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Top 10 Controversial Album of the Year Grammy Wins

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Script written by Drew Brown And the Grammy Award for Album of the Year goes to… who? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unexplainable Album of the Year Grammy Wins. For this list, we’re not saying that these are necessarily bad albums, as some are quite good. Special thanks to our user mac121mr0 for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Shockingly+Unexpected+Grammy+Wins
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And the Grammy Award for Album of the Year goes to… who? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unexplainable Album of the Year Grammy Wins.

For this list, we’re not saying that these are necessarily bad albums, as some are quite good. Often it’s a case of a good album winning the trophy when one or more groundbreaking albums were passed over.

#10: “MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett” (1994)

Tony Bennett

We can understand The Recording Academy voters’ love for a live retrospective from the raspy-voiced crooner whose career had already spanned more than 40 memorable years. But 1994 was also the year of Johnny Cash’s triumphant comeback, American Recordings, the first of a multi-album collaboration with Rick Rubin. It wasn’t even nominated in the Best Album category and had to settle for a win as Best Contemporary Folk Album. And then there’s Green Day’s breakthrough album Dookie, Rolling Stone’s Album of the Year and winner of the Alternative Music Grammy. Both took a back seat to an unplugged album from a legendary singer who is never really plugged in.

#9: “A Man and His Music” (1965)

Frank Sinatra

The Beatles put rock into the Album of the Year category with 1965’s Help!, but lost to Frank Sinatra’s September of My Years. The Beatles must have been feeling déjà vu, as Revolver lost to A Man and His Music at the next year’s ceremony. Ol’ Blue Eyes did lay down classics “Love and Marriage” and “Come Fly With Me”, but Revolver was transformative. It mixed rock, psychedelia, and soul, while still maintaining the Beatles’ track record of catchy, harmonic hits. It’s #3 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of All Time. #2 on that list is another ignored groundbreaker: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys – which wasn’t even nominated. The musical revolution would have to wait.

#8: “Genius Loves Company” (2004)

Ray Charles

Why oh why didn’t Academy voters give Ray Charles Album of the Year for 1962’s masterful, groundbreaking, country-soul mashup “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music”? Instead, they waited for his posthumous release, a series of duets with an admittedly impressive stable of legendary artists. That year’s ceremony continued a long-standing Grammy tradition of choosing the right artist at the wrong time. Charles was nominated alongside Green Day’s American Idiot, Kanye West’s The College Dropout, and The Diary of Alicia Keys. Hopefully, these icons don’t have wait four decades for The Grammys’ highest honor.

#7: “River: The Joni Letters” (2007)

Herbie Hancock

You can admit it: The first time you heard about Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters was when Quincy Jones announced its Grammy win for Album of the Year. We can’t argue with the quality of the album, or of Hancock injecting a jazz flavor into the Canadian legend’s songbook. But on Grammy night, River had moved around 55,000 albums—and was competing against two multi-platinum classics: Graduation by Kanye West, and what was unfortunately Amy Winehouse’s final album, Back to Black. When you think about 2007, you think about chart-topping classics like “Rehab” or “Stronger”. “Court and Spark” … hmm, not so much.

#6: “1989” (2014)

Taylor Swift

Okay, Swifties, settle down: 1989 was an awesome album. It’s so good that alt-rocker Ryan Adams did a full-album tribute. However, the songstress already had received the award for Fearless, an album she released at the ripe old age of 18. But it could be argued that 2015 belonged to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. It elevated hip-hop. Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Spin Magazine, Billboard, Pitchfork, and more all had Butterfly as their Album of the Year. We might have even given Kanye West a pass if he had bum-rushed the stage on Grammy night. Swift fans that disagree with 1989’s inclusion on this list can, well, shake it off.

#5: “Two Against Nature” (2000)

Steely Dan

From 1972 through 1980, Steely Dan was a rock radio mainstay, with seven albums and 10 Top 40 singles. But then they disbanded. Understandably, Two Against Nature, their first studio album in 2 decades, brought its fair share of anticipation. Did it deliver? It depends who you ask. Recording Academy voters answered with 4 Grammys, including the top honor. On Grammy night, most people in the building expected the winner to be one of the two albums considered masterworks—Kid A by Radiohead or The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem. Kid A made many lists as the greatest album of the 2000s, and The Marshall Mathers LP propelled Eminem into superstardom. But it was Steely Dan who took home the trophy instead.

#4: “Blood, Sweat & Tears” (1968)

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Ah, 1969; one of the greatest years in music. There were two Beatles’ albums, Johnny Cash’s live album At San Quentin, The Who’s rock opera Tommy, and Led Zeppelin’s first two albums. What masterpiece was chosen to represent the year of peace, love, and music? That would be Blood, Sweat & Tears, the 1968 self-titled album from a New York City brass-rock collective. It’s hard to argue with its quadruple platinum success. It’s also hard to argue with Rolling Stone, who said “first they play folk, then they play jazz, then they play Latin …but never merge into one.” But do you know what did merge into one? The music on Album of the Year nominee Abbey Road. You may have heard of it.

#3: “Falling Into You” (1996)

Celine Dion

Falling Into You rightfully made Celine Dion a worldwide sensation. It had the tear-jerking “Because You Loved Me”, the rousing ballad “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, and a stunning cover of “All By Myself”. But what it comes down to is the difference between great singers and great musicians. Dion and her team cherry-picked songs from great songwriters like Diane Warren and Jim Steinman. On the other hand, the genre-defying "Odelay" by Beck, the eclectic, alternative hip-hop of "The Score" by Fugees, and the grandiosity of the Smashing Pumpkins' 2-disc album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" were musicians at their creative best.

#2: “Christopher Cross” (1979)

Christopher Cross

Pop quiz: Who was the first artist to win Best New Artist, Record, Song, and Album of the Year …. all in one night? Elvis? The Beatles? Simon and Garfunkel? Maybe Bob Dylan? Nope. It was the captain of the short-lived yacht-rock genre, Christopher Cross. Rock critics hated it, but adult contemporary audiences couldn’t get enough. Fellow nominee The Wall, a double-album by Pink Floyd, would go on to sell 23 million units. But with Pink Floyd having started a hiatus in 1994 and only attempting mini reunion since then, the early ‘80s were likely the last great opportunity to honor the kings of the concept album. Meanwhile, Cross fell victim to the Best New Artist curse, never going platinum again. At least Ron Burgundy still loves him.



Before we unveil Grammy’s most unexplainable choice for Album of the Year, here are a few honorable—or in this case—dishonorable mentions:



“Toto IV” (1982)

Toto



“How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” (2004)

U2



“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (1967)

Glen Campbell



#1: “Can’t Slow Down” (1983)

Lionel Richie

Can’t Slow Down ultimately sold 20 million and garnered five Top 10 hits. Everybody danced till dawn with the Caribbean-infused “All Night Long”, and “Hello” gave us the bust forever sculpted in our memories. But in 1984, two icons put out iconic albums. Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. took listeners into the lives of veterans and blue-collar Americans, as well as into his own 30-something angst—but with the catchiest of hooks. Then there’s Purple Rain, a soundtrack that intertwined rock, funk, R&B, and psychedelia into a nine-track masterpiece. Its title track landed Prince an Oscar, but not Grammy’s highest honor. Maybe they canceled each other out in voting. Or maybe people wanted to “party, Karamu, fiesta, forever” more than we thought.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think are the most unexplainable Grammy Albums of the Year? For more musical Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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