25 Artists Who Have Never Won a Grammy - Rolling Stone
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25 Artists Who Have Never Won a Grammy

From megastars like Katy Perry to legends like Morrissey, acts who’ve never grabbed a Grammy gramophone

On February 15th, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj will both be returning to the Grammys — and both will be vying to take home their first trophy. Like Patti Smith (one nomination), Nas (11) and Snoop Dogg (17), neither has won a gramophone of his or her own. Here’s a rundown of the pop stars, punk icons and rock geniuses whose work has never been recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Snoop Dogg
Times nominated: 17
As of 2015, Snoop Dogg was tied for first place in the dubious competition to be the artist with the most Grammy nominations and zero wins. This year, he’ll either extend that historic unlucky streak or end it forever: He’s up for a 17th time as one of the featured artists on Kendrick Lamar’s Album of the Year contender To Pimp a Butterfly. In the past, he’s made the final cut for classics “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” “Gin and Juice” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” among others, only to be beaten out by the eminently worthy likes of Kanye WestBeyoncé and Dr. Dre. Snoop made his feelings on this pattern clear last month in a video supporting Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Oscars boycott: “Being nominated for 17 Grammys and never winning one … I feel what she’s saying as a far as great performances never being acknowledged,” he said. “But who gives a fuck? Fuck the Grammys. Fuck the Oscars. Fuck all that slavery-type award shows.”

Bryan McKnight
Times nominated: 16
R&B’s Susan Lucci is right behind Snoop in second place as the Grammys’ most-nominated, never-awarded artist. You might expect that somewhere in his deep and velvety catalog, brimming with favorites like “Anytime” (lost Best Pop Vocal Performance to Stevie Wonder‘s “St. Louis Blues” in 1999) and Back at One (lost Best R&B Album to TLC‘s FanMail in 2000), there is an album or song or video or duet worthy of a statue. But no. Could it be that his pristine adult contemporary R&B – though apparently highly nominate-able – is somehow too safe for even Grammy voters?

Joe Satriani
Times nominated: 15
Satriani is one of the most technically accomplished guitarists ever – the expert term for his level of playing is “so sick, dude.” But somehow that’s never been enough to sway the Recording Academy, which has consistently brought him right up to the edge of the winner’s circle in rock and pop instrumental performance categories without ever letting him step inside. His cult-classic Surfing With the Alien LP and its song “Always With Me, Always With You” nabbed Satriani his first pair of no-win nominations back in ’89; nearly 20 years later, he got his 15th nod for a live version of the same tune, but came up empty yet again. 


Times nominated: 14
Björk is up for Best Alternative Music Album this year for her heartrending 2015 LP Vulnicura. But don’t get your hopes up: She’s lost in the same category four times (for Vespertine, Medulla, Volta and Biophilia), along with 10 other nominations that didn’t pan out, mostly in music video and vocal performance categories. Her art-rock isn’t too far out for other award-giving bodies, though: Björk has won BRIT Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, 21 Icelandic Music awards, an award from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, two Webby Awards and the award for Best Actress at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, among others.

Katy Perry
Times nominated: 13
It’s hard to imagine a world in which a megastar like Katy Perry, whose Teenage Dream produced a record-breaking five Number One hits, cannot count a single golden gramophone among her many decorations and novelty bras — but here we are. To be fair, the competition has been stiff. Perry has lost to Adele (a nine-time winner) on three occasions: in 2009, 2012 and 2013, and a different category each time. Last year, with no Adele album to compete against, it was Sam Smith who edged her out for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Times nominated: 11
Nas‘ failure to win even one Grammy is in part due to a generational loophole: 1994’s classic Illmatic, widely considered to be his masterwork, was released a year before the Best Rap Album category was even introduced. (It didn’t get an Album of the year nomination that year, either; that award went to Tony Bennett’s MTV Unplugged.) Since then, Nas has collected three Best Rap Album nominations and a handful in other categories, but none of them have yielded a win.

Busta Rhymes
Times nominated: 11
In the late Nineties, the New York City motormouth was nominated four years in a row for Best Rap Solo Performance. He lost each time, twice to Will Smith: In 1997, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” fell to “Men in Black,” and the following year, “Dangerous” was edged out by “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” Busta has kept on plugging since then, earning nominations as recently as 2012, when “Look at Me Now” (where he rapped alongside Chris Brown and Lil Wayne) was cited for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.  

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj
Times nominated: 10
In 2012, Nicki lost the Best New Artist category to soft-spoken indie crooner Bon Iver (or was that Bonny Bear?)one of four nominations that didn’t work out for her that year. This year, she’s up in three more categories: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, for “Only” with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Drake; Best Rap Performance, for “Truffle Butter” with Drake and Lil Wayne; and Best Rap Album, for The Pinkprint. If she doesn’t win any of those awards next week, she’ll be up to 10 no-win nominations.

Tupac Shakur
Times nominated: 7
Appearing onstage to introduce Kiss at the 1996 Grammy Awards telecast, Tupac served the ceremony with an indictment: “You know how the Grammys used to be: all straight-looking folks with suits,” he said. “Everybody looking tired. No surprises. We tired of that. We need something different.” Pac was up for two awards that night – “Dear Mama” for Best Rap Solo Performance and Me Against the World for Best Rap Album – hoping to be a part of that something different, but instead he went home Grammy-less. 

Public Enemy
Times nominated: 5
The Grammys didn’t give out an award for Best Rap Album until 1996, but it’s fair to say Public Enemy‘s pivotal 1988 effort It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back should have held its own in the Best Album race, which wound up being won by George Michael‘s Faith. And no disrespect to Young MC, who won Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group award for his 1989 track “Bust a Move,” but “Fight the Power” came out that same year. Come on!

