In the early 2000s, Beyoncé was the toast of the Grammys, when Destiny’s Child and her early solo work began regularly earning trophies. Today, the conversation around Bey and the Recording Academy is almost exclusively focused on her high-profile snubs, after voters ignored her 2013 self-titled album and 2016’s Lemonade in the top categories.
Yet even without a coveted Album of the Year win, Beyoncé has more than solidified her place in the Grammys history books. In 2021, she earned her 28th gramophone, passing Alison Krauss for most wins by a female artist and tying super-producer Quincy Jones for the second-most wins of all time. This year, with nine total nominations — including another AOTY nod, for Renaissance — she could tie or break conductor Georg Solti’s record for most Grammys ever, at 31.
Ahead of another potentially record-setting night, let’s take stock of Beyoncé’s history at the show by ranking all 28 of her previous wins based on how right the Academy (and in some cases, Beyoncé’s own team, who 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, probably 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, would fall somewhere in the middle; and a win for Renaissance in Album of the Year … do we even have to tell you?
While you hold your breath to see how Beyoncé fares this Sunday, here is every one of her previous Grammy wins, ranked.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.