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Album of the Year Grammy Winners: The 10 Worst


(Epic | Motown | Sony)There haven't been any truly awful albums to win the prestigious Album of the Year Grammy Award in the past 30 years, but that doesn't mean the Recording Academy always gets it right. There have been a few albums that haven't aged well since their initial releases, and others that seem woefully inadequate compared to their fellow nominees.

Here are our picks for the least deserving Album of the Year winners of the past three decades. If you're only interested in the new classics, check out our list of the best winners here.

10. Santana's Supernatural, 2000
Clive Davis rounded up a bevy of the biggest artists of the time to give Carlos Santana a shot at pop superstardom. The result, a collection of expertly produced hits that had nothing to do with each other, did not budge from the radio for well over a year. Everyone and their mom ate it up because it was 1999 and people thought Everlast and Eagle Eye Cherry were the bomb. Sigh.

Other nominees: Backstreet Boys' Millenium, Dixie Chicks' Fly, Diana Krall's When I Look in Your Eyes, TLC's FanMail

9. Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged, 1995
No disrespect to Tony Bennett, but how did a live album of ancient jazz standards take top honors in 1995? It often seems as if the Recording Academy just wants to give props to living legends. Isn't that what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is for?

Other nominees: José Carreras, Plácido Domingo & Luciano Pavarotti's The Three Tenors in Concert 1994 with Zubin Mehta, Eric Clapton's From the Cradle, Bonnie Raitt's Longing in Their Hearts, Seal's Seal

8. Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, 2008
Admittedly, I've never listened to this album and know Herbie Hancock only as the guy who did "Rockit," because I'm ignorant. But take a look at the other nominees and tell me that Amy Winehouse didn't deserve that award. No wonder Kanye gets so annoyed at these shows.

Other nominees: Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Kanye West's Graduation, Vince Gill's These Days, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black

7. Mumford & Sons, Babel, 2013
Mumford & Sons have the earnest strumming thing down, but that doesn't mean they deserved the Album of the Year nod. Not in a year when Frank Ocean's Channel ORANGE existed. But apparently the Academy voters really like having feelings shoved down their throats.

Other nominees: The Black Keys' El Camino, fun.'s Some Nights, Frank Ocean's Channel ORANGE, Jack White's Blunderbuss

6. Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way, 2007
You know the story: This was the Dixie Chicks' first album after the ridiculous George Bush "scandal" that nearly toppled their careers, and it was both defiant and lovely.  But Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds lived up to its title and set the tone for pop music for the next five years or so. So...

Other nominees:
Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere, John Mayer's Continuum, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium, Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds

5. Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down, 1985
As much as I love the melodramatic mini-movie that is the music video for "Hello," and as eternally grooveable as Lionel Richie is in general, Can't Slow Down was the least deserving album in this category the year it won. This is just the truth.

Other nominees: Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual, Prince & The Revolution's Purple Rain, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., Tina Turner's Private Dancer


4. Quincy Jones and Various Artists, Back on the Block, 1991
This is why Quincy Jones won for an album that, if you're under 35, you have never heard of: He is famous and powerful and has a lot of famous and powerful friends. Jones has been essential to the music industry for decades, but this album was not actually so essential. 

Other nominees: Mariah Carey's Mariah Carey, Phil Collins' ...But Seriously, MC Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, Wilson Phillips' Wilson Phillips

3. U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2006
This album was nominated for nine Grammys and won all of them, despite the fact that the best single, "Vertigo," will forever be remembered as an iPod commercial. And I will never forgive Bono for "Uno, dos, tres, catorce!" I just won't.

Other nominees: Green Day's American Idiot, Alicia Keys' The Diary of Alicia Keys, Usher's Confessions, Kanye West's College Dropout


2. Steely Dan's Two Against Nature, 2001
This was Steely Dan's first album in two decades, so the Recording Academy had every right to be excited about it. And it was, according to most critics, a great album. But the win confirmed what many had already suspected of the Grammys for a while: The voters are averse to the artists making a visible impact on pop culture (ahem, Eminem).

Other nominees: Beck's Midnite Vultures, Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, Radiohead's Kid A, Paul Simon's You're the One

1. Celine Dion's Falling Into You, 1997
If you're into adult contemporary — and to be fair, a lot of people were into adult contemporary in 1997 — then Falling for You was a total masterpiece. Gorgeously produced and tightly written, it delivered the schmaltzy goods with extra sparkle. But its fellow nominees, with the exception of the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, are now undeniable modern classics.

Other nominees: Beck's Odelay, The Fugees' The Score, Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album


Album of the Year Grammy Winners: The 10 Best

We don't disapprove of all of the Academy's choices. Just the bad ones. Read now.
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