Some of the biggest surprises and controversies at the Grammys

Keiran Southern, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
·4-min read

The Grammy Awards has had more than its fair share of upsets and controversies down the years.

The so-called biggest night in music regularly delivers surprise winners, and is no stranger to head-scratching results.

Ahead of the 63rd Grammy Awards, the PA news agency looks at some of the most noteworthy surprises from previous ceremonies:

Christopher Cross’ clean sweep (1981)

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand was widely tipped to triumph at the Grammys in 1981 but was upstaged by Christopher Cross (Ian West/PA)

Christopher Cross stunned fans when becoming the first artist in Grammy history to win the big four categories – best record, album, song and best new artist.

The then 29-year-old relatively unknown soft rock star was up against industry titans Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand, but somehow ended the night with an armful of trophies.

It was a feat that was not repeated again until an 18-year-old Billie Eilish swept the boards last year.

Milli Vanilli’s best new artist win (1990)

German-French R&B duo Milli Vanilli won the award on the night, in a category which also included Neneh Cherry, Indigo Girls, Tone Loc and Soul II Soul.

However, it was quickly engulfed in controversy after it emerged Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus had been faking their act and did not perform any of the singing.

They ended up returning the best new artist Grammy and it was never handed out to another artist. Pilatus died in 1998 at the age of 33 from a drug overdose.

Steely Dan beats Eminem and Radiohead to album of the year (2001)

Eminem
Eminem lost to veteran rockers Steely Dan at the Grammys in 2001 (Anthony Harvey/PA)

Rapper Eminem was heavily fancied for his The Marshall Mathers LP, while Radiohead’s Kid A was later named one of the greatest albums of the decade.

However, it was veteran rockers Steely Dan who were celebrating on the night after their Two Against Nature won album of the year.

They won another three awards during the ceremony.

Amy Winehouse does not win album of the year (2008)

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse enjoyed success at the 2008 Grammys but did not sweep the board as many had predicted (Niall Carson/PA)

Herbie Hancock, the respected jazz star, took home album of the year at the 50th Grammys for River: The Joni Letters, his collection of Joni Mitchell interpretations.

It was a major upset as it was widely expected Amy Winehouse would take the award for her acclaimed effort Back To Black.

Kanye West had also been in contention with Graduation. It was not all bad news for Winehouse – she won record, song and best new artist.

Esperanza Spalding wins best new artist (2011)

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber was on the wrong end of a famous Grammy upset in 2011 (Yui Mok/PA)

The best new artist category is said to be “cursed” due to the number of winners who later fade into relative obscurity.

Esperanza Spalding was a surprise winner in 2011, becoming the first jazz artist to do so.

She was up against future megastars in Drake and Justin Bieber, while Florence And The Machine and Mumford & Sons were also nominated.

Macklemore’s best rap album victory over Kendrick Lamar (2014)

Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore apologised to Kendrick Lamar (pictured) after beating him to best rap album at the 56th Grammy Awards (PA)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis triumphed at the 56th Grammys, taking home the best rap album prize for their effort The Heist.

The win proved instantly controversial as it had been widely expected Kendrick Lamar would win for his record Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Macklemore later apologised to Lamar, telling him he should have won.

A reluctant Adele beats Beyonce (2017)

Adele
Adele beat Beyonce at the 2017 Grammys but broke down on stage (PA)

The British singer won album, song and record of the year for 25, which included the songs Hello, When We Were Young and All I Ask.

However, Adele believed Beyonce should have replaced her on the stage for her album Lemonade.

“I can’t possibly accept this award,” a tearful Adele said, before lavishing Beyonce with praise and describing her as “my artist of my life”.