Grammys' Alternative Album Category: The 10 Greatest Injustices

Alternative Grammy Awards
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'Out of Time' over 'Nevermind'? 'Get Behind Me Satan' over 'Funeral'? Let's sort through these incorrect choices together.

The history of the Grammy Awards is full of both rightful victories and shameful omissions. In hindsight, it's easy to tell which artists, songs and albums have stood the test of time and should have been rewarded in years past. Nowhere is this more evident than in the best alternative music album category, which was created in 1991 and has had its fair share of questionable calls over that 24-year period.

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While the Recording Academy has played fast and loose with the definition of the word "alternative" on its way to bestowing are-they-really-alternative? artists like Gnarls Barkley and Beastie Boys with Grammys, the category has also given left-of-center musicians like Beck, Tom Waits, Phoenix and Bon Iver the trophies they so undeniably deserved. Still, we all make mistakes -- and in the following 10 instances, the Academy not only gave the wrong albums the gold, but left pivotal full-lengths out in the cold. It's time to right those wrong -- or, at the very least, point them out.

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Check out our list of the 10 greatest injustices in the Grammys' alternative albums category, and tell us whether you agree with our revisions:


Did Win: R.E.M., Out of Time
Should Have Won: Nirvana, Nevermind
Should Have Been Nominated: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Sure, R.E.M.'s Out of Time was home to the group's biggest hit, "Losing My Religion," but the album is pretty uneven by the band's standards (never forget that KRS-One collaboration "Radio Song"!). And then you have Nevermind, one of the greatest albums ever and the no-brainer choice in retrospect. For good measure, we could have subbed out nominated albums by Jesus Jones or Richard Thompson for the Chili Peppers' commercial breakthrough.


Did Win: U2, Zooropa
Should Have Won: R.E.M., Automatic for the People
Should Have Been Nominated: Blur, Modern Life Is Rubbish

Nominees like Nirvana's In Utero and the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream were more than worthy of surpassing U2's oddball opus Zooropa and snagging this trophy, but let's give the retroactive win to Automatic for the People, R.E.M.'s best album and a far more deserving full-length than Out of Time. And while we're at it, let's swap out Belly's Star for a classic Blur album.


Did Win: Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York
Should Have Won: Björk, Post
Should Have Been Nominated: Radiohead, The Bends

Giving Nirvana the posthumous nod was a classy move by the Grammys, but on an artistic level, there's no comparison between an MTV Unplugged album and the kaleidoscopic genius of Björk's Post. Sad bonus fact: Björk has been nominated in this category six times and has yet to win! The Susan Lucci of the Grammys alternative category should have been joined here by Radiohead, who have since won this award three times but, c’mon, the Presidents of the United States of America's self-titled over The Bends? Really?

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Did Win: Beck, Mutations
Should Have Won: Moby, Play
Should Have Been Nominated: The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

This was a weird year for alternative nominees, but in terms of cultural impact, Moby’s electronica landscapes on Play hold up better than… what, Beck's fifth best album? If the Flaming Lips' soaring The Soft Bulletin had scored a nomination, it should have taken the prize over all others, though.


Did Win: Coldplay, Parachutes
Should Have Won: Radiohead, Amnesiac
Should Have Been Nominated: The Strokes, Is This It

Coldplay won this award two years in a row, and while A Rush of Blood to the Head deserved its Grammy in 2003, Radiohead should have been the band with back-to-back wins with the genre-defining Kid A in '01 and the hypnotic Amnesiac the year after. Meanwhile, the Strokes' Is This It received nary a nomination that year, causing many garage-rock defenders' brains to implode.


Did Win: Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
Should Have Won: Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
Should Have Been Nominated: Animal Collective, Sung Tongs

Wilco should have been nominated two years earlier for its monumental 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and while A Ghost Is Born was given a nice makeup prize, there's no way that album deserved the alternative crown that year over Franz Ferdinand's bulletproof self-titled disc. And hey, while we're dabbling in revisionist history, let's toss Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs into the mix -- if Björk’s entirely a cappella Medúlla album could have been nominated that year, surely the freak-folks of AC could have been too, right?


Did Win: The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
Should Have Won: Arcade Fire, Funeral
Should Have Been Nominated: Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

The White Stripes Name Recognition Award, part 1. Get Behind Me Satan is a fine album by Jack & Meg -- nowhere near Elephant, which rightfully won in 2004 -- but Arcade Fire's masterful debut was the start of a brilliant career for the Canadian collective. There were a ton of deserving albums that could have made the cut this year -- LPs by Bloc Party, Spoon and M.I.A. come to mind -- but folk maximalist Sufjan Stevens should have appeared on Grammy voters' radars for his sensational examination of Illinois.

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Did Win: The White Stripes, Icky Thump
Should Have Won: Lily Allen, Alright, Still
Should Have Been Nominated: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

The White Stripes Name Recognition Award, part 2. It's pretty hard to justify giving this one to Icky Thump over the whip-smart lyricism and indie-pop punch of Lily Allen’s debut. Arcade Fire, Björk and the Shins all dropped admirable alternative releases in 2007, but Spoon's meticulous, groove-packed Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga outshone them all.


Did Win: The Black Keys, Brothers
Should Have Won: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Should Have Been Nominated: Beach House, Teen Dream

In a vacuum, this one isn't too egregious: The Suburbs is a great album, but so is the Black Keys' Brothers, which helped establish the Akron duo with hits like "Howlin' for You" and "Tighten Up." Here's the thing, though: The Suburbs won Album of the Year! If it's the Grammy winner for Album of the Year, but not the alternative music album of the year, then… wait, what? Swap out Band of Horses' Infinite Arms for Beach House's shimmering Teen Dream, and this category is golden.


Did Win: Gotye, Making Mirrors
Should Have Won: Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
Should Have Been Nominated: Grimes, Visions

Gotye earned his record of the year win two years ago for "Somebody That I Used to Know," but to declare his Making Mirrors album superior to Fiona Apple's powerfully dense The Idler Wheel… just seems… wrong. And the Grammys would have been wise to recognize Grimes’ Visions, a singular album that will stand the test of time.


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