Music fans and critics alike enjoy annually complaining about the Grammy Awards' winners, losers, surprises and snubs. But sometimes the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gets it really wrong.
Consider this year when the unknown (and untalented) keytar-wielding Al Walser somehow landed a Best Dance Recording nomination for his "Friday"-quality song "I Can't Live Without You," causing pretty much the entire Internet to yell "WTF?!" in unison.
Not to downplay Walser's inclusion, but the Grammy Awards have been honoring the dishonorable ever since they began. So we dug into the archives to compile a list of the absolute worst Grammy nominations ever. Not all have won, but c'mon academy voters, none should have even been nominated. Turn up your gramophones!
To see the worst Grammy nominations ever, in chronological order, click to launch the gallery below:
David Seville "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" (Nominated)
<strong>1959 Record Of The Year</strong> "The Chipmunk Song" didn't win this category, though this incredibly irritating tune did pick up three other awards at the inaugural Grammys. But its inclusion in this songwriting category is nonetheless unconscionable, especially when placed beside fellow nominees Peggy Lee's "Fever," Perry Como's "Catch A Falling Star," Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" and eventual (thank goodness) winner Domenico Modugno's "Volare."
Vaughn Meader 'The First Family' (Won)
<strong>1963 Album Of The Year</strong> To be fair, a spoken-word comedy album won the Grammys' top prize just two years earlier, but at least that was the legendary album "The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart" (though also giving Bob Newhart the best new artist award really muddied the Grammys' musical waters). But this comedy album was just a goofy take on the Kennedys by a long-forgotten impressionist. And it bested a pair of timeless classics: Ray Charles' "Modern Sounds In Country And Western" and Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." (Needless to say, Meader's career as a Kennedy impersonator ended on Nov. 22 of that year.)
The New Vaudeville Band "Winchester Cathedral" (Won)
1967 Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording Even if this embarrassing novelty throwback to British music halls of the 1920s hadn't bested the likes of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and The Mamas And The Papas' "Monday Monday," it would still have been a travesty considering there's not a single note on this dreadful ditty that even slightly evokes rock 'n' roll, which was the category it won.
A Taste Of Honey (Won)
<strong>1979 Best New Artist</strong> I get that the Grammys wanted to do something to honor the already-dying disco scene, but this award is supposed to be bestowed on a band with a bright future. But only a few short years after A Taste Of Honey topped the chart with the creatively named floor-filler "Boogie Oogie Ooogie," they broke up following a string of failed efforts. Oh, and they beat the Cars and Elvis Costello in this category.
Robin Williams / The Blues Brothers (Nominated)
<strong>1980 Best New Artist</strong> Now I'm not inherently opposed to comedy acts winning non-comedy Grammys. In fact, I remain appalled the Lonely Island lost for "I'm On A Boat," but that's because that was a well-written and produced original song regardless of its inherent hilarity. But two best new artist nominees in 1980 were comedy acts — Robin Williams, who released a live album of his trademark manic standup shtick (except more coked-out), while the Blues Brothers, a.k.a. 'SNL' stars John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, simply played covers of blues classics with a band of ringers borrowed from Isaac Hayes and Booker T.
USA For Africa 'We Are The World' (Nominated)
<strong>1986 Album Of The Year</strong> While the charity single "We Are The World" is certainly iconic and undeniably altruistic, that does not necessarily make it an award-worthy song. And it surely doesn't justify a nomination for the same-named album which included unreleased throwaways by participating artists like Steve Perry's "If Only For The Moment, Girl" and a live version of Huey Lewis And The News' "Trouble In Paradise." Oh, and it also contained the terrible Canadian famine-relief tune "Tears Are Not Enough." It's great that people bought it, but academy voters were being a little too charitable here.
Jethro Tull 'Crest Of A Knave' (Won)
<strong>1989 Best Hard Rock/Metal Recording </strong> When you're introducing a new category to an award show, it's very important to make sure that your nominees are actually representative of said category. So Grammy voters appeared to have nailed it when they announced the likes of AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction and Metallica. And then instead of awarding "...And Justice For All" the award they committed one of best-known blunders in Grammy history by giving it to Jethro Tull's non-metal record, prompting a chorus of boos from the crowd.
Milli Vanilli (Won)
<strong>1990 Best New Artist </strong> There may have been no way for Grammy voters to have known that Milli Vanilli were lip-syncers, but they could have still listened to the record which, for all its radio hits, was hardly a display of award-worthy artistry. Adding insult to injury was they strong line-up they bested — two-hit wonder Tone Loc aside, Indigo Girls, Neneh Cherry or Soul II Soul all would have been worthy winners.
Eric Clapton "Layla" (Unplugged Version) (Won)
<strong>1993 Best Rock Song</strong> Yes, old Slowhand is a rock legend, but that doesn't mean that an acoustic cover of a 20-year-old tune is a "rock song." Making this even embarrassing was that it won against two of that decade's most influential songs, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Pearl Jam's "Jeremy." It's almost enough to make you blow your brains out.
