Beyonce's fourth studio album as a solo artist, appropriately titled "4," was released this week to generally strong reviews. According to Spin, "As a singer's showcase, '4' will probably end up bested this year only by Adele's '21.'" And the Los Angeles Times calls it "a surprising, confident turn."
But will it bring her more Grammy glory? Yes, if history is any indication.
Beyonce holds one Grammy record, and she's within striking distance of another. In 2010, the singer won six awards, more than any other female artist in a single year. Those prizes brought Beyonce's overall haul to 16, which places her third among women, trailing only Aretha Franklin, who has 18, and country veteran Alison Krauss, whose 26 career wins makes her Grammy's third-most-awarded artist overall.
Beyonce will probably overtake Franklin before long, but can she catch up to Krauss? Next year, the two could potentially go head to head in the album of the year race for the first time; Krauss also has a new album in the running, "Paper Airplane," recorded with her frequent collaborators, Union Station. It's a race in which Krauss has a decided edge. The country star has won the award twice already, first in 2002 as a contributor to the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and then in 2009 for "Raising Sand," her collaboration with Robert Plant.
Beyonce received her first nomination for album of the year in 2010 for "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," but she lost to another country powerhouse, Taylor Swift ("Restless"). Beyonce has also never won record of the year, despite four nominations: "Halo" (2010), "Irreplaceable" (2008), and "Crazy in Love" (2004) as a solo artist, and for "Say My Name" (2001) with Destiny's Child.
Hip-hop and R&B artists have historically struggled in those two top races, which in recent years have been won by adult-contemporary and rock acts. (This year, for instance, record of the year went to Lady Antebellum's country crossover hit "Need You Now," while the album of the year was "The Suburbs" by indie rockers Arcade Fire.) To date, only two hip-hop albums have ever won: "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" by OutKast (2004) and "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (1999).
Beyonce has won just one award in the general field: song of the year in 2010 for the ubiquitous "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Will she finally win record and album of the year for "4," or continue to be relegated to the R&B categories?
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-- Tom O'Neil
Photo: The cover of "4." Credit: Sony