Fans get pretty emotionally involved in the Grammy Awards, but there are some wins that seem to leave everyone surprised. The "biggest night in music" has had its blunders over the years, from snubs to wins and nominations that baffled viewers. In many cases, these wins become even more confusing in hindsight.
The Grammys are decided by the Recording Academy — a nonprofit organization made up of the most esteemed people in the music industry. Within its membership are committees that can weigh in on nominations and, at times, influence them. This has brought a lot of heat down on the Grammys, especially in recent years, both for the winners, the losers and the ignored. When the dust settles, typically, only the winners are remembered a few years later.
The Recording Arts Academy, which votes on the nominees, is often accused of following trends and mistreating artists. Musicians generally write and perform their work from top to bottom, so a snub at the Grammys can feel more personal than a snub at the Oscars for an actor. Other times, fans feel that the academy is missing the cultural significance of some piece of music or overvaluing that of another. Again, it’s a subjective award.
Yet when the general populous disagrees with the academy, it’s always clear. In today’s day and age, fans make themselves heard, and they’re not shy about telling music professionals that they’re wrong in their choices. Here’s a look at some of the Grammy wins that have shocked fans the most.
My text to Kendrick after the show. He deserved best rap album... I'm honored and completely blown away to win anything much less 4 Grammys. But in that category, he should have won IMO. And that's taking nothing away from The Heist. Just giving GKMC it's proper respect.. With that being said, thank you to the fans. You're the reason we were on that stage tonight. And to play Same Love on that platform was a career highlight. The greatest honor of all. That's what this is about. Progress and art. Thank you. #grammys
Macklemore took home the Grammy Award for best rap album in 2013 for The Heist, and the Seattle-based rapper looked a bit awkward on stage. Everyone, including Macklemore himself, was in consensus that Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would take that award home.
Later on, Macklemore actually posted his text to Lamar on Instagram. "You got robbed,” he wrote. “I wanted you to win. You should have. It's weird and sucks that I robbed you. I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing during my speech, and I froze. Anyway, you know what it is. Congrats on this year and your music. Appreciate you as an artist and as a friend. Much love."
Lamar addressed the situation a few weeks later in an interview with Billboard, saying "That text surprised me, but Macklemore is a genuine dude. However it panned out, I wish him much success. He touched people’s souls, and no one can take that away. Really, the whole Grammy moment was incredible. Not everyone gets that shot."prevnext
Adele’s 25 won album of the year in 2017, an honor that many fans felt should have gone to Beyonce’s Lemonade. Of course, Queen Bey didn’t let it bother her, but the uproar from the masses was staggering. Adele herself seemed to agree with them, as she said in her acceptance speech.
"I can't possibly accept this award, and I'm very humbled and very grateful and gracious but my artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the Lemonade album is just so monumental," the singer said through tears in her acceptance speech. "Beyoncé, it was so monumental and so well thought-out and so beautiful and soul-baring, and we all got to see a side of you that you don't always let us see and we appreciate that, and all us artists here adore you. You are our light! And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering and you make them stand up for themselves and I love you, I always have and I always will."prevnext
In 2015, Beck looked shell-shocked as he took the stage to accept album of the year for Morning Phase. He beat out Beyonce’s self-titled record, Ed Sheeran’s X, Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour,and Pharrell Williams’ Girl. That wasn’t the most surprising part of the win, however.
Kanye West followed Beck up onto the stage, an expression of mock anger on his face. The rapper famously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, and he seemed to be making fun of himself in the moment of that surprise upset. Beck didn’t even seem to be hurt by the implication, he asked West to come back up on stage to spare him from having to make an acceptance speech he clearly wasn’t planning on making.prevnext
Bon Iver 2012
The acoustic crooning act was awarded both best new artist and best alternative music album at the 2012 Grammys, and while the academy was in agreement about his merits, many listeners hadn’t even heard of him yet. They had, however, heard of Frank Ocean, The Lumineers, Hunter Hayes, Fun and Alabama Shakes, all of whom Bon Iver beat. Justin Vernon, the band’s frontman, admitted it felt awkward to stand on stage and accept the honors.
"It's really hard to accept this award," Vernon said. "There's so much talent out here ... and there's a lot of talent that's not here tonight. It's also hard to accept because you know, when I started to make songs I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I'm a little bit uncomfortable up here."prevnext
Esperanza Spalding 2011
The best new artist category in 2011 was filled with names that are now as famous as it gets. Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + The Machine and Mumford & Sons were all up for the award, but it was jazz musician Esperanza Spalding who took home the golden gramophone.
Spalding was the first jazz musician ever to win in that category, and she was as flabbergasted as anyone. The pleasant surprise had some unwanted side-effects, however, as Spalding received thousands of hateful messages from feverish Bieber fans in the following weeks.prevnext
Herbie Hancock 2008
Herbie Hancock won best album of the year in 2008 for River: The Joni Letters, which was his ode to Joni Mitchell. No one particularly disliked the record, they were just surprised that Hancock triumphed over the stiff competition. That year, he was up against Kanye West’s Graduation, and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.prevnext
Jethro Tull 1989
In 1989, the category of “best hard rock/metal performance, vocal or instrumental” was brand new, and fans were fairly certain Metallica would take the trophy home for ...And Justice For All. Apparently, the academy hadn’t yet quite nailed down what “metal” was, as they gave the award to Jethro Tull for Crest of a Knave.
Just last year, frontman Ian Anderson spoke with EonMusic about the odd win. "We were nominated in that year strangely, in what was a new category," he recalled, "and whilst we knew that we could not be classed as 'hard rock,' let alone 'metal,' it was a nomination that just seemed to sneak under the radar.
“The record company said they didn’t think it was really worth the expense of flying us over to Los Angeles because Metallica were favorites to win it, which suited me fine because we were working in the studio at that time."prevnext
DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince 1992
Will Smith, performing as The Fresh Prince, and his collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff were given the Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group in 1992 for their single, “Summertime.” The song has a nostalgic power that persists to this day, but many fans, especially hip-hop fans, thought it overlooked a much more important album that year.
Public Enemy’s Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black was a politically charged powerhouse that hip-hop heads thought better represented the art form’s successes and triumphs.prevnext
Eric Clapton 19930comments
Eric Clapton took home an armful of Grammy Awards in 1993, but the big surprise came when his song “Layla” won best rock song over Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The young grunge band had blown up that year, and everyone expected them to be honored for their achievements, but the academy valued Clapton’s ongoing work in the genre.
Of course, Nirvana did just fine without the Grammy that year, and 25 years later, it’s hard to say which song has had more staying power.prev