The Rolling Stones 'Voodoo Lounge'
<strong>1995 Album of the Year</strong> Yes, the Rolling Stones are rock legends, but much like Clapton's '93 victory, this was a name-recognition win in a year when alt-rock was still pumping out new classics. Jagger and Keef beat Pearl Jam's "Vs.," R.E.M.'s "Monster," Soundgarden's "Superunknown" and Neil Young and Crazy Horse's "Sleeps With Angels," an album the proved you could be a boomer band and remain relevant rather than releasing, as Sleep's best song put it, a "Piece Of Crap."
Skee-Lo 'I Wish' (Nominated)
<strong>1996 Best Rap Album</strong> Skee-Lo was a one-hit wonder, but "I Wish" was admittedly a catchy one hit. The problem is this category is for best album and I wish Skee-Lo even came close to his fellow nominees. Naughty By Nature maybe didn't deserve their win for their late-period "Poverty's Paradise," but it at least earned a spot alongside 2Pac's "Me Against The World," Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's "E 1999 Eternal" and Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version."
Quad City DJ's "Space Jam" (Nominated)
<strong>1998 Best Dance Recording </strong> Given the late-'90s rise of rave culture, it's rather shocking that Daft Punk was the only one of the electronica crop to nab a nomination for best dance recording. It sucks that "Da Funk" lost to disco holdovers Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder, but that's nothing compared to the egregiousness of this terrible soundtrack cut to a Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny movie getting nominated when Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Crystal Method released major works.
Will Smith "Men In Black"/"Gettin' Jiggy wit It" (Winner)
<strong>1998 and 1999 Best Rap Performance </strong> Some may complain about DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince winning the first rap Grammy, but I am not among them. Will Smith's early work from "Parents Just Don't Understand" to "Summertime" was pretty great. But he sure as hell didn't deserve a nomination, much less a win, for either of these dreadful solo singles. The former beat Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize," while the latter trumped Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," Wyclef Jean's "Gone till November" and Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." And we all lost a little faith in the Grammys.
Steely Dan 'Two Against Nature' (Winner)
<strong>2001 Album Of The Year </strong> This was maybe the worst year in Grammy history, as you'll see by the four (!) entries this annus horribilis managed to pull off. The worst, of course, was also the biggest. Who even knew that '70s jazz-rock duo Steely Dan was still making music? But the fact that they bested some of the best albums of the post-millennial era in Eminem's "Marshall Mathers LP" and Radiohead's "Kid A" suddenly makes their album title make a little sense.
Baha Men "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (Winner)
<strong>2001 Best Dance Recording</strong> To be fair, this whole catagory is an embarrassment with any number of amazing electronic albums and songs ignored in favour of the likes of Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez, who each got a nod. Only Moby's "Natural Blues" even deserved to be here, but the fact that the Baha Men are able to call themselves Grammy-winners puts this entire enterprise into question.
Creed "With Arms Wide Open" (Winner)
<strong>2001 Best Rock Song </strong> I'm gonna give this one to Creed because they won, but considering they were also up against 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite," Lenny Kravitz's "Again" (does anyone even remember that one?) and Matchbox Twenty's "Bent," I question the inclusion of "best" in the category title. (I'd have given it to Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication" by default though it's not one of their better tunes.)
Paul McCartney 'Liverpool Sound Collage' (Winner)
<strong>2001 Best Alternative Album</strong> Leaving aside how "alternative" one of the biggest-selling songwriters in music history could possibly be, the former Beatle put out a "sound collage" and somehow beat Radiohead's "Kid A," Fiona Apple's "When The Pawn...", Beck's "Midnite Vultures" and the Cure's "Bloodflowers." John Lennon would not have approved.
Afroman "Because I Got High"
<strong>2002 Best Rap Song </strong> How did Afroman get a nomination alongside Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On," DMX's "Who We Be," Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and Nelly's "Ride Wit Me"? Clearly it's because Grammy voters got high, they got high, they got high.
Herbie Hancock 'River: The Joni Letters' (Winner)
<strong>2008 Album Of The Year </strong> When the jazz legend Herbie Hancock's Joni Mitchell covers album bested epochal records from Amy Winehouse ("Back To Black") and Kanye West ("Graduation"), the rest of us heard the first two words of the Foo Fighters also-nominated album "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace." If only someone had rushed the stage and said "I'mma let you finish, but..."
Al Walser "I Can't Live Without You" (Nominated)
<strong>2013 Best Dance Recording </strong> Which brings us back to Al. Now after all the outrage over Walser's nomination, I can't imagine he'll be able to beat household names like Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia or highly respected producers like Avicii and Calvin Harris. But then again, if this deep dive into the depths of Grammy history has taught us anything, it's that the academy has a very loose grasp on the meaning of the word "best."