Fresh Mix Friday: The 10 worst Grammy upsets in recent history

Drake, Justin Bieber, Adele, oh my!

With the 2017 Grammys creeping up on us, we are reminded of all of the great music that’s come our way within the past year.

Beyoncé slayed on the #iconic Lemonade, which racked up a whopping 9 nominations this season. And let’s be honest, we’re all still trying to get in formation.

Rihanna pushed her creative boundaries and birthed the edgy Anti, likely the winner in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category.

But a lot of Rihanna fans, or the “Rihanna Navy,” are seriously miffed that Anti didn’t score a nom for Album of the Year. Many declare it her best work to date, by a landslide, and argue its superiority to the cool albeit predictable Lemonade — another “urban contemporary” album that is, in fact, nominated for Album of the Year.

This isn’t the first snub in Grammy history, though. Most of them happen at the actual award ceremony, when winners that shouldn’t have been winners are announced and lauded. Here’s a list of the 10 most surprising upsets in recent Grammy history, in no particular order:

1. Taylor Swift’s 1989 beats Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterflyfor Album of the Year 2016

Just, ugh. Though Swift’s pop masterpiece is a testament to the power of commerciality, it’s almost a no-contest when you put it up against Lamar’s socially aware, core-shaking album. To Pimp was more than an album: it was a bold statement. And it was shocking when he didn’t receive the ultimate recognition for it.

2. Beck’s Morning Phase beats Beyoncé’s Beyoncé for Album of the Year 2014

In February 2014, most people were thinking, “Who the heck is Beck?” The artsy dude had a pretty big hit in the ‘90s; we’ll give him that. And Morning Phase was okay. But the OG “surprise album” Beyoncé took the cake that year, in our hearts. We’re still not over it. Pretty hurts, pretty hurts.

3. Meghan Trainor beats Courtney Barnett for Best New Artist 2014

Though Meghan Trainor was the best known out of all the nominees this year, indie darling Courtney Barnett had just released a rollicking, cheeky, feminist opus of an album that should have won her the award. Dare to dream, eh?

4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis beats Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d City for Best Rap Album 2014

Macklemore’s big furry coat was on the country’s mind in 2014. It kind of distracted from his actual rapping, which, once again, looks amateurish next to Lamar’s rapid proficiency and lyrical genius.

5. Bon Iver beats Nicki Minaj for Best New Artist 2012

True, it’s kind of unfair to compare another woodsy acoustic artist to an off-the-wall female rapper. The music here is just too different to contest. But in terms of cultural impact and visibility (and gender / race barrier-breaking), Nicki Minaj had our heart beats running away in 2012.

6. Esperanza Spalding beats Justin Bieber and Drake and Florence + the Machine for Best New Artist 2011

Esperanza Spalding is an accomplished jazz musician, a talented bass player. That virtually nobody knows about. Still. Though Justin Bieber, Drake and Florence Welch may not have her beat in the “classically trained” arena, their influence, talent and visibility would’ve made any of them a deserving winner.

7. Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody beats Beyonce’s Halo for Record of the Year 2010

Where Are They Now? Kings of Leon Special Edition.

8. Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters beats Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black for Album of the Year 2008

Herbie Hancock is a living jazz legend, but even his most devoted fans can agree that this Joni Mitchell tribute album wasn’t his best work. Back to Black, however, was Amy’s best and last — a groundbreaking, ‘60s nostalgia piece that deserved every Grammy that year.

9. Arcade Fire’s Suburbs beats Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream for Album of the Year 2011

The Suburbs is a complex, dark album that put out a few indie rock standards, looking back. But Teenage Dream is the album responsible for Teenage Dream, Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), California Gurls, Firework, Peacock, The One That Got Away, and E.T. Ahem.

10. Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature reunion LP beats Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP for Album of the Year 2000

We’re throwing it back with this one, but Slim Shady definitely deserved the recognition here. Pioneering, unabashed, bold, and just cool. The Marshall Mathers LP is all of those things. And that’s what deserves a Grammy, at the end of the day.

Melina Glusac is a member of the USA TODAY College contributor network.

 

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