Let’s Revisit The Worst Grammy Snubs Of The Last 15 Years
Remember that time Mumford & Sons beat Frank Ocean?
In a few days time, the who’s who and oh-that’s-them will descend on the Staples Centre in Los Angeles for the annual Grammy Awards.
This year will see acts like Cardi B, Childish Gambino, and Lady Gaga (and Bradley Cooper) battle it out for the most coveted gongs in music; and while we have a fair idea of who should take out the awards, there’s no guarantee that the Grammys will get it right.
Over the years, the Grammys have earned the dubious reputation for getting it wrong way more than they do for getting it right, which really isn’t great for something that’s supposed to be the benchmark in industry recognition.
So, in desperate hope that this year won’t repeat the mistakes of the past, we’ve taken a look back over the last 15 years of Awards to pick out the worst Grammys decisions. Bonus points if you can spot the common thread among the losers.
2018: Basically Everything That Happened
Bon Iver labelled last year’s awards as a “shitshow“, and he was absolutely right. Bruno Mars dominated the award ceremony, taking home six trophies for his album 24k Magic, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. He also beat out a field of wildly stronger entries — Lorde’s Melodrama, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love, and Jay-Z’s 4:44 — to win the biggest award of the night, Album of the Year.
It was also one of the worst years on record for female representation. Canadian singer Alessia Cara was the only — we repeat, the only — female artist to win in the popular categories (that’s pop, rap, country, rock, and R&B.) She won for Best New Artist over acts like SZA and Khalid — an outcome that raised a few eyebrows, mostly because Cara’s debut album came out way back in 2015.
In response to the dearth of non-male winners, Recording Association president Neil Portnow helpfully suggested that women just need to “step up.”
A shitshow indeed.
2016: When Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ beat Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’
In one corner, we have a political anthem about police brutality and the continued discrimination faced by African Americans.
In the other, we have a by-the-numbers wedding song that was subsequently sued for plagiarism.
I mean, are we surprised?
2015: When Beck won Album of the Year over Beyoncé
We’ll skip the obligatory joke about Beck’s fanbase consisting entirely of white males aged 45 and over and move onto why Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed self-titled album deserved to win over anyone.
The 17-track record changed the way we thought about promotion and presentation in the social media era, and in the years since no one has done it better. It was also just astonishingly good: mining the depths of anger, love, lust, ambition, and sex.
Kanye West, outraged, even jokingly attempted to go up on stage and grab the award off Beck — but unfortunately, he backed off at the last minute.
2014: When Macklemore beat Kendrick Lamar for Best New Artist
Jesus, even Macklemore knew the Grammys got this one wrong.
A day after the 2014 Awards, the Seattle rapper texted Lamar an apology message: “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and it sucks that I robbed you.”
Macklemore was dead right: Kendrick, coming off the back of his beloved record Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, should have wiped the floor at the Grammys. Instead, he took home zero awards — after being nominated for seven.
2013: When Frank Ocean lost to Fun. for Best New Artist
Awarding a mediocre white act over a deserving person of colour is what the Grammys does best.
Sure, Fun. were riding a high after the single ‘We Are Young’, but Frank Ocean had released the best record of the year in Channel Orange (more on that below.)
Years later we’re still talking about the impact of Channel Orange, while Fun. have been relegated to one hit wonder status.
2013: Frank Ocean lost to Mumford & Sons for Album of the Year
Frank Oceans’ Channel Orange changed the way we think about modern R&B, and broke ground by bringing an overtly queer voice to a genre that had been historically unwelcoming to the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, Mumford & Son’s second record Babel was a blatant cash-grab remake of their first album. Go figure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
2006: When U2 beat Kanye West for Album of the Year
This decision is the Grammys equivalent of legacy music publications giving every new Bob Dylan album five stars. They’re getting points for simply continuing to be around.
Atomic Bomb isn’t a bad record at all, but it’s nowhere near the same league as Kanye West’s Late Registration.
2005: When Maroon 5 won Best New Artist over Kanye West
There’s only one way to react to this:
Jules LeFevre is Music Editor of Junkee. She’s still angry about what happened to Beyonce, and is on Twitter.