Before we all lose our minds over who wins big at the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, it might be helpful to remember that the Grammys have always been lousy at celebrating the present and even worse at predicting the future.

Just look at who’s won the most-coveted Grammy, album of the year, over the past three-plus decades. Or really, look at who hasn’t: Beyoncé, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Radiohead, Jay-Z.

What if the Grammy for album of the year — a prize whose responsibility to bottle the zeitgeist is right there in its name — regularly went to recordings that balanced innovation and timeliness in a way that made them widely resonant?

By that measure, I’d argue that album of the year has been handed to the most-deserving artist only three times since 1980. For the other 35 years, I’ve chosen which albums should have won instead, as well as which recordings should have been nominated. There’s some crossover here and there.

I tried to be realistic. For instance, Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut is considered a classic by today’s rap audiences, but there’s no way industry types who make up the Grammy electorate could have predicted how influential the group was destined to become. Same for certain albums that gained momentum between eligibility windows — Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” for example, which was released in September 1991 but didn’t reach No. 1 until January 1992. (In most years, the Grammy eligibility window runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 — so on Sunday night, the 2018 Grammys will go to recordings released in the final quarter of 2016 or the first three quarters of 2017.)

This is a list of who should have won. It’s also a list of who could have won.

[Jay-Z leads this year’s Grammy nominations. Hip-hop hooray?]


Album of the Year: Billy Joel, “52nd Street”

Other nominees: The Doobie Brothers, “Minute by Minute”Kenny Rogers “The Gambler”Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”Supertramp, “Breakfast in America”

Should Have Won: Michael Jackson, “Off the Wall”

Should have been nominated: AC/DC, “Highway to Hell” Chic, “Risqué”Marvin Gaye, “Here, My Dear”Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

Rolling Stone magazine described the soon-to-be-king-of-pop’s 1979 album as “unforgettable,” but somehow, the Recording Academy forgot to nominate “Off the Wall” for its sparkliest prize in 1980. Instead, the album’s lead single, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” was put up for best disco recording (where it lost to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”) and best R&B vocal performance, male (where it won Jackson the first Grammy of his career). As a corrective measure, the Academy inducted “Off the Wall” into its Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.


Album of the Year: Christopher Cross, “Christopher Cross”

Other nominees: Billy Joel, “Glass Houses”Pink Floyd, “The Wall”Frank Sinatra, “Trilogy: Past, Present, Future”Barbra Streisand, “Guilty”

Should Have Won: Queen, “The Game”

Should have been nominated: The Clash, “London Calling”Bob Marley, “Uprising”Tom Petty, “Damn the Torpedoes”Stevie Wonder, “Hotter Than July”

In addition to recognizing Queen’s chart-topping, disco-rock syncretism, the nominees at the 23rd Grammys should have included standout albums from Bob Marley and Tom Petty (neither of whom ever won album of the year); a Stevie Wonder album that helped make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday; and a punk manifesto from the Clash that would have been too brash for a win, but was certainly acclaimed enough in 1981 for a nod.


Album of the Year: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, “Double Fantasy”

Other nominees: Kim Carnes, “Mistaken Identity”Al Jarreau, “Breakin’ Away”Quincy Jones, “The Dude”Steely Dan, “Gaucho”

Should Have Won: The Rolling Stones, “Tattoo You”

Should have been nominated: The Go-Gos, “Beauty and the Beat”Dolly Parton, “9 to 5 and Odd Jobs”Talking Heads, “Remain in Light”Luther Vandross, “Never Too Much”

Still reeling from the horrific death of John Lennon, many Grammy voters seemed to cast their ballots — for his terrific 1980 album with Yoko Ono — in honor of his memory. Still, none of the recordings nominated for album of the year in 1982 felt completely deserving. And in overlooking “Tattoo You,” the last great effort from the Rolling Stones, Grammy voters missed their final chance to make good on one of their most biggest whiffs: the fact that the Stones had never won album of the year.


