Grammy Preview: The Grammys’ 15 Biggest Goofs
Like all major award shows, the Grammys have made a few gaffes over the years. There was the time a 40-year old standard was voted Song of the Year. And the time a compilation of old hits won as Album of the Year.
The Best New Artist category has proved trickiest to get right. There was the singer who won Best New Artist for her sixth album. And the one who had won two Grammys two years earlier for her work with a chart-topping trio. And the one who had landed a top 10 hit the year before the year he won as Best New Artist. And, infamously, the one where the act didn’t sing a note on its album.
To its credit, the Recording Academy has amended its rules numerous times to prevent repeat occurrences. But some things you can’t prevent—like sympathy and emotion clouding judgment. Or voters just plain missing the boat.
Here are 15 outcomes that were unsettling for one reason or another. I decided to stick to the “marquee” categories—Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist. And I tried to focus on cases where Grammy voters missed an opportunity, not just cases where I might happen to like one record or artist more than another. These are listed in reverse chronological order.
2004—Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Ray Charles was one of the all-time greats, but the time to recognize his artistry was when it was in full flower in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, he won nine Grammys in those years, but none in the marquee categories. Charles took five awards posthumously for Genius Loves Company, a collection of duets that was released three months after he died in June 2003. The sweep included Album of the Year and Record of the Year for “Here We Go Again,” a remake (with Norah Jones) of his 1967 hit. Charles was competing in both of these categories with Usher, who crushed the competition in 2004 much like Charles had dominated in 1962. Confessions would have been a better choice for Album of the Year. “Yeah!” (featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris) would have been a better choice for Record of the Year.
2000—Album of the Year. Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature won, but it seemed like Grammy voters simply couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP. Grammy voters have long been resistant to rap in the marquee categories. (The only rap album to win is OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.) And Eminem was the target of controversy at the time for lyrics that some deemed homophobic. For its part, Steely Dan probably should have won Album of the Year for 1981’s Gaucho, but the voters couldn’t resist giving it that year to Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon had been shot to death three weeks after the album’s release.
2000—Best New Artist. Shelby Lynne won for her sixth studio album, I Am Shelby Lynne. The rules have since been changed. Now, an artist may have released no more than three studio albums and still be considered for Best New Artist. Brad Paisley, Jill Scott, Papa Roach and Sisqo were the other nominees. Paisley, who won the CMA Award for Entertainer of the Year in 2010, has had the biggest career of any of the nominees.
1998—Best New Artist. Lauryn Hill won for her first solo album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. What’s the problem with that? Hill had been one-third of The Fugees, which won two Grammys two years earlier, including Best Rap Album for The Score. (The Recording Academy has since revised its rules. Now, once an act has won a Grammy, it can no longer be considered for Best New Artist). Hill’s competitors were Andrea Bocelli, Dixie Chicks, Backstreet Boys and Natalie Imbruglia. (For consistent, long-term success, Bocelli is probably out front.) P.S. We’re still waiting for Hill’s follow-up studio album.