Grammy Awards for Weirdest Album of the Year

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Awards ceremony juries are often accused of being pale, masculine and stale, an aging cabal out of touch with contemporary culture.

It’s a brick that has been thrown at the Grammy voting panel for some time. In 2018, the only one of the best album nominees not to perform one of their songs live was the only female nominee for the award: Lorde. The same year, U2 appeared no less than three times during the broadcast, despite not even being nominated for an award. The awards consistently overlooked dance music, only creating a category for it in 1998, a decade after dance culture’s heyday. And the less said about the Grammys’ relationship with hip-hop, the better.

The sometimes dizzying list of categories for the awards, which currently stands at 78, after being cut from 109 in 2012, means that artists in all sorts of less prominent genres (jazz, comedy, kids) receive their nod along with the usual red carpet. Favorites For example, Elmo the Muppet has won a Grammy three times: for Best Children’s Music Album in 1998 (Elmopalooza!), 1999 (Elmo’s Adventures in Grouchland), and 2001 (Elmo and the Band).

But at the heart of the Grammy conundrum is often a dilemma: acknowledge the artistic without compromise, or take the safer bet. No category confirms this better than Album of the Year. This time around, the panel seems to have done a decent job, balancing the pop likes of Arianna Grande and Billie Eilish with critical darlings like Bon Iver and Lana Del Ray. But BBC Music takes a look at some of the times the Grammy panel got seriously wrong. [Note: the years cited are those in which the albums were released and were awarded for, not the year the ceremony took place, which is the following year.]

1969
Cattle: blood sweat tears
I should have won: The Beatles, Abbey Road
Canadian jazz fusionists Blood, Sweat & Tears made their first big splash with a cover of Brenda Holloway’s You Make Me So Very Happy—so well received, in fact, that Grammy judges decided the band’s penultimate album The most influential rock song of all time, one that featured tracks like Come Together and Something, just didn’t cut through the mustard the way a jazz-tinged odyssey that included renditions of Erik Satie and a cover of Cream’s Sunshine Of Your did. Mind.

1980
Cattle: Christopher CrossChristopher Cross
I should have won: AC/DC, Back In Black or The Clash, London Calling
It was a momentous year for rock, thanks in part to two phenomenal records. AC/DC reunited after the death of their charismatic leader Bon Scott with an emphatic call to arms. Encrypted in the leather lungs of new frontman Brian Johnson, this memorial to Scott is arguably the most popular hard rock album ever. The Clash, meanwhile, negotiated the punk revolution largely intact and recorded their masterpiece, a double album that cemented their place in the rock pantheon and coined a timeless anthem that will still be hummed long after London is swallowed by the Thames. .

So what did the jury crown? The self-titled debut from adult radio favorite Christopher Cross, home to tasteful radio staples like Sailing and Ride Like The Wind.

1984
Cattle: Lionel Richie, can’t slow down
I should have won: Bruce Springsteen, born in the USA
Bruce Springsteen’s long and steady rise from New Jersey buzzword to bona fide cultural figure peaked with Born In the USA, an album as inescapable in Aberdeen, Auckland and Augsburg as it was in Asbury. Park, New Jersey. . The 1984 stadium rock toast might have gotten a nomination from the voting panel, but that was about it. Former Commodore Lionel Richie was very much the captain of the Album of the Year category that year, for the album that featured the likes of Penny Lover, All Night, and Hello. Or Goodbye, as it was so much for Springsteen’s biggest album.

1989
Cattle: Bonnie RaittNick Of Time
I should have won: Tom Petty Full Moon Fever
No disrespect to Bonnie Raitt, a Californian country legend whose Nick Of Time was a deserved breakthrough after a run of bad luck in the 1980s, and who was dropped by her record company one day after recording the Tongue album. In Groove. However, as good as Nick Of Time was, it only caused a bit of a stir outside of country-loving circles. The same can’t be said for Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, an album recorded by ELO producer Jeff Lynne, as the pair also contributed to the Traveling Wilburys side project. Full Moon Fever was Petty’s first solo album, although virtually all of his group The Heartbreakers contributed. It included Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’, two of Petty’s biggest hits, peppered with Lynn’s signature Beatles-esque production gloss.