Album of the Year: Toto, “Toto IV”

Other nominees: John Cougar, “American Fool”Donald Fagen, “The Nightfly”Billy Joel, “The Nylon Curtain”Paul McCartney, “Tug of War”

Should Have Won: Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska”

Should have been nominated: The Clash, “Combat Rock”Joan Jett, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”Willie Nelson, “Always on My Mind”Prince, “Controversy”

We can still hear Toto’s legacy at karaoke night, but Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” sounds a lot more like an AOTY winner by contemporary standards — intimate, introspective and spare. But Springsteen has always been of his time, never ahead of it. He was a star in 1983 and “Nebraska” was his darkest, finest hour. (And speaking of songwriters who know something about introspection, it seems insane that Willie Nelson, one of the deepest minds in popular song, has never been nominated for album of the year.)


Album of the Year: Michael Jackson, “Thriller”

Other nominees: David Bowie, “Let’s Dance”Billy Joel, “An Innocent Man”The Police, “Synchronicity”“Flashdance” soundtrack

Should Have Won: Michael Jackson, “Thriller”

Should have been nominated: David Bowie, “Let’s Dance”Marvin Gaye, “Midnight Love”The Police, “Synchronicity”Prince, “1999”

The Recording Academy got it right in 1984, but Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” should have only edged Prince’s resplendent “1999” by a vote or two — and “1999” wasn’t even nominated for album of the year. Neither was “Midnight Love,” a sumptuous songbook that etched the curves of Marvin Gaye’s voice into the greater American psyche for good.


Album of the Year: Lionel Richie, “Can’t Slow Down”

Other nominees: Cyndi Lauper, “She’s So Unusual”Prince & the Revolution, “Purple Rain”Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”Tina Turner, “Private Dancer”

Should Have Won: Prince & the Revolution, “Purple Rain”

Should have been nominated: Cyndi Lauper, “She’s So Unusual”Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”Tina Turner, “Private Dancer”Van Halen, “1984”

It’s hard to argue that modernity has seen a more astonishing pop star than Prince — which makes it even harder to deny that the biggest blunder in Grammy history occurred on this fateful night in 1985, when the maestro’s masterpiece lost to the weakest nominee on the slate. Grammy voters got it exactly wrong. “Purple Rain” still feels exactly right.

[We’ve lost Prince, our single greatest pop star]


Album of the Year: Phil Collins, “No Jacket Required”

Other nominees: Dire Straits, “Brothers in Arms”, Whitney Houston, “Whitney Houston”Sting, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”USA for Africa, “We Are the World”

Should Have Won: Madonna, “Like a Virgin”

Should have been nominated: Whitney Houston, “Whitney Houston”Chaka Khan, “I Feel for You”Prince, “Around the World in a Day”U2, “The Unforgettable Fire”

“Like a Virgin” transformed Madonna from a promising pop singer into a national phenomenon, but if she had won album of the year in 1986 — and, of course, she wasn’t even nominated — she would have been just the fourth female solo artist to take that honor in the 28-year history of the Grammys.


Album of the Year: Paul Simon, “Graceland”

Other nominees: Peter Gabriel, “So”Janet Jackson, “Control”Barbra Streisand, “The Broadway Album”Steve Winwood, “Back in the High Life”

Should Have Won: Janet Jackson, “Control”

Should have been nominated: Peter Gabriel, “So”Prince, “Parade”Sade, “Promise”Randy Travis, “Storms of Life”

Has Janet Jackson’s family name been her blessing or her curse? Because she sang so many of her hits in the shadow of her older brother, it’s easy to misjudge how close she was trailing behind him. And from this point forward, she was right there. “Control” was the first bright flash in a fireworks show that lasted more than a decade.


Album of the Year: U2, “The Joshua Tree”

Other nominees: Whitney Houston, “Whitney”Michael Jackson, “Bad”Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, “Trio”Prince, “Sign o’ the Times”

Should Have Won: Whitney Houston, “Whitney”

Should have been nominated: Def Leppard, “Hysteria”Michael Jackson, “Bad”Prince, “Sign o’ the Times”U2, “The Joshua Tree”

While Grammy voters would overestimate U2 in the years to come, the band actually deserved top honors in 1988 for “The Joshua Tree” — but not as much as Whitney Houston, who had proven on her second album that her voice was the kind that lives forever. Meanwhile, hair metal was strutting toward its zenith, which means “Hysteria” by Def Leppard should have made the list, (but if we’re being realistic, not “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns N’ Roses, a band whose star rose after these ballots had been cast).


