The 10 biggest Grammys upsets
When the 59th annual Grammy Awards go down Sunday at 8 p.m. E.T. on CBS, you can expect usual suspects like Beyoncé and Adele to be hoarding the hardware. But music’s biggest night has also provided its share of surprises. As we brace ourselves for a shocker or two on Sunday, EW ranks the 10 biggest Grammy upsets of all time.
10. Bon Iver wins Best New Artist in 2012
First off, there was the fact that Bon Iver wasn’t really new: While nominated behind their 2011 self-titled set, Justin Vernon’s indie-folk outfit released their debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, in 2007. But even more surprising was that Bon Iver beat out bigger guns like Nicki Minaj and The Band Perry. Even J. Cole and Skrillex felt like safer bets.
9. Beck puts the surprise on Beyoncé
Few LPs have changed the game the way that Beyoncé did when it was dropped as a surprise visual album in 2013. And after losing previously in the Album of the Year category for 2008’s I Am…Sasha Fierce, Bey felt due this time. So Beck’s win for Morning Phase really left us scratching our heads.
8, O Brother, Where Are Thou? leaves U2 behind
Returning to classic U2 territory with 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Bono and company seemed primed to walk on with their second Album of the Year prize (the first was for 1987’s The Joshua Tree) in 2002. But producer T Bone Burnett’s roots-music soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? left U2 wondering where their gramophone had gone.
7. Ray Charles gets his Grammy life after death
No one would begrudge Ray Charles getting some love for a duets album released just two months after his death. But Genius Loves Company winning Album of the Year over Green Day’s American Idiot, Alicia Keys’ The Diary of Alicia Keys, Usher’s Confessions and Kanye West’s The College Dropout was just ludicrous.
6. Herbie Hancock tops Amy Winehouse and Kanye West
Yes, we get the off-the-charts pedigree of 2007’s River: The Joni Letters, which featured jazz legend Herbie Hancock reimagining the songs of folk goddess Joni Mitchell with some help from Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner and Norah Jones. Still, if Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black was going to lose Album of the Year to anything in 2008, it should have been Kanye West’s Graduation.
5. Steely Dan trumps Eminem and Radiohead
Steely Dan winning Album of the Year would have made a lot more sense if it was for 1977’s Aja instead of 2000’s Two Against Nature. But the jazz-pop duo’s takedown of two straight-up classics—Radiohead’s Kid A and Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP—truly went against nature.
4. Esperanza Spalding makes Best New Artist history in 2011
Just getting nominated for Best New Artist—on the strength of 2010’s Chamber Music Society—was already a big victory for jazz singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding. But somehow she conquered some killer competition—Drake, Florence + the Machine, Justin Bieber and Mumford & Sons—to become the first jazz artist to claim the award.
3. Prince and Springsteen can’t slow down Lionel Richie
1984 was a banner year for music, and that was reflected in the Album of the Year nominees, which included Tina Turner’s Private Dancer and Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual. But really this was supposed to be a two-album race between Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. But it was Lionel Richie who was saying “Hello” to Grammy’s top trophy when Can’t Slow Down triumphed in 1985.
2. Sinatra retrospective bests the Beatles’ Revolver
The Beatles had already suffered the indignity of A Hard Day’s Night losing out to Mary Poppins for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Show in 1965. But when their 1966 classic Revolver lost Album of the Year to Frank Sinatra’s A Man and His Music—consisting mostly of re-recorded versions of songs he had previously released—the Fab Four were truly robbed.
1. Jethro Tull out-rocks Metallica. Really?
It wasn’t simply that Metallica didn’t win Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1989 for …And Justice for All. If they had lost out to AC/DC, Jane’s Addiction or even Iggy Pop, it would have been more acceptable. But when Jethro Tull won for Crest of a Knave—an album that didn’t fit the hard rock or metal genres—there was absolutely no justice for anyone.
Tune in to see the Grammy Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.