The Last Time A Black Woman Won Album of the Year was 25 Years Ago. What Does That Say?

Whitney Alese
ZORA
Published in
5 min readFeb 6, 2024

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The recent Grammy awards, one of the music industry’s biggest nights, came and went. With it, another year of glitz, glamour, and gowns has gone by without a Black Woman receiving the Grammy’s top award, Album of the Year.

This year, there were two Black women nominated, Janelle Monae for “Age of Pleasure”, a critically acclaimed work, and SZA for her work “SOS” a favorite to win.

Many felt it was SZA’s year. Her album “SOS” was, as Vulture puts it “…one of the most beloved albums of the year (despite coming out in 2022), featuring hits including “Kill Bill” and “Good Days.” Pitchfork rated SOS as their number one album of 2023, saying “It’s an approach to heartbreak that is so familiar and exacting that the album stayed at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart for ten weeks.”

But when it came time to open the envelope for Album of the Year, neither Janelle Monae nor SZA’s name was present.

SZA’s SOS

While fans of both headed online to air their grievances, others shared another glaring fact: this Grammy Awards marks the twenty-fifth year that no Black woman has taken home the top award of Album of the year.

Twenty-five years in a row. Should it have been a handful of years, many could shrug off any criticism of the Academy. But twenty-five consecutive years and not one Black Woman win for Album of the Year is not only worth noting, its worth condemning.

Beyoncé, the artist who holds the record as the Grammy’s most awarded artist herself has never won despite being nominated four times. When this point is brought up in discourse, one reaction that commonly arises is that the body of work she produces, not individual songs, but the whole project has not been good enough to secure the trophy.

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Whitney Alese
ZORA
Writer for

Whitney Alese is a writer & podcaster, featured in WIRED Magazine (Sept 2020) & I-D Magazine (Dec. 2021), and NBC (Jan 2023). She is based in Philadelphia.