Album of the Year: George Michael, “Faith”

Other nominees: Tracy Chapman, “Tracy Chapman”Bobby McFerrin, “Simple Pleasures”Sting, “. . . Nothing Like the Sun”Steve Winwood, “Roll With It”

Should Have Won: N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton”

Should have been nominated: Bobby Brown, “Don’t Be Cruel”Jane’s Addiction, “Nothing’s Shocking”Metallica, “. . . And Justice for All”George Michael, “Faith”

This one is a stretch. But should it be? The American media had done its part to heighten public awareness to N.W.A.’s furious gangsta rap blueprint, and those who actually bothered to listen to the music instantly knew that they were hearing the future. N.W.A. should have been the first rap artists to win album of the year — but that barrier wouldn’t be crossed for another 15 years, with OutKast’s overdue victory in 2004.


Album of the Year: Bonnie Raitt, “Nick of Time”

Other nominees: Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence”Fine Young Cannibals, “The Raw and the Cooked”Tom Petty, “Full Moon Fever”Traveling Wilburys, “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1”

Should Have Won: Janet Jackson, “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814”

Should have been nominated: B-52s, “Cosmic Thing”Madonna, “Like a Prayer”Tom Petty, “Full Moon Fever”Soul II Soul, “Club Classics Vol. 1”

Popland felt like an abundantly colorful place in 1989, but for some reason, Grammy voters had their ears locked on sepia-toned rock-and-roll, causing them to blank on exuberant masterstrokes from Madonna, the B-52s, and Janet Jackson, whose locomotive fourth album felt euphoric and important the moment it rushed our ears.


Album of the Year: Quincy Jones and various artists, “Back on the Block”

Other nominees: Mariah Carey, “Mariah Carey”Phil Collins, “. . . But Seriously”MC Hammer, “Please Hammer . . . Don’t Hurt ’Em”Wilson Phillips, “Wilson Phillips”

Should Have Won: Depeche Mode, “Violator”

Should have been nominated: Garth Brooks, “No Fences”Mariah Carey, “Mariah Carey”LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”Sinead O’Connor, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”

As the ’80s melted into the ’90s, the sounds of new wave receded like undertow, with Depeche Mode stylishly sinking into the darkness. This year also marks the first AOTY nod for a rapper — only it should have been LL Cool J. And if Grammy voters weren’t ready for “Mama Said Knock You Out,” they certainly weren’t ready for Public Enemy’s“Fear of a Black Planet,” Ice Cube’s “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” or even Salt N Pepa’s still-slept-on “Blacks’ Magic.”


Album of the Year: Natalie Cole, “Unforgettable . . . With Love”

Other nominees: Amy Grant, “Heart In Motion”Bonnie Raitt, “Luck of the Draw”R.E.M., “Out of Time”Paul Simon, “The Rhythm of the Saints”

Should Have Won: Garth Brooks, “Ropin’ the Wind”

Should have been nominated: Boyz II Men, “Cooleyhighharmony”Metallica, “Metallica”R.E.M., “Out of Time”A Tribe Called Quest, “The Low End Theory”

Here’s where the Grammy’s eligibility window starts making things feel nonsensical. Three paradigm-shifting rock albums — Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magic” — were released in 1991, but they didn’t reach critical mass until 1992, and by then, it was too late to write them into the Grammy history books. That said, there was no reason to ignore Garth Brooks, whose open-armed, multiplatinum “Ropin’ the Wind” had proven that country singers were capable of achieving superstardom.


