I'm as bummed as the rest of you are that Lemonade didn't win Album of the Year at the Grammys on Feb. 12, but there is a silver lining. It comes to us in the form of Adele breaking her Grammy in half a la Mean Girls and dedicating the award to Beyoncé. It was a beautiful thing. So beautiful that for once — and I truly never say this — this moment is so much bigger than Mean Girls.
When Adele accidentally dropped her award onstage during Sunday night's ceremony, effectively snapping it in half, it reminded many of the moment in Mean Girls when Lindsay Lohan's character Cady Heron wins Spring Fling Queen and breaks her tiara into pieces so she can share it with everyone else. And in a lot of ways, there were striking similarities between real life and the movie.
In her speech accepting the Grammy for Album of the Year for 25, Adele spoke directly to the person she believed was the rightful winner:
I can't possibly accept this award. The Lemonade album was just so monumental, Beyoncé. It was so monumental and well thought-out and beautiful and soul-bearing... we appreciate that. All of us artists here adore you. You are our light.
Honestly, can't argue with any of that, but it's the careful intention of Adele's phrasing that distinguishes this moment from the fictional one recorded in Mean Girls. At the Spring Fling, Cady scattered the tiara to anyone she felt helped her get there and deserved commendation for it; at the Grammys, Adele was drawing attention to what she felt was an error on the part of the Academy. She felt that Beyoncé had been overlooked and her contributions dismissed, so she elected to use her time to draw attention to that fact instead of basking in any recognition herself.
Later, backstage, Adele reportedly spoke even more plainly, saying, "I thought it was her year. What the f**k does she have to do to win Album of the Year?" It's this question that forms the difference between life and art in this context. Adele is attempting to highlight what I feel like is a systemic problem in the music industry, where artists of color have to meet vastly different standards and expectations in order to achieve the same recognition as white performers.
Sure, 25 was a good album, but it was no 21, and it was no Lemonade, and Adele knew it. So it wasn't about sharing the award with others who deserved it just as much as she did, as Cady did in Mean Girls. It was about shining a light on a problem, putting the pressure on the industry to address that problem, and making sure that all artists are getting the recognition they deserve.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from its original version.