One of the favorite parlor games the morning after the Grammy Awards is the predictable bellyaching about which artists got robbed during the big show. And the category that typically draws the most Monday-morning quarterbacking is the biggest one of the night: Album of the Year.
Long before the 54th annual ceremony Sunday night, the drumbeat had already begun about an album that failed to make the list despite its wide critical acclaim and deep musicality. Though he’s the leading nominee at this year’s ceremony with seven nods, Kanye West’s career-defining My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy failed to make the cut for the night’s top prize.
Hip-hop heads grumbled that it was a continuation of the Recording Academy’s inability to think outside the mainstream box when awarding a hip-hop album with its highest honor. While Lauryn Hill and Outkast have won in the past, the denial of West’s richly textured, musically adventurous album puts him in pretty good company when it comes to landmark works that either never got a nomination for the award or failed to close the deal.
Among the other (in)famous Grammy Album of the Year snubs:
1992: If any album over the past 20-plus years could be said to completely define its era — not to mention igniting a complete reordering of the musical world — it was Nirvana’s Nevermind. Released in time to be considered at the 1992 Grammys, the landmark album wasn’t even nominated in a year when the winner was Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable … With Love tribute to her late father. Instead of honoring Nirvana, Grammy voters nominated Christian lightweight Amy Grant, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M. and Paul Simon. Among the other important works that didn’t even make the list: Guns N’ Roses’ ambitious Use Your Illusion double album set, Ten by Pearl Jam and Achtung Baby by U2.
2001: In one of the all-time Grammy head-scratchers, that year’s honors went to the first album in 20 years from studio-rat duo Steely Dan, Two Against Nature. The pick was especially galling for rock and rap fans, as it meant that another career-pinnacle work, Radiohead’s twisty Kid A and Eminem’s massive The Marshall Mathers LP, had to settle just for being nominated.
2008: In a year when West garnered his third Album of the Year nod, the Grammys went old-school again, shocking the world by giving the award to veteran jazzman Herbie Hancock’s 47th studio album, the Joni Mitchell tribute River: The Joni Letters. What albums were passed over in the process? Oh, nothing major, just Amy Winehouse’s hugely influential smash breakthrough Back to Black and West’s Graduation.
2009: The Academy had another chance to make it up to the hip-hop world the following year when Lil Wayne’s massive Tha Carter III was up for the big one. And even though Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Coldplay’s Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends were solid contenders, the prize once again went to a lesser-heard disc by a veteran, Raising Sand, a folky collaboration between former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and bluegrass star Alison Krauss.
Do you have an all-time favorite Album of the Year snub? Let us know in comments below.
Chaos! Profanity! Wardrobe malfunctions! Don’t miss Sway and James Montgomery live from the Grammys red carpet this Sunday, February 12, for a full three hours of mayhem, starting at 5 p.m. ET on MTV.com. And the fun doesn’t end Sunday: MTV News has you covered until the Grammy hangover wears off!