Album of the Year: Eric Clapton, “Unplugged”

Other nominees: K.D. Lang, “Ingenue”Annie Lennox, “Diva”U2, “Achtung Baby”“Beauty and the Beast” soundtrack

Should Have Won: Sade, “Love Deluxe”

Should have been nominated: Beastie Boys, “Check Your Head”En Vogue, “Funky Divas”Prince, “Diamonds and Pearls”U2, “Achtung Baby”

The Recording Academy’s bad habit of gifting AOTY to a legend who should have won decades earlier starts in 1993 with Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged.” Obviously, this is the wrong way to celebrate the vitality and consequence of contemporary music. Once you start playing catch-up, you start shortchanging the present, and in 1993, that meant shortchanging Sade, a singer of unmatched magnetism and finesse.


Album of the Year: Whitney Houston, “The Bodyguard” soundtrack

Other nominees: Donald Fagen, “Kamakiriad”Billy Joel, “River of Dreams”R.E.M., “Automatic for the People”Sting, “Ten Summoner’s Tales”

Should Have Won: Nirvana, “In Utero”

Should have been nominated: Dr. Dre, “The Chronic”Janet Jackson, “janet.”R.E.M., “Automatic for the People”Smashing Pumpkins, “Siamese Dream”

Tough call. Almost impossible, really. “In Utero” or “The Chronic”? Grunge or gangsta rap? The revitalization of rock-and-roll or the mainstreaming of hip-hop? This should have been the tightest AOTY race since “Purple Rain” went up against “Thriller” back in 1984, but unfortunately, that matchup never took place and neither did this one.


Album of the Year: Tony Bennett, “MTV Unplugged”

Other nominees: José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti with Zubin Mehta, “The Three Tenors in Concert 1994”Eric Clapton, “From the Cradle”Bonnie Raitt, “Longing in Their Hearts”Seal, “Seal”

Should Have Won: Nine Inch Nails, “The Downward Spiral”

Should have been nominated: Hole, “Live Through This”Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Doggystyle”Soundgarden, “Superunknown”A Tribe Called Quest, “Midnight Marauders”

The Recording Academy judges never seemed more willfully ignorant than in 1995, when a gold rush of alternative rock and mainstreamed rap forced them to press their fingers ever deeper into their ears. Even Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails — a band at its innovative peak with the vivid timbres of “The Downward Spiral” — wasn’t loud enough to cut through.


Album of the Year: Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill”

Other nominees: Mariah Carey, “Daydream”Michael Jackson, “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1”Joan Osborne, “Relish”Pearl Jam, “Vitalogy”

Should Have Won: TLC, “Crazy Sexy Cool”

Should have been nominated: Mary J. Blige, “My Life”Bone Thugs N Harmony, “E. 1999 Eternal”Foo Fighters, “Foo Fighters”Nirvana, “MTV Unplugged in New York”

The album of the year slate at the 38th Grammy Awards felt refreshingly contemporary compared with what passed muster the year before, but this year’s prize should have gone to TLC, a trio who made the demarcation lines between pop, hip-hop and R&B all but vanish on their sophomore album.


Album of the Year: Celine Dion, “Falling Into You”

Other nominees: Beck, “Odelay”The Fugees, “The Score”The Smashing Pumpkins, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”“Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack

Should Have Won: Fiona Apple, “Tidal”

Should have been nominated: 2Pac, “All Eyez On Me”The Fugees, “The Score”Oasis, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”Rage Against the Machine, “Evil Empire”

Here’s another case of voters choosing the safest item on the menu. Plus, if it was time for the record industry to celebrate a woman whose plunging, powerhouse voice sounds seven times too big for her body, why was it Celine Dion instead of Fiona Apple? (Maybe because it would take the Recording Academy another year to discover Apple. She would be nominated for best new artist in 1998, but would lose to Paula Cole.)


Album of the Year: Bob Dylan, “Time Out of Mind”

Other nominees: Babyface, “The Day”Paula Cole, “This Fire”Paul McCartney, “Flaming Pie”Radiohead, “OK Computer”

Should Have Won: Bjork, “Homogenic”

Should have been nominated: Erykah Badu, “Baduizm”Notorious B.I.G., “Life After Death”Radiohead, “OK Computer”Wu-Tang Clan, “Wu-Tang Forever”

Continuing the bogus tradition of handing album of the year to a long-snubbed legend, Grammy voters missed the chance to celebrate a grand entrance from Erykah Badu, a tragic exit from Biggie Smalls, a victory lap from Wu-Tang Clan and an opus from Radiohead. Yet, as extraordinary as those albums were, they still couldn’t match Bjork’s “Homogenic,” a superhuman blast of avant-pop that we’re still catching up to.