Depeche Mode
Times nominated: 5
Depeche Mode have sold huge amounts of albums and frequently play arenas, but they’ve never joined fellow Eighties rock giants like U2 in winning a Grammy. Perhaps just as surprisingly, four of the band’s five nominations have come since 2001.  

The Notorious BIG

The Notorious B.I.G.
Times nominated: 4
Three of Biggie’s four nominations were posthumous, including one for Life After Death, which lost the Best Rap Album race in 1998 to Puff Daddy’s No Way Out. Ironically, No Way Out‘s biggest hit was the Biggie tribute track “I’ll Be Missing You.”

Queens of the Stone Age
Times nominated: 6
Josh Homme shared an award with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones for his work with Them Crooked Vultures in 2011 (the band’s “New Fang” won Best Hard Rock Performance), but he has yet to make that kind of magic happen for his primary band, Queens of the Stone Age. In 2014, the hard-rock heroes made two more bids for trophies, this time for Best Rock Performance (“My God Is the Sun”) and Best Rock Album for their excellent …Like Clockwork, but they lost both times.

Guns N’ Roses
Times nominated: 3
GN’R have gotten a measly three nominations in their entire career – with the same number of those nominations going to Appetite for Destruction as to Chinese Democracy (that would be zero both times). And none of those three resulted in a win. Even former members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum did better with Velvet Revolver, who took home a Best Hard Rock Performance trophy for “Slither” in 2005.

Times nominated: 3
The self-proclaimed “greatest rock band in the world” went home from the 1997 Grammy Awards show zero-for-two nominations: Their mega hit “Wonderwall” lost Best Rock Song to Tracy Chapman‘s “Give Me One Reason,” as well as losing Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group to Dave Matthews Band‘s “So Much to Say.” Two years later, they whiffed once again when “All Around the World” lost in a music video category. With the band currently very much broken up and no reunion in sight, that’s likely to be their last brush with Grammy destiny. 

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber
Times nominated: 3
With megastars like Justin BieberDrakeFlorence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons all in contention for Best New Artist at the 2011 Grammy Awards, it would be an understatement to say it was a surprise when jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding was announced as the winner. This year, for the first time since that stunning upset, Bieber returns to the Grammys as a nominee in the Best Dance Recording category for “Where Are Ü Now,” alongside Jack Ü. Will he win his first statuette, or will the losing streak continue?

Patti Smith
Times nominated: 2
Neither of Smith‘s nominations were for her brilliant debut album, Horses, released in 1975. Instead, she was up for Best Female Rock Vocal performance in 1998 for “1959” and in 2001 for “Glitter in Their Eyes.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will just have to content herself with the National Book Award she won in 2010 for her memoir, Just Kids.

Times nominated: 1
Journey‘s 1981 hit single “Don’t Stop Believin'” achieved cultural ubiquity long before capping The Sopranos‘ series finale, but neither the song, nor the massive-selling album from which it came, Escape, earned a nomination. Journey didn’t receive Grammy recognition until 1997, long after the band’s commercial heyday, when “When You Love a Woman” earned a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The winner in that category was the Beatles, for “Free As a Bird.” 

Times nominated: 1
Kiss were completely ignored by Grammy voters until 1999. That’s when the face-painted foursome scored their first, and so far only, nomination — Best Hard Rock Performance for “Psycho Circus.” But even the most ardent members of the Kiss Army can’t be too upset about who bested their heroes that year: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who won for “Most High.” 

Times nominated: 1
For all his legendary work with the Smiths, for all his sterling solo work, for each and every one of his diatribes (there is a Best Spoken Word Grammy category, after all) Stephen Patrick Morrissey‘s only nominated effort was his 1992 album Your Arsenal. Moz lost in the Best Alternative Music Performance category that year to Tom Waits‘ Bone Machine, an event that likely did little to lighten his legendarily dyspeptic mood. 

The Kinks
Times nominated: 0
The Kinks were consistently ignored by Grammy voters, despite being one of the driving forces behind the Sixties British Invasion and their subsequent reinvention as late-Seventies/early-Eighties arena-rock stars. At least Ray and Dave Davies know they’re responsible for the most beautiful rock ballad ever, “Waterloo Sunset.”

The Spice Girls

Spice Girls
Times nominated: 0
In 1996, the Spice Girls became a global phenomenon with their bestselling LP Spice. But their girl power wasn’t enough to win over the Grammy voters. Sometimes the Recording Academy rewards commercial success with nominations rather than wins; in this case, they didn’t even get that.

The Strokes
Times nominated: 0
The Strokes’ 2001 debut album, Is This It, was an instant garage-rock classic. But they didn’t even crack the list of nominees list for that year’s Best New Artist (won by Alicia Keys) or Best Rock Album (won by U2 for All That You Can’t Leave Behind). The band’s subsequent albums have been similarly shut out. 

Talking Heads
Times nominated: 0
The New York City pioneers have sort of tangentially won two Grammys: Artist Robert Rauschenberg was awarded a Grammy in 1986 for Best Recording Package for his work on the band’s True Stories, and graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister won for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package for his work on the 2003 box set Once in a Lifetime. Elsewhere, frontman David Byrne shared a Grammy with Cong Su and Ryuichi Sakamoto for their work on 1987’s The Last Emperor score, which won in the category of Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion or Television. But none of those counts as a Grammy for Talking Heads.  

The Velvet Underground
Times nominated: 0
Winning a Grammy likely never even crossed the avant-garde minds of the Velvet Underground, but you’d think that maybe one of the band’s posthumous reissues would’ve earned at least a nomination for packaging or something — if only as a belated tip of the cap. But no. For his part, Velvets frontman Lou Reed won just a single Grammy during his long and illustrious career: Best Long Form Video in 1999, for Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart

In This Article: Grammys 2016


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