By Hayden Wright
Beyoncé and Adele are global superstars because of their incredible voices, emotional songs, and larger-than-life personas. They’ve each come from humble beginnings and gone on to worldwide pop domination, selling millions of concert tickets and albums. This year, they’re nominated against each other in four GRAMMY categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.
While Beyoncé has become a lieutenant of the culture wars (repping feminism, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Obama White House), Adele has fought (and won) the battle for gimmick-free pop music. Both are titanic talents with millions of fans, but who deserves to be the Queen of the GRAMMYs this year?
Related: GRAMMY Nominees 2017: See the List
Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé’s Lemonade defy comparison: a sturdy, classy adult contemporary record versus a juggernaut visual album that veers from genre to genre. Their approaches to living in the public eye are even more different. But let’s compare apples to oranges.
Of course, each lady could win two (or less) of the categories where they are up against each other. But, just for fun, let’s compare apples to oranges, using completely irrelevant criteria!
Secret Agent Women: Adele and Beyoncé have made indelible contributions to the spy movie genre in two franchises: Adele wrote the title track for the 007 flick Skyfall, while Beyoncé channeled Foxxy Brown in Austin Powers in Goldmember. Adele’s song won her an Oscar, but Bey’s performance (and the dreadful film itself) live in camp infamy. Goldmember also spawned Beyoncé’s debut solo track “Work it Out”… which did not win an Oscar.
Winner: Adele, under the cover of night.
Girl Group Bona Fides: Destiny’s Child is one of the top-selling girl groups of all time, and Beyoncé was the main ingredient of their success. Adele reps the Spice Girls at every opportunity sang “Wannabe” with James Corden on “Carpool Karaoke” and even got an invitation from Geri Halliwell to come over for tea. But this category is really a question of leaders and followers, and in Destiny’s Child, Bey was the boss.
Winner: Beyoncé. She has the receipts to prove her girl group credentials and Adele is just a “Wannabe” group member.
Social Media Savvy: Adele’s management banned her from tweeting; Bey has a flawlessly curated Instagram account.
Relationship Expertise: Bey laid bare her marital drama on Lemonade, an incredibly engaging song-cycle about betrayal, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Adele’s approach is more love ‘em, leave ‘em, and find someone better (or just “Someone Like You”). Adele gets points for knowing her worth but the strength of Jay-Z and Beyoncé speaks for itself—they make the grade for sticking together and making it work.
Winner: It’s a draw.
Parenting 101: Beyoncé is a public mom and Adele is a private mom. Blue Ivy gets fame and adoration but Adele’s son gets to grow up in obscurity. Both children will write great books someday.
Winner: Let’s not compare moms to each other.
Political Provocateurs: Adele is prone to swearing on stage, speaking her mind and speaking out in contentious political matters like Brexit and the 2016 election. But Beyoncé has turned wokeness into an art form: her Black Panther routine at the 2016 Super Bowl launched a thousand think pieces and Lemonade lifted the national conversation about black women in America. Oh, and she has the Obamas on speed dial.
Sia Degrees of Separation: Both Beyoncé and Adele have collaborated with Sia—coincidentally, on songs they didn’t record: Sia’s hit “Alive” was originally written for Adele, while the Australian’s Lemonade contributions didn’t make the cut. Last year, Sia’s fans whipped themselves into a frenzy over whether the songwriter was “kidnapped” by Beyoncé.
Winner: Adele. Kidnapping (even dubious, unconfirmed kidnapping) is bad.
Comedy Skills: The thing about Adele is she’s flat-out hilarious. Beyoncé’s variety of humor is more…unintentional (see Obsessed). Whether she’s driving around with James Corden or pulling pranks in the U.K., Adele could have a career in stand-up if she really wanted one. Her concert banter (with or without drag queens) is unrivaled. If Beyoncé has a funny side, we’d love to see it sometime. For now, we’ll settle for her high-concept videos, superhuman dancing, and unbridled ferocity.
Winner: Adele. Bonus points for that bewildering Cockney laugh.
Celebrity Friends: Adele has been pictured out to dinner with Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone, two of young Hollywood’s goofiest stars—oh, to be a fly on that wall. But here’s where Beyoncé slays her competition: She’s buds with magnates like Oprah, Oscar-winners like Gwyneth Paltrow, and all these people.
Winner: Beyoncé—you just can’t beat Oprah.
In the end, it’s Adele’s five points vs. Beyoncé’s six points—for whatever that’s worth.