Album of the Year: Lauryn Hill, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

Other nominees: Sheryl Crow, “The Globe Sessions”Garbage, “Version 2.0”Madonna “Ray of Light”Shania Twain, “Come on Over”

Should Have Won: Lauryn Hill, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”

Should have been nominated: DMX, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot”Jay-Z, “Vol. 2 . . . Hard Knock Life”OutKast, “Aquemini”Shania Twain, “Come on Over”

For the first time since “Thriller,” a majority of Grammy voters checked the right box. “Miseducation” finds Lauryn Hill rapping in fits and starts, but her Grammy-night triumph did little to remedy the Recording Academy’s perennial failures in recognizing rap music writ large. Just look at Hill’s competition in 1999. No DMX. No OutKast. No Jay-Z.


Album of the Year: Santana, “Supernatural”

Other nominees: Backstreet Boys, “Millennium”Dixie Chicks, “Fly”Diana Krall, “When I Look Into Your Eyes”TLC, “Fanmail”

Should Have Won: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication”

Should have been nominated: Marc Anthony, “Marc Anthony”Dixie Chicks, “Fly”The Roots, “Things Fall Apart”TLC, “Fanmail”

Santana’s “Smooth” certainly felt like the most suffocating song of 1999. Wasn’t there a trophy for that? And if the Academy was itching to honor another rock band past its prime, why go back decades? Why not pin a medal on “Californication,” a handsome, high-hearted survival manual from Red Hot Chili Peppers?


Album of the Year: Steely Dan, “Two Against Nature”

Other nominees: Beck, “Midnite Vultures”Eminem, “The Marshall Mathers LP”Radiohead, “Kid A”Paul Simon, “You’re the One”

Should Have Won: Radiohead, “Kid A”

Should have been nominated: D’Angelo, “Voodoo”Dr. Dre, “2001”’N Sync, “No Strings Attached”Jill Scott, “Who is Jill Scott?”

Two Grammy cycles into the new century, a freaky question loomed: Would all of the pretty-cool bands of the ’70s finally be recognized as the hands-down greatest bands of the ’00s? Clearly, Radiohead’s elegant futurism deserved to be recognized in 2001, but the Recording Academy’s fear of the future seemed more debilitating than ever.


Album of the Year: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack

Other nominees: India.Arie, “Acoustic Soul”Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft”OutKast, “Stankonia”U2, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”

Should Have Won: OutKast, “Stankonia”

Should have been nominated: Aaliyah, “Aaliyah”Daft Punk, “Discovery”Missy Elliott, “Miss E . . . So Seductive”The Strokes, “Is This It”

Yes, OutKast were the first rap artists to win album of the year in 2004 with “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” but they should have beaten themselves to the punch back in 2002 with “Stankonia,” an outstanding album that confirmed their greatness.


Album of the Year: Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”

Other nominees: Dixie Chicks, “Home”Eminem, “The Eminem Show”Nelly, “Nellyville”Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising”

Should Have Won: Dixie Chicks, “Home”

Should have been nominated: Nelly, “Nellyville”Sean Paul, “Dutty Rock”Red Hot Chili Peppers, “By the Way”Shakira, “Laundry Service”

Yes, the Dixie Chicks were the first female country group to win album of the year in 2007 with “Taking the Long Way,” but they should have beaten themselves to the punch back in 2003 with “Home,” an outstanding album that confirmed their greatness.


Album of the Year: OutKast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”

Other nominees: Missy Elliott, “Under Construction”Evanescence, “Fallen”Justin Timberlake, “Justified”The White Stripes, “Elephant”

Should Have Won: Missy Elliott, “Under Construction”

Should have been nominated: 50 Cent, “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ ”Beyoncé, “Dangerously in Love”OutKast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”Justin Timberlake, “Justified”

A big year for rap music at the Grammys? Or another year where rap music didn’t fully get its due? The fact that Missy Elliott’s brilliant babbling just missed music’s highest honor makes the heart droop. The fact that 50 Cent’s smooth smirking never even got within striking distance makes the brain spin.


