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Top 10 Biggest Grammy Controversies Ever

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These musical controversies will shock you. For this list, we'll be looking at various public controversies that erupted over the Grammy Awards. Our countdown includes Celebrities Call Out Corruption, Adele & Beyoncé, Macklemore Wins Over Kendrick Lamar, and more!
Transcript

Top 10 Grammy Controversies


Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Grammy Controversies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various public controversies that erupted over the Grammy Awards. These can be anything from undeserving winners to more deep-seated cultural issues.

Did you find any of these particularly offensive? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Celebrities Call Out Corruption

“63rd Annual Grammy Awards” (2021)
The Grammy Awards just don’t have the same kind of clout as the Oscars, Emmys, or Tonys. They’ve long been criticized for various aspects, and now we can add corruption to the list! Many celebrities in recent years have publicly called out the corruption inherent within the Grammys, and many of these opinions have been posted to social media. Celebrities like The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa, and Zayn Malik have publicly condemned the alleged corruption. The latter two even made the same point, stating that nominations are only given if the members are wined and dined or given nice gifts. Maybe this is why nominations are always given to the big names and not the indie artists…


#9: Eddie Vedder’s Speech

“38th Annual Grammy Awards” (1996)
Is it rock and roll to win a Grammy? Not really, according to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Pearl Jam earned their first Grammy with the song “Spin the Black Circle,” which won for Best Hard Rock Performance. The song was the lead single from their third album, “Vitalogy,” and reached #18 on the Hot 100. After winning the award, the band reluctantly and quite awkwardly took to the stage to accept the trophy. Vedder infamously claimed that the award “[didn’t mean] anything” and that he “just wanted to watch the show.” The crowd remains horrifically quiet, not entirely sure what to do or how to react. Some sporadic clapping can be heard before Vedder signs off with a very detached, “Thanks, I guess.”


#8: 50 Cent Interrupts Evanescence

“46th Annual Grammy Awards” (2004)
It’s incredibly rude to interrupt someone receiving an award, which is probably why these moments live in infamy. We instinctively know they’re wrong, and we cringe every time we see them. At the 46th Grammy Awards in 2004, 50 Cent lost Best New Artist to Evanescence. Fiddy had just released “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” and Evanescence won with “Fallen.” 50 Cent wasn’t too happy with this, so he did a little victory lap of his own on the stage. Evanescence’s Amy Lee could only facepalm and sarcastically thank him for the interruption. 50 Cent referenced this moment nearly twenty years later while receiving a star on the Walk of Fame, proving that he’s still salty about the whole thing.

#7: The “New Artist,” Shelby Lynne

“43rd Annual Grammy Awards” (2001)
We don’t know what the criteria is for Best New Artist, but apparently it accounts for someone who has been working for a decade. Country singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne began making music in the late ‘80s, signing with Epic Records and releasing her debut album “Sunrise” in 1989. However, she didn’t find much success with country and so shifted her focus to more mainstream pop rock. Her commercial breakthrough came in 1999 with “I Am Shelby Lynne.” The album was recorded in California instead of Tennessee and earned Lynne the Grammy for Best New Artist. This, despite it being her sixth studio album. Her sixth studio album released ten years after her first. Understandably, this had many people shaking their heads in confusion.

#6: Adele & Beyoncé

“59th Annual Grammy Awards” (2017)
Adele took home Album of the Year at the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017, with her “25” beating out the likes of Drake’s “Views” and Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” Many people believed that the latter should have won over “25” - including Adele herself. The English singer spent much of the night praising Beyoncé’s artistry, both backstage and onstage. She made a huge speech while accepting Album of the Year, praising Beyoncé’s music, empowering attitude, and cultural importance. Many critics thought the win spoke to a larger systemic issue within the Grammys when it comes to racial bias. They argue that the Grammys often ignore Black recording artists and that “25” won over “Lemonade” simply on the basis of strong sales and big singles.

#5: Prince Isn’t Even Nominated

“26th Annual Grammy Awards” (1984)
1982 was a fantastic year for pop R&B. Within just one month of each other, the world got both Prince’s “1999” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The latter was obviously an enormous success, changing the very face of pop music and containing some of the biggest singles of all time. It also won Album of the Year and seven other awards. But for some reason, “1999” was barely even recognized; the only nomination it received was Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “International Lover.” It was a major slap in the face for one of the greatest and most influential R&B albums ever recorded, but at least the Grammys redeemed themselves in 2008 by inducting it into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

#4: Sinéad O'Connor Boycotts the Grammys

“33rd Annual Grammy Awards” (1991)
At this point, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor is more famous for her outspoken activism than her actual music. Part of that is due to her being a one-hit wonder. “Nothing Compares 2 U” was a major success in 1990 and scored multiple Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year. However, O’Connor vehemently refused to accept a Grammy. She personally wrote to the US Recording Academy, saying that she was boycotting them on the basis of favoring commercial success and materialism over musical quality. O’Connor did not attend that year’s ceremony and openly refused her award for Best Alternative Music Performance.

#3: 2021 Nominations

“64th Annual Grammy Awards” (2022)
The 64th Grammy Awards has come under some considerable fire for its nominations. In particular, the nominations of Marilyn Manson, Dave Chappelle, and Louis C.K. All three have been accused of various social ills, and their recognition has raised some eyebrows. Manson has been slapped with numerous abuse allegations yet was nominated for his contributions to Kanye West’s “Donda.” Louis C.K. has admitted to misconduct, yet his “Sincerely Louis CK” was nominated for Best Comedy Album. Finally, Chappelle was recently accused of harboring transphobic attitudes, but “8:46” was nominated for Best Spoken Word Album. The Recording Academy states that they are divorcing art from artist and considering submissions despite the personal histories of the applicants.


#2: Macklemore Wins Over Kendrick Lamar

“56th Annual Grammy Awards” (2014)
The 56th Grammy Awards saw a particularly egregious defeat in the category of Best Rap Album. This was the year that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won over Kendrick Lamar, and it blew the minds of everyone - even Macklemore. He released “The Heist,” a rap album with strong commercial appeal and big singles like “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us.” It was a good album, but many considered Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” to be a masterpiece. It received widespread acclaim, was praised for its music and thematic content, and is now regarded as one of the best albums ever made. Everyone was gobsmacked that it lost to “The Heist,” and Macklemore personally texted Lamar to admit that he should have won.


#1: Milli Vanilli

“32nd Annual Grammy Awards” (1990)
The story of Milli Vanilli is legendary. This German-French band exploded into the American market with “Girl You Know It's True,” an album reconfigured from their debut European release “All or Nothing.” The album spent seven weeks atop the Billboard chart and produced three #1 singles - “Baby Don't Forget My Number,” “Blame It on the Rain,” and “Girl I'm Gonna Miss You.” The band also won Best New Artist at the 32nd Grammy Awards. However, it was later revealed that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus didn’t actually sing on the record. Consequently, Arista Records deleted the band’s music from their archives and the US Recording Academy rescinded their award. This is the only time in Grammy history that an award has been officially revoked.
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