Biggest Grammy snubs and upsets of the past

Just because it’s considered the biggest night in music doesn’t mean it’s without controversy. To mark the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, is taking a look at some of the Grammys’ biggest snubs of the past… starting with Queen Bey. While there’s no denying Adele’s talent, audiences were shocked when she beat out Beyonce’s “Lemonade” in 2017 for the most coveted honor of the evening: album of the year. Bey’s critically acclaimed visual album, which offers a raw look into how she dealt dealing with JAY-Z’s infidelity, was favored to take home the major prize that evening. In fact, even Adele was shocked at her win. “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled, and I’m very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyonce,” she said during her acceptance speech. “And this album to me, the ‘Lemonade’ album, was just so monumental, Beyonce, so monumental, and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing, and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see.” Keep reading for more upsets…

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Arguably the most talked-about snub of the 2021 Grammy Awards? The fact that The Weeknd, whose fourth studio album, “After Hours,” garnered immense critical acclaim as well as chart success, received zero nominations. Zip. None. Following the announcement that he’d be performing at the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show, there was speculation that his snub was a result of his inability to also perform at the Grammys. “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…” The Weeknd tweeted following the 2021 nominations announcements.

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At the 2017 Grammy Awards, Rihanna received an impressive six nominations — the most she’s ever earned — including best pop duo/group performance for “Work” off her influential, genre-bending eighth studio album “ANTI.” But she left the award show empty-handed.

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While Harry Styles’ second solo album, 2019’s “Fine Line,” earned three nominations ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards (for best pop vocal album, best pop solo performance for “Watermelon Sugar” and best music video for “Adore You”), he failed to snag nominations in any of the major categories despite being heavily favored to earn more nods. The Recording Academy just didn’t deem the album worthy of consideration for record, album or song of the year — a huge surprise.

At the 2018 Grammy Awards, SZA received an impressive five nominations — but there was one particular upset that fans couldn’t help but be incredibly disappointed about. SZA, who was up against Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels and Alessia Cara for best new artist, lost that award to Alessia. In fact, though SZA was among the most-nominated female artists of the evening — she had five nods — she went home empty-handed.

It seems pretty atypical for Taylor Swift to go without any nominations at the Grammy Awards, but such was the case in 2018. Taylor’s sixth studio album, “Reputation,” marked a renaissance of sorts for the pop star — having embraced a darker sound and an edgier image, her album was reflective of the backlash she received as a result of her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West. But it wasn’t one of her stronger works. Plus it came out several weeks after that year’s eligibility period, which many don’t realize. Still, for the year it was eligible, 2019, she only received a single nomination (for best pop vocal album).

Despite his musical genius, Kanye West is no stranger to a good ol’ Grammy snub. Following the release of 2013’s “Yeezus,” Kanye failed to earn nominations in any major categories — specifically album of the year (he did, however, earn nods for best rap album of the year and best rap song). “I’m 36 years old and I have 21 Grammys,” he said during a concert in Phoenix that same year. “Out of all of those 21 Grammys, I’ve never won a Grammy against a white artist. So when the Grammy nominations come out, and ‘Yeezus’ is the top one or two album on every single list, but only gets two nominations from the Grammys. What are they trying to say? Do they think that I wouldn’t notice? Do they think that, someway, that I don’t have the power to completely diminish all of their credibility at this moment?”

Mariah Carey’s 2005 album, “The Emancipation of Mimi” — which included singles “It’s Like That,” “We Belong Together” and “Shake It Off” — was considered one of the best albums to be released that year. At the 2006 Grammys, Mariah took home the awards for best contemporary R&B album, best female R&B vocal performance and best R&B song for “We Belong Together,” but she did not take home any prizes in the three major categories despite being nominated in them (album, record and song of the year). In all three categories, she was beat by The Chicks.

Sure, Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down” deserves immense praise (it does contain the single “All Night Long,” after all), but when compared to Prince’s “Purple Rain,” is there really any comparison? Fans were sure Prince would take home album of the year at the 1985 Grammy Awards. Alas, that was not the case — Lionel won. However, Prince did take home best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, best score soundtrack for visual media and best R&B song for “I Feel for You.”

Gwen Stefani’s 2004 album “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” was her successful solo debut album. At the 2006 Grammy Awards, the No Doubt frontwoman earned an impressive five nominations (for album of the year, record of the year, best pop vocal album, best female pop vocal performance for “Hollaback Girl” and best rap/sung collaboration for “Rich Girl”). Surprisingly, though, Gwen left empty-handed that evening — she didn’t earn a single award.

Though Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” took home the honor for album of the year at the 1996 Grammy Awards, we think TLC’s “Crazy Sexy Cool” should’ve at least been a contender in the category. The album, which made the revolutionary R&B trio the first girl group to ever score a diamond-certified album, received just one nomination that night (for best R&B album).

In 1986, Madonna’s controversial, history-making sophomore album, “Like A Virgin,” didn’t receive much love at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards. In addition to not receiving any nominations in the three major categories, Madonna earned just one nod (for best pop solo performance) and ultimately lost. (Whitney Houston took home the prize for “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).”)

Ahead of the 2021 Grammys, fans were surprised when K-pop sensation BTS didn’t earn a nomination for record of the year for their infectious smash hit “Dynamite.” They still made history though — “Dynamite” earned a nod for best pop duo/group performance, making BTS the first Korean pop group to receive a nomination.

There’s no denying that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made a splash with their album “The Heist,” but to say that it was better than Kendrick Lamar’s “M.A.A.D. City”? Well, that’d be a stretch. Kendrick’s sophomore effort was favored by critics to win big at the 2014 Grammy Awards — but that was not the case. Despite being nominated in categories including best new artist, best rap album, best R&B performance and album of the year (the latter of which he lost to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), Kendrick ended the evening with no trophies.

The year was 2013 and Frank Ocean’s career-defining “Channel Orange” was up for one of the biggest honors of the night: album of the year. The now-classic album, however, was upset by Mumford & Sons’ “Babel and The Black Keys.” This wasn’t the only disappointment for the “Blonde” hitmaker — he was also trumped by the group FUN. (which is now defunct) in the best new artist category.

Another artist who surprisingly didn’t win in the best new artist category? Well, that’d be Justin Bieber. At the 2011 Grammy Awards, jazz singer Esperanza Spalding took home the honor, which came as a surprise given that she was up against Drake, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons and the Biebs, who at that point had already established himself as a teen idol.

Given that Amy Winehouse’s second and final studio album, “Back to Black,” received widespread critical acclaim, it makes total sense that fans were wildly surprised when it didn’t earn the award for album of the year at the 2007 Grammys. Instead, Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters” took home the honor, also beating out Kanye West’s “Graduation.”

Despite selling more than a million copies in its first week out, making it one of the fastest selling albums in the United States, Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” — his sixth studio album — didn’t receive much praise from the Recording Academy in 2009. That year, Weezy earned two nods (for best rap album and album of the year) — but he lost in both categories.

Nirvana’s “Nevermind” is a cornerstone of grunge rock — so it comes as a major shock that the acclaimed album was snubbed for an album of the year nod at the 34th Annual Grammy Awards back in 1992. Surprisingly, “Nevermind” only earned one nomination that year — best alternative music album — which was won by R.E.M.’s “Out of Time.”

Eminem has long been recognized for his controversial yet witty lyricism, which is why his 2001 loss seems to be all the more peculiar. The prolific rapper was up for album of the year for “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and despite being a strong contender in the category, it seems he was no match for Steely Dan’s “Two Against Nature.” 

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