Beyoncé, the music royal whose art has shifted the culture time and again, long ago cemented herself as one of the world's seminal stars.
On Sunday, she made history again, becoming the winningest artiste in Grammys history, surpassing the late classical conductor Georg Solti's long-standing record of 31 lifetime trophies.
Speaking through tears, the regal artiste donning a metallic Gucci corset gown with elbow-length black leather gloves thanked her family, including her three children and husband Jay-Z, who looked on from the crowd.
"I'm trying not to be too emotional. And I'm trying to just receive this night," she said.
She paid special tribute to the queer community, who she credited with inventing the genre she celebrated in her historically layered record that pays homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.
But to the shock of everyone and the fury of fans on social media, Beyoncé – whose tour announcement is virtually guaranteed to trigger a ticketing crash for the ages – missed out on the Album of the Year award.
This time, it went to British pop phenom Harry Styles, six years after she lost the award to Adele.
She has also never won Record of the Year, despite having the most nods ever for the category, with eight.
So the Beyoncé paradox lives on: the same night she further burnished her GOAT – greatest of all time – status, the legendary artiste also lengthened her streak as the Recording Academy's most snubbed nominee.
Born Beyoncé Giselle Knowles in Houston, Texas, the now 41-year-old has been in the upper echelons of pop music since her teenage years.
She initially rose to fame as part of the girl group Destiny's Child – whose smash hits included Survivor AND Say My Name – before embarking on a wildly successful solo career.
From setting the standard for the overnight album drop to delivering her earth-shattering "Homecoming" show at Coachella in 2018, Beyoncé has long bucked the industry's conventional wisdom, and is simultaneously one of music's most private and most-watched stars.
Her paradigm-shifting 2016 album Lemonade, which emphasised Black womanhood against the backdrop of America's heritage of slavery and culture of oppression, remains one of the most venerated musical projects in recent memory.
Then she dropped the critically acclaimed song Black Parade in June 2020, amid nationwide protests ignited by the murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer.
"She's arguably the most culturally important artiste in the world," Merck Mercuriadis, the music publishing mogul who was once Beyoncé's manager, told AFP at a pre-Grammy gala.
Renaissance, her house-tinged 2022 dance record, offered a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks.
Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history, the 16-song album was an instant hit and earned wide praise for its deep ambition.
Prior to releasing her opus, Beyoncé had dropped the single Break My Soul to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artistes and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.
Beyond her music, she is a fashion icon – she actually was named just that by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2016 – with her own athleisure line Ivy Park. She has appeared in a handful of films including Dreamgirls.
She sang Etta James classic At Last for Barack and Michelle Obama at an inaugural ball in 2009, and then belted out the national anthem at his second inauguration in 2013. She has twice performed at halftime of the Super Bowl.
According to Forbes, her net worth as of last year was US$450mil.
'Artiste of our lives'
Despite losing the Album and Record of the Year Grammys for what feels like the umpteenth time, the outpouring of love from her peers on Sunday made clear it was still Beyoncé's night.
"You never know with this, you know, this stuff," a sheepish Styles told journalists backstage, when asked if he had also expected a Beyoncé triumph for top album.
"I don't think you can look at any of the nominees and not feel like they deserve it."
And Lizzo, who bested Queen Bey for Record of the Year, delivered a heartfelt tribute to one of her idols, challenging the audience to keep their eyes dry.
"In the fifth grade, I skipped school to see you perform," she said at the podium, speaking directly to a clearly touched Beyoncé.
"You changed my life," she continued, Beyoncé's eyes also welling up. "The way you make me feel, I was like, I want to make people feel this way with my music. So thank you so much."
"You clearly are the artiste of our lives!" – AFP