One of the more enjoyable reasons to watch the GRAMMY Awards each year is because of the shocking upset victories — the artists, songs and albums in the running that provoke gasps with their wins, after previously being given a slim chance to actually compete. Sure, the safe bets are fun to applaud, but the upsets in the history of the GRAMMY Awards are arguably more memorable. Who can forget Jethro Tull’s shocking win over Metallica for best hard rock/metal performance in 1989, or the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack somehow trumping Outkast, U2 and Bob Dylan for album of the year in 2002?
Of course, the past decade of GRAMMY ceremonies has included a fair share of surprises (do the words “Esperanza” and “Spalding” ring a bell?). Check out our list of the 10 biggest GRAMMY upsets of the past 10 years:
47th GRAMMY Awards (2005)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Ray Charles & Various Artists, Genius Loves Company
WHAT IT BEAT: Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Green Day’s American Idiot
In 2005, Kanye West’s brilliant first album, Green Day’s comeback smash American Idiot, Alicia Keys’ sumptuous The Diary of Alicia Keys and Usher’s inescapable Confessions couldn’t topple Genius Loves Company, a posthumous collection of collaborations released two months after Ray Charles’ death in 2004. Genius Loves Company was a hit tribute to a musical genius, but few expected the collection to snag the top prize of the evening.
48th GRAMMY Awards (2006)
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION: Jay-Z & Linkin Park, “Numb/Encore”
WHAT IT BEAT: Ciara & Missy Elliott, “1, 2 Step”; Destiny’s Child, T.I. & Lil Wayne, “Soldier”
Jay Z is no stranger to GRAMMY acclaim — he’s nominated for nine awards at the upcoming ceremony, after all — but the fact that his rap-rock single with Linkin Park earned him an award is pretty mind-blowing in retrospect. The single from the collaborative album Collision Course actually won more GRAMMYS than Jay Z’s “Encore,” from The Black Album, and Linkin Park’s “Numb,” from Meteora; the song also trumped hits by Destiny’s Child, Ciara and Gwen Stefani & Eve (“Rich Girl”) in the process.
50th GRAMMY Awards (2008)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters
WHAT IT BEAT: Kanye West’s Graduation, Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black
In 2008, the album of the year category seemed to be a two-horse race between Graduation and Back to Black; Kanye West even told Winehouse’s producer, Mark Ronson, that “You deserve it just as much as me” while accepting another award earlier in the evening. While Winehouse won in the best new artist category and earned both record of the year and song of the year, the final prize of the night went to jazz legend Herbie Hancock’s full-length tribute to Joni Mitchell — even Hancock seemed surprised by the outcome.
52nd GRAMMY Awards (2010)
RECORD OF THE YEAR: Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”
WHAT IT BEAT: Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” Beyonce’s “Halo”
Kings of Leon’s breakout smash was a lock for best rock song and best rock performance by a duo/group with vocals in 2010, but the record of the year category was a different beast entirely; after all, “Use Somebody” was going against “You Belong With Me,” “Halo,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” all populist pop hits. The sole rock competitor in the category emerged victorious — although Swift and Beyonce earned wins in the album of the year and song of the year categories, respectively.
Next: Bon Iver, Esperanza Spalding, and… An Upset For Adele?
53rd GRAMMY Awards (2011)
BEST NEW ARTIST: Esperanza Spalding
WHO SHE BEAT: Justin Bieber, Drake
Esperanza Spalding, a jazz bassist that was by no means a household name when nominated for best new artist, was up against stiff competition in 2011, as Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford & Sons and Florence + The Machine were all vying for the prize. Spalding won in a still-shocking upset, though, becoming the first jazz artist to ever take home the award and provoking a gaggle of angry Beliebers to mess with her Wikipedia page.
53rd GRAMMY Awards (2011)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
WHAT IT BEAT: Eminem’s Recovery, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now
Arcade Fire’s “we’re just happy to be nominated” vibe seemed to be confirmed earlier in the 2011 telecast, when the group’s third album, The Suburbs, couldn’t even muster a win in the best alternative album category (Brothers by the Black Keys won that one). Instead of Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga or Katy Perry striding to the stage, however, the Canadian collective ended up winning album of the year, and Win Butler and co. got to deliver a huge win for indie rock music (with Barbra Streisand onstage, no less!)
54th GRAMMY Awards (2012)
BEST COUNTRY DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE: The Civil Wars’ “Barton Hollow”
WHAT IT BEAT: Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter’s “You and Tequila”
Granted, the best country duo/group performance award is not one of the flashiest honors at the GRAMMY Awards, but the fact that the Civil Wars were able to overcome massive stars like Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney with an offbeat ditty like “Barton Hollow” is still a staggering achievement. The duo also earned the best folk album trophy that night, besting Fleet Foxes, Eddie Vedder and Gillian Welch in that category.
54th GRAMMY Awards (2012)
BEST NEW ARTIST: Bon Iver
WHO HE BEAT: Nicki Minaj, Skrillex
Bon Iver’s second studio album was showered with nominations two years ago, including record of the year and song of the year nods for “Holocene”; still, few expected Justin Vernon to trump artists like Nicki Minaj, Skrillex and the Band Perry, especially after he refused to perform at the ceremony. Bon Iver’s hushed folk stylings did indeed snag the best new artist trophy in the end, and Vernon’s speech started with, “Hi… uh, it’s really hard to accept this award.”
55th GRAMMY Awards (2013)
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: Adele, “Set Fire to the Rain” (Live)
WHAT IT BEAT: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
After sweeping the 2012 ceremony, any GRAMMYS win for Adele can’t possibly be considered an “upset,” right? But consider last year’s best pop solo performance category, in which “Call Me Maybe,” “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” and Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” all lost out to… a live recording of “Set Fire to the Rain,” a song which originally appeared on an album released over two years before the 2013 GRAMMY Awards! Even the biggest pop smashes of the year cannot compete with the mightiness of Adele’s GRAMMY power.
56th GRAMMY Awards (2014)
BEST RAP ALBUM: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
WHAT IT BEAT: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, Drake’s Nothing Was The Same
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis certainly weren’t underdogs at the 2014 ceremony, scoring nominations in all four major categories and winning the best new artist trophy. However, the fact that the Seattle duo’s debut album, The Heist, trumped Kendrick Lamar’s critically lauded good kid, m.A.A.d city LP in the best rap album category was too much for some rap fans — including Macklemore himself — to stomach. “You got robbed,” Macklemore texted Lamar after the show, a message he Instagrammed soon after. “I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and it sucks that I robbed you.” While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won three awards in the rap category, Lamar walked away empty-handed in 2014.