Album of the Year: Ray Charles, “Genius Loves Company”

Other nominees: Green Day, “American Idiot”Alicia Keys, “The Diary of Alicia Keys”Usher, “Confessions”Kanye West, “The College Dropout”

Should Have Won: Jay-Z, “The Black Album”

Should have been nominated: Missy Elliott, “This Is Not a Test”The Strokes, “Room on Fire”Usher, “Confessions”Kanye West, “The College Dropout”

Jay-Z stands among the greatest rappers of any era, and while “The Black Album” wasn’t his most heroic effort, it still radiated a certain maturity — which appears to be the very reason the veteran’s latest, “4:44,” has been nominated for AOTY at the 2018 Grammys.


Album of the Year: U2, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”

Other nominees: Mariah Carey, “The Emancipation of Mimi”Paul McCartney, “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard”Gwen Stefani, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.”Kanye West, “Late Registration”

Should Have Won: Mariah Carey, “The Emancipation of Mimi”

Should have been nominated: Snoop Dogg, “R&G (Rhythm and Gangsta): The Masterpiece” Gwen Stefani, “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.”Kanye West, “Late Registration”Gretchen Wilson, “All Jacked Up”

Or, “How to Win the Most Important Prize of the Year When You’re a Mega-Famous Rock Band Pushing One of Your Mega-Blandest Albums Simply Because the Grammy Electorate Feels Bad for Snubbing ‘Achtung Baby’ Back in 1993 Which Was the Very Year in Which Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ Started This Unfortunate Better-Late-Than-Never Domino Effect That Poor Mariah Carey Can Only Hope to Benefit From in Another 15 Years or So.”


Album of the Year: Dixie Chicks, “Taking the Long Way”

Other nominees: Gnarls Barkley, “St. Elsewhere”John Mayer, “Continuum”Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Stadium Arcadium”Justin Timberlake, “FutureSex/LoveSounds”

Should Have Won: Justin Timberlake, “FutureSex/LoveSounds”

Should have been nominated: Dixie Chicks, “Taking the Long Way”Madonna, “Confessions on a Dance Floor”Shakira, “Oral Fixation, Vol. 2”T.I., “King”

This was probably the best year to honor Justin Timberlake for singing so sweetly, and for dancing so nimbly, and for bringing sexy back so magnanimously. Even more so, it was the best year to honor Justin’s right hand, Timbaland, a visionary producer who figured out how to turn the American pop charts into science fiction.


Album of the Year: Herbie Hancock, “River: The Joni Letters”

Other nominees: Foo Fighters, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”Vince Gill, “These Days”Kanye West, “Graduation”Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”

Should Have Won: Miranda Lambert, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Should have been nominated: Paramore, “Riot!”T-Pain, “Epiphany”Kanye West, “Graduation”Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”

As essential as Herbie Hancock is to the story of American music, does anyone ever sit back and think, “Ah, yes, 2007 — back when everyone was bumping that Joni Mitchell tribute album?” No way. We were listening to Kanye West as he mastered his craft; and to T-Pain as he crooned his android love poems; and to Amy Winehouse as she searched for her voice in the library of American soul; and to Paramore as they unleashed anthems that felt sharp like punk and hot like R&B; and to Miranda Lambert as she stood up and declared herself one of the most commanding country singers of all time.


Album of the Year: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”

Other nominees: Coldplay, “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends”Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III”Ne-Yo, “Year of the Gentleman”Radiohead, “In Rainbows”

Should Have Won: Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III”

Should have been nominated: Erykah Badu, “New Amerykah Part I (4th World War)”Jamey Johnson, “That Lonesome Song”Radiohead, “In Rainbows”Young Jeezy, “The Recession”

Lil Wayne started calling himself the “best rapper alive” back in 2005, and by 2009, Grammy voters had almost gotten the message. But like the year before, they ultimately gravitated toward the most recognizable names on the ballot, helping Robert Plant snag a prize that had eluded him during his years in the legendary Led Zeppelin.


