grammys 2023

Which of Beyoncé’s Wins Have the Grammys Gotten Right?

Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

In the early aughts, when Destiny’s Child and her new solo work began regularly earning trophies, Beyoncé was the toast of the Grammys. The 2023 ceremony wanted to go back to those days, missing no opportunity to fete Bey for breaking the record for the most wins of all time. Still, Recording Academy voters didn’t fully get the message, declining to honor her with the Grammys’ top honor, Album of the Year, for the fourth time. (This time, voters opted for Harry Styles’s Harry’s House.) By the end of the night, the celebratory sheen of that record had worn off, and the relationship between the Academy and Beyoncé didn’t look much different than it has for the past decade: still just as colored by her high-profile snubs, after voters ignored first her 2013 self-titled album and, later, 2016’s Lemonade in the top categories.

It’s harder than ever to weigh Beyoncé’s place in Grammys history in one hand and the fact that she inhabits that place so with only one general-category win (and no Album of the Year wins) in the other. Maybe the lack of top honors cheapens the record; maybe the Academy understands the record as a stand-in for an Album of the Year trophy, despite what Beyoncé fans want to see. It feels more and more possible, as with many winners before her (including Beyoncé spoiler Beck), that she will win Album of the Year in a decade or so, once the Academy decides the totality of her career makes her truly “deserving” of the award. Who knows if she’ll even attend another Grammys to see it happen, given that the show keeps bait-and-switching her.

Regardless, Beyoncé does now have the most Grammys of any musician in history, and that deserves celebration. She broke the record with a varied haul: Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Plastic Off the Sofa,” Best Dance Recording for “Break My Soul,” Best R&B Song for “Cuff It,” and the one that put her over, Best Dance/Electronic Album for Renaissance. So after her record-setting night, let’s take stock of Bey’s history at the show by ranking all 32 of her wins based on how right the Academy (and in some cases, Beyoncé’s own team, which chooses where to submit her work) got it. That’s a bit of a nebulous proposition, so here are some guidelines:

1. Did the win further Beyoncé’s career, or was it symbolic of something larger?

2. Was the song or album good enough to earn the title of the award?

3. Did the song or album deserve higher honors?

To give an example using this year’s nominations: A win for “Be Alive,” Beyoncé’s song for the movie King Richard, in Best Song Written for Visual Media, wouldn’t be too high on the list because it’s not what we’re eager to see rewarded; a win for “Plastic Off the Sofa” in Best Traditional R&B Performance, an impressive song but for a category Bey has won before, falls somewhere in the middle; and a win for Renaissance in Album of the Year … would we have even had to tell you?

While you lament another Album of the Year loss for Beyoncé, here is every Grammy she has won, ranked.


Best Surround Sound Album, Beyoncé (2015)

Yes, Beyoncé sounds damn good in surround sound, especially with its crisp, detail-oriented production. But it’s an insult that this is the only Grammy Beyoncé’s career-redefining surprise visual album earned as a whole, especially when it should’ve been Bey’s first Album of the Year trophy.


Best Urban Contemporary Album, Everything Is Love, with the Carters (2019)

By 2019, Beyoncé and Jay-Z were over it. Beyoncé had lost Album of the Year for Lemonade to Adele in 2017 and won only twice in below-the-line categories despite her nine nominations; Jay-Z fared even worse the following year, picking up zero trophies despite eight nominations off his album 4:44. Jay called the Grammys out for the losses on “Apeshit,” the lead single from the duo’s album Everything Is Love. When the Academy wanted to recognize him and Bey for that album, they chose not to play the game, skipping the 2019 ceremony entirely — a gesture that spoke louder than any acceptance speech ever could have.


Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Dangerously in Love 2” (2004)

When Beyoncé was striking out on her own, every Grammy counted as merit for her burgeoning solo career. But come on — we’re not exactly talking about this song today, are we? Yes, the biggest hits from Dangerously in Love were the collaborations, like “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy,” but Team Bey could’ve submitted a better, more enduring track like “Naughty Girl” instead.


Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, “The Closer I Get to You,” with Luther Vandross (2004)

Critics had singled this Luther Vandross duet out as middling on Dangerously in Love. At the Grammys it was up in what had become one of the least competitive categories post–Destiny’s Child dominance; it was one of four covers to win in a five-year span. Besides, the other honors for Beyoncé (for “Crazy in Love” and Dangerously) and Vandross (for Dance With My Father and its title track) that night outshined this win.


Best Traditional R&B Performance, “At Last” (2010)

Beyoncé’s cover, for the movie Cadillac Records, is a faithful rendition of Etta James’s definitive take. She can sing it, and it’s sweet to hear her channeling one of her musical heroes (whom she also played in the movie), but it lacks the personal stamp from the rest of her wins in 2010, when she set the record for most Grammys won by a woman in a single night, at six.


Best R&B Performance, “Black Parade” (2021)

The Grammys fell hard for “Black Parade,” nominating it in Record and Song of the Year along with the R&B categories. Technically, this was the win that nabbed Beyoncé the record for woman with the most Grammy awards but the song itself is paint-by-numbers Beyoncé, as well as an example of her becoming too big to fail in the R&B field.


Best Music Video, “Brown Skin Girl” (2021)

In a pattern that will continue throughout this list, this win feels incomplete without larger recognition for Black Is King, which the Academy snubbed in Best Music Film (although Beyoncé won the previous year for Homecoming). That said, Beyoncé’s daughter Blue did share in her first Grammy win with this award, so it probably holds a bit more meaning for Bey herself.


Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, “Halo” (2010)

As true fans know, Beyoncé can be cheesy. She loves an inspirational moment and has the voice to sell it, as she does on this Sasha Fierce single. The song became her first and only win in the Pop field — despite future snubs for better entries like “Telephone” and “Hold Up” — by playing right into the sort of schmaltz the Grammys crave, rather than by her own rules.


Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, “So Amazing,” with Stevie Wonder (2006)

If there was any lingering doubt about Beyoncé’s solo career, that was squashed when she beat out her own group, Destiny’s Child, for a collaboration with fellow Grammy favorite Stevie Wonder. Sure, it’s just another cover, but their joyful performance honors Vandross even more than Beyoncé’s previous duet with the R&B icon did.


Best Rap Song, “Savage Remix,” with Megan Thee Stallion (2021)

This win was supposed to be a capital-M Moment for Beyoncé: her 27th Grammy, tying her for the most awards ever by a woman (with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss). Instead, it became a meme, thanks to Trevor Noah surprising an unsuspecting Beyoncé with that news after the speech, to her clear shock. Of course, she more than deserved a trophy for writing lines like “If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain.” This writing award feels like a bigger win for Megan Thee Stallion, though, who made the song to begin with.


Best Contemporary R&B Album, I Am … Sasha Fierce (2010)

Although I Am … Sasha Fierce is home to some of Bey’s biggest and best singles, it never quite meshes as an album with the ballads and bangers split into separate discs. Still, this album helped carry her to that six-win night in 2010, getting a top-line boost by earning her first Album of the Year nomination as well. By now, Beyoncé was like an incumbent candidate in Best Contemporary R&B Album, after winning the same award for her previous two albums, and with little other competition from the likes of T-Pain and Jamie Foxx.


Best Urban Contemporary Album, Lemonade (2017)


Best Music Video, “Formation” (2017)

The Grammys never properly recognized the scope of Lemonade. Besides the ugly racial connotations of slotting it in Best Urban Contemporary Album, the Academy didn’t acknowledge the album’s breadth of rock, country, and hip-hop influences. And while “Formation” independently ranks among Beyoncé’s best music videos, the award once again feels incomplete without broader recognition for the visual album itself. Taken together, these wins — Beyoncé’s only two of the night, ahead of her third Album of the Year loss — amount to piecemeal honors for one of her most holistic works.


Best R&B Song, “Cuff It” (2023)

Clearly this award didn’t mean the most to Beyoncé, who was stuck in traffic when it was given out. Who could blame her — she already had the most Best R&B Song trophies in Grammys history before this, and has now won the award more times than she’s lost. Yes, “Cuff It” is a groovy, well-written highlight off Renaissance, if maybe closer to disco than R&B. (Non-electronic dance music is complicated territory for the Grammys: Does it fall under Dance, R&B, or Pop?) And despite Bey’s absence, this still ended up as a sweet moment for Nile Rodgers, who contributed a signature sleek guitar riff to the song.


Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, “Survivor,” with Destiny’s Child (2002)

Just about everything here and above on this list is either a great song or album. This win marked Beyoncé’s last with Destiny’s Child, but by that point, her mind was on to bigger and better things; a few weeks after the ceremony, she started recording Dangerously in Love.


Best Traditional R&B Performance, “Plastic Off the Sofa” (2023)

If Beyoncé had any one award in the bag before last night’s show, it was this. Best Traditional R&B Performance prizes vocal showstoppers, and “Plastic Off the Sofa” was a masterclass from a master herself — more than enough acrobatics to be considered a workout, but delivered with the nonchalance of a warmup. Nothing for the history books, sure, but the definition of a deserving win.


Song of the Year, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2010)

Frankly, “Single Ladies” should have been a Record of the Year winner. But Team Bey played the Grammys game and split their bets: “Halo” got a Record of the Year nod instead, where it lost to Kings of Leon’s arena-conquering “Use Somebody.” It’s hard to say if “Single Ladies” would’ve won there instead, since the Academy loves its rock and roll. But Beyoncé deserves recognition for being a whole-package performer, not just a songwriter, and this award is another reminder that she hasn’t gotten there yet.


Best R&B Song, “Crazy in Love,” with Jay-Z (2004)

This writing award feels like more of a win for Rich Harrison, the producer who conceived of the Chi-Lites horn sample that Beyoncé was reportedly skeptical of at first. Still, it is a win for Beyoncé’s first signature song — and first of many fruitful collaborations with her husband.


Best Contemporary R&B Album, B’Day (2007)

Beyoncé didn’t get a haul for B’Day in 2007 — most of the R&B awards went to Mary J. Blige for her album The Breakthrough and song “Be Without You.” Thanks to a split in the R&B field, though, Beyoncé did get to walk away with one trophy. (In a twist, Beyoncé looks to play a similar spoiler to Mary J. Blige this year.) No award could’ve been more fitting for B’Day, which was nothing if not contemporary. Beyoncé’s first great album is filled to the brim with hits, songs that stretch and push R&B while coming together to form one great party.


Best Traditional R&B Performance, “Love on Top” (2013)

4 deserved better. Beyoncé refined and expanded her ambitions post–Sasha Fierce and doesn’t even have a Best R&B Album nomination to show for it. The Academy got just one thing from that era right: respect for “Love on Top,” simply one of Beyoncé’s best performances to date, in a category that’s all about the vocals. It’s just a shame it was the only trophy in her hands at the end of the night.


Best Dance Recording, “Break My Soul” (2023)

The Grammys have done a middling job of honoring Beyoncé’s genre-defying career. If they got one thing right in 2023 (aside from giving Beyoncé the most Grammys of all time), it was recognizing Beyoncé’s dance-floor odyssey with both Dance field awards, starting here. “Break My Soul” is far from the best song on Renaissance, but it is one of the best examples of what Renaissance is trying to do: an homage to ’90s house and the Black and queer originators of dance. The level of work Beyoncé put in was painfully obvious — at least the Dance voters saw it.


Best R&B Song, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2010)


Best R&B Performance, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2010)

Song of the Year griping aside, “Single Ladies” is an impeccably crafted hit — for a while, even, Beyoncé’s last solo No. 1 (before “Break My Soul” this year). It led the pack in Beyoncé’s 2010 sweep of the R&B field by earning all-around love, from the writing to the recording. So these wins deserve equal footing.


Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, “Crazy in Love,” with Jay-Z (2004)

Sure, this is Beyoncé’s only win in this category, despite eight future nominations. (Although, it’s hard to tell how a song like “Drunk in Love” ended up in Best R&B Performance rather than in Rap/Sung collab.) But it’s also her defining collaboration with Jay-Z and first No. 1, as well as an early taste of how innovative her music could be. The Grammys would’ve been crazy not to honor it.


