Hmm, sometimes the albums you expect to win the coveted Grammy for Album of the Year don’t. Here are nine instances where such occurred. No. 1 is clearly the most shocking! Also check out the corresponding Ranker list!
1) Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters (2007)
Snubbed: Amy Winehouse, Back In Black & Kanye West, Graduation
Commentary: No one saw this one coming, period. Amy Winehouse looked like she was on her way to victory after winning both Record and Song of the Year while West was also a strong contender, but Herbie Hancock pulled off the upset of the ages. Could he even believe it?
2) O Brother Where Art Thou? (2001)
Snubbed: OutKast, Stankonia (or everyone else really)
Commentary: Soundtracks have rarely won the coveted album of the year. The soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou is one of the exceptions obviously. While it’s a solid compilation, it’s still hard to see O Brother Where Art Thou besting the likes of U2, Bob Dylan, or OutKast for the Grammy. Stankonia is widely considered OutKast’s best album, even over juggernaut Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which won two years later.
3) Beck, Morning Phase (2014)
Snubbed: Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour or Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Commentary: First and foremost, Beck’s Morning Phase is a terrific album. BUT, did anyone expect it would win album of the year? No. For as much praise as Beyoncé’s self-titled album received, there was also skepticism and the album widely underperformed at the Grammys (Pharrell’s GIRL bested it in the urban contemporary album category). As far as Smith’s frontrunner status, he would win both record and song of the year for “Stay With Me,” hence why In the Lonely Hour was thought to be a frontrunner for album of the year as well.
4) Mumford & Sons, Babel (2012)
Snubbed: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange and Black Keys, El Camino
Commentary: Up until Album of the year was announced, things seemed to be going well for the Black Keys. Unfortunately, they couldn’t secure album of the year, which shockingly went to Mumford & Sons. Mumford & Sons had lost earlier to Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream in the Americana category – yikes. While Babel wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t the ‘best’ album of the year by any means. That honor goes to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange – horrid live performance(s) or not.
5) Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (2011)
Snubbed: Eminem, Recovery
Commentary: Okay here’s the thing. There wasn’t necessarily a truly great frontrunner when Arcade Fire shocked the world and won with The Suburbs. The closest was Eminem’s Recovery, but arguably, the MC had released better albums earlier in his career. Still, after the Black Keys bested the band in the alternative music category, it seemed like their shot was done at winning the big one…
6) Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (2007)
Snubbed: Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III and Coldplay, Viva La Vida
Commentary: This one just didn’t make much sense. This was clearly a vote of the older members who wanted to award a Grammy darling (Alison Krauss) and a rock legend (Robert Plant). Lil Wayne had the biggest year of his career with Tha Carter III selling more than a million copies in one week while Coldplay’s Viva La Vida easily bested the band’s previous effort X&Y – well depending on who you ask of course!
7) The Dixie Chicks, Taking The Long Way Home (2006)
Snubbed: Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/Lovesound and John Mayer, Continuum
Commentary: One word: political. Two of the biggest pop albums of the 10s are nominated for album of the year and get bested by a country album by a country trio that had lost some of its “luster.” No disrespect to Taking the Long Way Home or The Dixie Chicks themselves, but this seemed like a stretch… Even take Justin Timberlake and John Mayer out of the equation and you have an excellent album by The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Stadium Arcadium) and alternative/soul masterpiece St. Elsewhere by short-lived Gnarls Barkley.
8) Ray Charles, Genius Loves Company (2004)
Snubbed: Take your pick
Commentary: One of the strongest album of the year fields materialized at the 47th Grammys in 2005. This included Usher’s diamond certified Confessions, Alicia Keys’ brilliant sophomore effort Songs in A Minor, Kanye West’s game changing The College Dropout, and Green Day’s conceptual rock masterwork, American Idiot. Who won? The posthumous triple-platinum certified Ray Charles duets album Genius Loves Company. No disrespect, but despite how well it sold and the fact that a beloved legend had passed on, the album WAS NOT the best of the year.
9) Norah Jones, Come Away With Me (2002)
Snubbed: None necessarily, this worked out…
Commentary: Norah Jones’ win for album of the year seemingly came out of nowhere. There were more notable albums nominated against the newcomer: Dixie Chicks (Home), Eminem (The Eminem Show), Nelly (Nellyville) and Bruce Springsteen (The Rising). Still, Jones would ‘clean up’ after it was all said and done, and it certainly fueled a productive career. Her next album, Feels Like Home, would become one of a limited number of albums to sell over a million copies in one week.