Album of the Year: Taylor Swift, “Fearless”

Other nominees: Beyoncé, “I Am . . . Sasha Fierce”Black Eyed Peas, “The E.N.D.”Lady Gaga, “The Fame”Dave Matthews Band, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”

Should Have Won: Taylor Swift, “Fearless”

Should have been nominated: Lady Gaga, “The Fame”Maxwell, “BLACKsummers’night”Brad Paisley, “American Saturday Night”Kanye West, “808s & Heartbreak”

“Fearless” isn’t as riveting as “Thriller,” or as emotive as “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” but it did show us how charismatic Taylor Swift can sound when she decides to cultivate her self-awareness through melody. The voters chose correctly in 2010. It’s still her best.


Album of the Year: Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”

Other nominees: Eminem, “Recovery”Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”Lady Gaga, “The Fame Monster”Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”

Should Have Won: Drake, “Thank Me Later”

Should have been nominated: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”Miranda Lambert, “Revolution”Janelle Monae, “The ArchAndroid”Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”

Whoops, they gave it to the wrong Canadians. And in 2011, did anyone really need a crystal ball to see that Drake was on the verge of reshaping all of rap music in his quick-rhyming, smooth-singing image? Instead, the Toronto newcomer was nominated for best new artist at the 53rd Grammys — and he lost to the jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.


Album of the Year: Adele, “21”

Other nominees: Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light”Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”Bruno Mars, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans”Rihanna, “Loud”

Should Have Won: Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Should have been nominated: The Band Perry, “The Band Perry”Bon Iver, “Bon Iver”Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Watch the Throne”Pistol Annies, “Hell on Heels”

Up until 2016’s “The Life of Pablo,” every album in Kanye West’s catalogue deserved to be nominated for album of the year. This one, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” deserved to win. Not only that — West should have beaten himself (which would have been very Kanye). But alas, “Watch the Throne,” a collection of brawny duets with mentor Jay-Z, wasn’t nominated for the 2012 album of the year.


Album of the Year: Mumford & Sons, “Babel”

Other nominees: The Black Keys, “El Camino”fun., “Some Nights”Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”Jack White, “Blunderbuss”

Should Have Won: Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”

Should have been nominated: Dierks Bentley, “Home”Drake, “Take Care”Future, “Pluto”Miranda Lambert, “Four the Record”

This shoulda-been fantasy ballot only slightly improves the weakest pool of AOTY nominees in Grammy history, but there was always one truly transcendent piece of music in the running: Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange,” an album that continues to feel inventive, immersive, enigmatic and alive.


Album of the Year: Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories”

Other nominees: Sara Bareilles, “The Blessed Unrest”Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “The Heist”Taylor Swift, “Red”

Should Have Won: Kacey Musgraves, “Same Trailer Different Park”

Should have been nominated: Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”Paramore, “Paramore”Taylor Swift, “Red”Kanye West, “Yeezus”

If you thought the Recording Academy was late to embrace EDM, they were even later to embrace Daft Punk, whose finest album, 2001’s “Discovery,” felt classic the instant it hit the air. Same goes for “Same Trailer Different Park,” a poised country debut that earned Kacey Musgraves a best new artist nomination, but not an album of the year nod.


Album of the Year: Beck, “Morning Phase”

Other nominees: Beyoncé, “Beyoncé”Ed Sheeran, “x”Pharrell Williams, “Girl”Sam Smith, “In the Lonely Hour”

Should Have Won: Beyoncé, “Beyoncé”

Should have been nominated: Eric Church, “The Outsiders”Brandy Clark, “12 Stories”Miranda Lambert, “Platinum”Sturgill Simpson, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

After being nominated for “Odelay” in 1997 and “Midnite Vultures” in 2001, Beck dropped his sedative “Morning Phase” in 2014 and finally took home his first trophy for album of the year in 2015. If the pattern holds, Beyoncé is all lined up to score hers around 2031.