Best Rap Performance, “Savage Remix,” with Megan Thee Stallion (2021)

The crowning achievement of Beyoncé’s record-setting 2021 Grammys haul should never have been “Black Parade,” but this. Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” remix works because of Beyoncé’s star power, the way her sheer presence can turn a song into an event. (That’s something that can’t be conveyed on just a songwriting level.) Not that she’s not working here — this brash, dexterous, downright fun performance is hands down the best rapping from a woman who’s been crossing over for decades.


Best R&B Song, “Say My Name,” with Destiny’s Child (2001)

Beyoncé’s first songwriting win, as a member of Destiny’s Child, was important for two reasons. One, it showed that Beyoncé was a songwriter, not just a singer in a group — and for a song that genuinely pushed pop forward, at that. And two, with the R&B field splitting performance categories by gender and group, it was the first award where Beyoncé had to beat the big guns: Erykah Badu, Toni Braxton, D’Angelo, even “Thong Song”! Against all that competition, “Say My Name” was still the obvious choice, and one the Academy can stand by two decades later.


Best R&B Song, “Drunk in Love,” with Jay-Z (2015)


Best R&B Performance, “Drunk in Love,” with Jay-Z (2015)

It’s a wonder the Grammys fell for this raunchy, innovative, confident collaboration off Beyoncé, which was unlike anything we’d heard from the star before. While Beyoncé left nearly empty-handed for that album, she did have this recognition (after she also got to open the previous year’s ceremony with a showstopping performance of the song). It’s not even worth quibbling over the Grammys for snubbing “Drunk in Love” in Record and Song of the Year — Yoncé’s R-rated performance wouldn’t have stood a chance against saccharine, Academy-friendly competition like “Stay With Me” and “All About That Bass.”


Best Dance/Electronic Album, Renaissance (2023)

Beyoncé’s reaction said it all. The star tends to be pretty poised in public these days, but faced with the reality of becoming the winningest performer in Grammys history, she couldn’t help but get emotional. Even independent of that, this was clearly a big win for her personally as the first Black woman to take this trophy (despite, you know, all of dance history), and for a tribute to the queer community that’s supported her and her late Uncle Johnny. It was no Album of the Year win — yet another instance of the Grammys placing Beyoncé’s achievements in too small of a box. But for that moment onstage, long before the Album of the Year winner was read, it felt even bigger.


Best Contemporary R&B Album, Dangerously in Love (2004)

One of Beyoncé’s first major accomplishments outside Destiny’s Child was winning a Grammy for a whole album, rather than just songs. Beyoncé is, after all, an albums artist. Yes, she went on to sing circles around Dangerously in Love in the following years. The Academy, though, noticed she was on the right track here.


Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, “Say My Name,” with Destiny’s Child (2001)

“Make no mistake: ‘Say My Name’ is a Beyoncé record,” Tom Breihan wrote earlier this year, revisiting the song for his Stereogum column, “The Number Ones.” This Grammy was in the group category, but it’s a win for Beyoncé’s vocal performance, which sits right at the center of the track. This is also the trophy that showed that the Academy was ready to buy into Beyoncé, as they would (off and on) for the next two decades. All the sweeter, it was the first televised Grammy win for Beyoncé (and the rest of Destiny’s Child) — just look at her face to see how much of an honor it was.


Best Music Film, Homecoming (2020)

The problem, if you can’t tell by the end of this list, is that Beyoncé’s work routinely stretches the definitions that Grammy awards adhere to. Visual albums like Beyoncé and Lemonade are more than just music; her songs and albums don’t often fall neatly into one genre. Homecoming, though, is a music film — a stellar one at that — and this is the Grammys’ highest (albeit only) honor for those. Homecoming set a new mark for concert documentaries: Beyoncé said she developed her Coachella set with the film in mind, and it not only functions as a documentary, but a greatest-hits compilation, channeled into spectacle. As a project, it also feels like the best confluence of so many ideas Beyoncé has been interested in, from the visual medium for music to Black history, in her tribute to HBCUs and Black musical influence. Maybe that all makes it a no-brainer for a win. (It wasn’t for the Emmys, where Beyoncé left empty-handed for the project.) But absent an Album of the Year win, this is the best possible recognition the Grammys have given Beyoncé for a comprehensive vision.

Which of Beyoncé’s Wins Have the Grammys Gotten Right?