The Grammys, celebrating their 56th annual awards show on Jan 26, are notorious for their fails.
Lately, though, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has been pretty good about doling out their awards and nominations to deserving musicians—it's been five years since the worst "Best Album" award ever— but they still offer up a few head-scratchers.
While not as embarrassing as last year's nomination of unknown keytarist (Hello, Al Walser in the electronic dance music category, this year's dishonour goes to Led Zeppelin.
The disbanded rock band somehow landed a Best Rock Album nomination for "Celebration Day." Now we love Led Zep as much as the next breathing human, but if this live album from a 2007 one-off reunion concert full of songs from the 1970s is one of the five best rock albums of 2104, than perhaps we should just can the category altogether. Or at least force the voters to listen to actual new albums rather than vote on name recognition. (Note: Led Zeppelin is up against Black Sabbath, Neil Young and David Bowie with only Kings of Leon and Queens of the Stone Age repping this century.)
Zeppelin is also nominated for Best Rock Performance for... "Kashmir," a song that first came out in 1975. Oh, and if they win, it will be the classic rockers FIRST Grammy, as they've previously only won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Of course, this would not be the first time the right act was nominated for the wrong album, our list of Grammy fails is full of them. Not to mention the nominees and winners that were wrong across the board.
And so, the worst Grammy nominees and wins ever, in chronological order, are...
David Seville - "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)", (Nominated), 1959
Nominated: "Record of the Year", 1959 "The Chipmunk Song" didn't win this category, though the 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), 1963
Won: "Album of the Year", 1963 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
Won: "Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording), 1967 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), 1979
Won: "Best New Artist", 1979 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. Just 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 (Tie, Nominated), 1980
Nominated: "Best New Artist", 1980 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 was a well-written and produced original song regardless of its inherent hilarity. Two best new artist nominees in 1980 were comedy acts — Robin Williams, who released a live album of his trademark manic stand up shtick (except more coked-out), and the Blues Brothers, a.k.a. "SNL" stars John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, who 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),1986
Nominated: "Album of the Year", 1986 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), 1989
Won: "Best Hard Rock/Metal Recording", 1989 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 the 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) 1990
Won: "Best New Artist", 1990 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), 1993
Won: Best Rock Song, 1993 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 more 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."
The Rolling Stones - "Voodoo Lounge" (Nominated), 1995
Nominated: Album of the Year, 1995 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 Angel"s, an album that 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), 1996
Nominated: "Best Rap Album", 1996 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 - "Space Jam" (Nominated), 1998
Nominated: "Best Dance Recording", 1998 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) 1998 , 1999
Won: "Best Rap Performance", 1998 and 1999 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), 2001
Won: "Album of the Year", 2001 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 beat out 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), 2001
Won: "Best Dance Recording", 2001 To be fair, this whole category 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), 2001
Won: "Best Rock Song", 2001 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), 2001
Won: "Best Alternative Album", 2001 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", 2002
Nominated: "Best Rap Song", 2002 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), 2008
Won: "Album of the Year", 2008 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), 2013
Nominated: "Best Dance Recording", 2013 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."
Led Zeppelin, "Celebration Day," 2014
Nominated: "Best Rock Album" Look, we'll give the Grammy voters a pass on "Kashmir," because it's up for "Best Rock Performance" and Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham's son Jason put on a hell of a performance. But that doesn't excuse this greatest hits live album being up for a best rock album award, especially since their actual best rock albums were all ignored when they came out four decades ago.
Jennifer Lopez in Anthony Vaccarello
Taylor Swift in J. Mendel
Beyonce in Osman
Katy Perry in Gucci
Rihanna in Alaia
Carrie Underwood in Roberto Cavalli
Adele in Valentino
Nicole Kidman in Vera Wang
Justin Timberlake in Tom Ford
Alicia Keys in Azzedine Alaia
Allison Williams in Kaufmanfranco
Carly Rae Jepsen in Roberto Cavalli
Florence Welch in Givenchy
Quincy Jones & John Mayer
Chrissy Teigen in Joy Cioci
Miranda Lambert in Roberto Cavalli
Kelly Osbourne in Paule Ka
Alexa Chung in Valentino
Kat Von D in 10 Crosby Derek Lam & Deadmau5
Kelly Rowland in Georges Chakra
Neil Patrick Harris & David Burtka
Faith Hill in J. Mendel
Sirah & Skrillex
Frank Ocean in Dior Hommes
Dave Grohl and his wife Jordyn
Trudy Styler & Sting
Maria Menounos in Gomez-Gracia