Awards

Grammys vs. Critics: How Album of the Year Nominees From the Last 20 Years Have Fared With Reviewers

Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift
Getty Images/Design by Jenny Regan

Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift.

Three years ago, Bruno Mars' "24K Magic" won album of the year, but Metacritic critics put it dead last among the five albums nominated.

Music critics and Grammy voters have frequently been at odds over the years. For every time they agreed, such as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band winning the 1967 award for album of the year, there were two or three times they didn't, such as Christopher Cross sweeping the 1980 awards.

The inception of the review aggregation site Metacritic.com in 2001 has given us a handy way to measure critical opinion. Their scores on music, movies, TV and games offer something of a second opinion by which we can review the work of the major awards shows.

Leaving aside critical favorites that didn't receive album of the year nominations, and just looking at Metacritic scores for albums that were nominated in that marquee category, critics have agreed with the Grammy choice for album of the year four times. They were in harmony on Norah Jones' Come Away With Me (though critics were equally enthusiastic about one of Jones' rivals) and agreed on Taylor Swift's Fearless, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs and Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour as well.

But they're not always in sync. Three years ago, Bruno Mars' 24K Magic won the Grammy for album of the year, when Metacritic critics put it dead last among the five albums nominated that year.

Let's scroll back through the past 20 years. I'll show you the Grammy winner for album of the year, directly followed by its Metacritic score; then, Metacritic's high score (of the nominated albums), then, Metacritic's low score (again, of the nominated albums) and finally some notes of interest on many of the years.

2000
Grammy winner: Steely Dan's Two Against Nature (77)
Metacritic's high score: Beck's Midnite Vultures (83)
Metacritic's low score: Paul Simon's You're the One (76)

Note: Beck was Metacritic's high scorer here. He was Grammy voters' somewhat controversial choice 14 years later.

2001
Grammy winner: O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (no Metacritic score)
Metacritic's high score: OutKast's Stankonia (95)
Metacritic's low score: U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind (79)

Notes: Metacritic doesn't have a score for O Brother or India.Arie's Acoustic Soul. The site's 79 rating for U2's album is its highest low score in this 20-year period. That suggests that this year critics liked all the nominees. OutKast was Metacritic's high scorer here; the duo was Grammy voters' choice two years later.

2002
Grammy winner: Jones' Come Away With Me (82)
Metacritic's high score: A tie! Come Away With Me and Bruce Springsteen's The Rising (both 82)
Metacritic's low score: Nelly's Nellyville (70)

2003
Grammy winner: OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (91)
Metacritic's high score: The White Stripes' Elephant (92)
Metacritic's low score: Justin Timberlake's Justified (68)

Notes: Metacritic doesn't have a score for Evanescence's Fallen. OutKast's 91 Metacritic rating is the highest for an album of the year winner in this 20-year period.

2004
Grammy winner: Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company (no Metacritic score)
Metacritic's high score: Kanye West's The College Dropout (87)
Metacritic's low score: Another tie: Alicia Keys' The Diary of Alicia Keys and Usher's Confessions (both 71)

2005
Grammy winner: U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (79)
Metacritic's high score: West's Late Registration (85)
Metacritic's low score: Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi (64)

Note: West is the first artist to be Metacritic's  high scorer twice.

2006
Grammy winner: Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way (72)
Metacritic's high score: Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere (81)
Metacritic's low score: John Mayer's Continuum (67)

2007
Grammy winner: Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters (no Metacritic score)
Metacritic's high score: Vince Gill's These Days (82)
Metacritic's low score: Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (71)

2008
Grammy winner: Robert Plant/Alison Krauss' Raising Sand (87)
Metacritic's high score: Radiohead's In Rainbows (88)
Metacritic's low score: Coldplay's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (72)

2009
Grammy winner: Swift's Fearless (73)
Metacritic's high score: Fearless
Metacritic's low score: The Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. (60)

Note: Metacritic's 73 score for Swift's album is its lowest high score in this 20-year period. That suggests that this year critics weren't especially drawn to any of the nominees.

2010
Grammy winner: Arcade Fire's The Suburbs (87)
Metacritic's high score: The Suburbs
Metacritic's low score: Katy Perry's Teenage Dream (52)

2011
Grammy winner: Adele's 21 (76)
Metacritic's high score: Foo Fighters' Wasting Light (78)
Metacritic's low score: Mars' Doo-Wops & Hooligans (61)

2012
Grammy winner: Mumford & Sons' Babel (63)
Metacritic's high score: Frank Ocean's Channel Orange (92)
Metacritic's low score: Fun.'s Some Nights (60)

Note: The 63 Metacritic score for Babel is the lowest for an album of the year winner in this 20-year period.

2013
Grammy winner: Daft Punk's Random Access Memories (87)
Metacritic's high score: Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city (91)
Metacritic's low score: Sara Bareilles' The Blessed Unrest (68)

Note: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist doesn't have a Metacritic score.

2014
Grammy winner: Beck's Morning Phase (81)
Metacritic's high score: Beyoncé's Beyoncé (85)
Metacritic's low score: Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour (62)

2015
Grammy winner: Swift's 1989 (76)
Metacritic's high score: Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly (96)
Metacritic's low score: The Weeknd's Beauty Behind the Madness (74)

Note: Lamar's 96 Metacritic score is the highest for an album of the year nominee in this 20-year period.

2016
Grammy winner: Adele's 25 (75)
Metacritic's high score: Beyoncé's Lemonade (92)
Metacritic's low score: Justin Bieber's Purpose (63)

Note: Beyoncé is the only female artist to be Metacritic's  high scorer twice.

2017
Grammy winner: Mars' 24K Magic (70)
Metacritic's high score: Lamar's DAMN. (95)
Metacritic's low score: 24K Magic

Notes: Lamar is the only artist to be Metacritic's high scorer three times. Mars is the only artist to be Metacritic's low scorer twice.

2018
Grammy winner: Musgraves' Golden Hour (89)
Metacritic's high score: Golden Hour
Metacritic's low score: Post Malone's Beerbongs & Bentleys (51)

Notes: Metacritic doesn't have a score for H.E.R.'s mixtape, H.E.R. The 51 Metacritic score for Beerbongs & Bentleys is the lowest for an album of the year nominee in this 20-year period. (That critical diss doesn't seem to have unduly hurt Posty's career momentum.)

2019
Grammy winner: Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (82)
Metacritic's high score: Lana Del Rey's Norman F---ing Rockwell! (87)
Metacritic's low score: Lil Nas X's 7 (57)

Note: Metacritic doesn't have a score for H.E.R.'s mixtape I Used to Know Her.