and sampling. Her visuals allude to Harlem’s ballroom scene, where black drag queens thrived in the 1980s. The album pulls stylings and samples from underground queer legends like Grace Jones, Kevin Aviance, Big Freedia, DJ MikeQ, Moi Renee, and many more.

According to music and culture writer Taylor Crumpton, “Renaissance is in equal parts an educational lesson in the history of dance and house music, as well as an education in Black queer studies.”

After receiving her 32nd award, Beyoncé took to the stage, teary-eyed, to deliver her short but heartfelt speech. “Thank you so much. I’m trying not to be too emotional. I’m trying to just receive this night,” the singer said.

She went on to thank her family, highlighting her late Uncle Jonny, who she’s mentioned several times, especially since the release of her album. The singer ended her Grammys speech by thanking the queer community for their love and for inventing the house genre.

Beyoncé has previously said that Jonny was “the closest human being in the world to me.” In her album liner notes, she writes that Jonny exposed her to so much culture and music.

During her speech for the 2016 CFDA Fashion Icon award, she credited him for making her early Destiny’s Child costumes; designing them, and then painstakingly sewing embellishments on them by hand. He later passed away due to complications from AIDS.

She similarly dedicated her award to Jonny during her speech at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2019. “He lived his truth. He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting,” she shared on stage. “And witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived.”

Renaissance is one of the singer’s most successful bodies of work to date, but its cultural impact spans far beyond its chart-topping numbers. After thanking her uncle in her album, the singer pens a poignant line:

“Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”

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