1992
Cattle:
Eric Clapton, MTV… Unplugged
I should have won: Nirvana, it doesn’t matter
Pedantic graphic, relax. Yes, Nevermind was released in 1991, but it didn’t come out until the following year. The Grammys generally only awarded slow-burning albums in the year they really broke out, so Nevermind has a shot at success the following year. Except… the album wasn’t even nominated. The Grammy voting jury, in their wisdom, felt that Eric Clapton’s cafe-friendly MTV… Unplugged, Annie Lennox’s Diva and Disney’s Beauty And The Best soundtrack deserved more nodes than an album that it changed the way rock sounded and looked for a generation. . As it was, Clapton won, proving that silence was very much the new noise.

nineteen ninety six
Cattle: Celine Dion, Falling Into You
I should have won: Beck, Odelay
Two years later, another ocean noise. Beck’s Odelay was rightly lauded as the 1996 album, a mix of country, folk and hip hop that grew out of largely acoustic sessions in 1994. Beck scrapped these, actually joining production duo The Dust Brothers ( who had previously worked with The Dust Brothers). Beastie Boys) to produce something much more layered than their breakthrough Mellow Gold. But the ceremony proved that, once again, Grammy voters preferred something with a bit more dramatic wind in its sails. Celine Dion’s Cue Falling Into You, the album that featured Dion’s annoying cover of Eric Carmen’s All By Myself. Odelay, despite being nominated, was left out.

1997
Cattle:
Bob DylanTime Out Of Mind
I should have won: Radiohead, OK Computer
In 1997, Bob Dylan reinvigorated a fading muse with Time Out Of Mind, an album in which he teamed up with producer Daniel Lanois, the Canadian who had produced U2 in the ’80s and helmed Dylan’s 1989 album Oh Mercy. The album brought a more experimental sheen to Dylan’s work (after all, Lanois was heavily involved in U2’s Achtung Baby), but the generally positive reviews included some who wondered if the record was any less of a masterpiece than that. Dylan and more a demonstration of Lanois’ prowess in the studio. Radiohead, on the other hand, had released an LP widely rated one of the best of the decade: Pink Floyd levels of existential despair as the clock ticked down to the end of the millennium.

2000
Cattle: Steely Dan, two against nature
I should have won: Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP, or Radiohead, Kid A
Steely Dan was rightly praised for his bright, smart, jazz-tinged take on pop. Much of that accolade, of course, came in the 1970s, when the duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen produced their most enduring work. After 1980’s Gaucho, they called it a day for 13 years, before reuniting for concerts and eventually another album, 2000’s Two Against Nature. But the album came out the same year as one of hip-hop’s most controversial albums. and best-selling of all time, Eminem’s third album, The Marshall Mathers LP.

Radiohead had also been in contention with Kid A, a side swerve from OK Computer’s doom-laden modern prog into more electronic realms; he is considered today as a radically successful sidestep and a classic of the electronic genre. A classic for many, but not for the Grammy voting panel, it seems. But hey, at least they were nominated this time.

2004
Cattle: Ray Charles and his friends, Genius Loves Company
I should have won: Kanye West – The College Dropout, or Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
Steely Dan’s 2000 win underscores a frustrating flaw that can plague twilight career albums by established artists. In the same way that overlooked veteran directors sometimes get an Oscar for lesser, later work, the Grammys can reward artists for their continued presence. It’s also possible that the pain of losing blues legend Ray Charles, who died in June 2004, eased Genius Loves Company when it was released posthumously a few months later. It was a laid-back but unspectacular duets record, pairing Charles with Willie Nelson, Norah Jones and Diana Krall.

It could be argued that two classic albums from that year could have won the award. Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut was a genuine sensation, a worldwide hit record and the perfect distillation of frontman Alex Kapranos’ desire to write “your girlfriend will dance” songs, angular and interesting, yet loaded with friendly hooks. with the radio. Meanwhile, Kanye West’s The College Dropout remains arguably his creative zenith. Recorded over four years while West was being rejected by record label after record label, The College Dropout bubbled with unrelenting energy.

2007
Cattle:
Herbie Hancock, River: Joni’s Letters
I should have won: Amy Winehouse, Back in Black
On paper, Amy Winehouse’s defining album Back To Black was perfect Grammy fodder. Winehouse herself looked like she’d stepped out of an old Hollywood movie, all angst, beehive hairdo and eyeliner, the music shimmering in a retro haze that heightened the drama and longing for her. But while Winehouse took Record of the Year for Rehab, the album that spawned it was overlooked by jazz-funk pioneer River: Herbie Hancock’s The Joni Letters, an album that reinvented Joni Mitchell’s songs through a cast of collaborators that included Leonard Cohen. , Norah Jones, Tina Turner, and Corinne Bailey Rae. A respectful tipping of the hat for a living legend, but not a record that carries the legacy that Back To Black enjoys over a decade later.

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