Album of the Year: Taylor Swift, “1989”

Other nominees: Alabama Shakes, “Sound & Color”Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly”Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”The Weeknd, “Beauty Behind the Madness”

Should Have Won: Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp a Butterfly”

Should have been nominated: D’Angelo, “Black Messiah”Future, “DS2”Sam Hunt, “Montevallo”Kamasi Washington, “The Epic”

Every year is a good year to ask whether the Grammys have a race problem, but 2016 shoved that question to the fore, not only because Kendrick Lamar’s virtuosic agitprop lost out to Taylor Swift’s descent into pop’s gooey center, but because D’Angelo’s poignant “Black Messiah” wasn’t even in the mix.


Album of the Year: Adele, “25”

Other nominees: Beyoncé, “Lemonade”Justin Bieber, “Purpose”Drake, “Views”Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”

Should Have Won: Rihanna, “Anti”

Should have been nominated: Beyoncé, “Lemonade”Chance the Rapper, “Coloring Book”Ellie Goulding, “Delirium”Maren Morris, “Hero”

“What the f--- does she have to do to win album of the year?” That was AOTY winner Adele after last year’s Grammy telecast, rhetorically questioning the Recording Academy’s poor decision-making when it comes to the fate of Beyoncé. But the same question could be asked about Rihanna, whose 2011 album, “Loud,” was nominated for album of the year in 2012, and whose opulent 2016 album, “Anti,” should have won the whole thing in 2017.

[Adele bests Beyoncé and the Grammys reach peak irrelevance]


Album of the Year: To be announced on Sunday

Other nominees: Childish Gambino, “Awaken, My Love!”Jay-Z, “4:44”Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.”Lorde, “Melodrama”Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”

Should Win: Migos, “Culture”

Should have been nominated: Lana Del Rey, “Lust for Life”Future, “Future”Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.”Lorde, “Melodrama”Migos, “Culture”

For the first time ever, three rap albums have been nominated for album of the year — so while we hold our breath, waiting to see whether its Lorde or Bruno Mars who bests all three of them, let’s talk about who else should be in the running. Certainly Migos, a Georgia trio whose trademark vocal triplets have changed how an entire generation makes mouth-music. Back in the real world, it’s Kendrick or bust.

[For the first time in Grammy history, a white man isn’t nominated for album of the year]

Illustrations by Abbey Lossing for The Washington Post.

Album Art: 52nd Street: Sony BMG, Off The Wall: Epic Records, Christopher Cross: Rhino Flashback, The Game: EMI Records/Elektra Records, Double Fantasy: Capitol Records, Tattoo You: Rolling Stones Records, Toto IV: Sony Music Entertainment, Nebraska: Columbia Records, Thriller: Sony Legacy, Can’t Slow Down: Motown Records, Purple Rain: Warner Bros. Records, No Jacket Required: Rhino Records, Like a Virgin: Sire/Warner Bros. Records, Graceland: Sony Legacy, Control: A&M Records, The Joshua Tree: Island Records, Whitney: Arista Records, Faith: Columbia Records, Straight Outta Compton: Priority Records, Nick of Time: Capitol Records, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814: A&M Records, Back on the Block: Dreamworks/Qwest Records, Violator: Rhino/Warner Bros., Ropin The Wind: Capitol Records, Eric Clapton, “Unplugged”: Rhino/Warner Bros., Love Deluxe: Sony Legacy; The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album: Arista Records, In Utero: DGC Records, Tony Bennett, MTV Unplugged: Columbia Records, The Downward Spiral: Nothing Records/Interscope Records, Jagged Little Pill: Maverick Recording Company, Crazy Sexy Cool: Arista/LaFace Records; Falling Into You: Columbia Records, Tidal: Work Records/Columbia Records; Time Out of Mind: Columbia Records, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Ruffhouse Records/Columbia Records, Supernatural: Columbia/Legacy; Californication: Warner Bros. Records, Two Against Nature: Giant Records/Reprise, Kid A: XL Recordings, O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Mercury Nashville; Stankonia: Arista/LaFace Records, Come Away With Me: Blue Note Records, Home: Monument/Columbia Records, Speakerboxxx/TheLoveBelow: Arista Records, Under Construction: Atlantic Records/ATG, Genius Loves Company: Concord Records, The Black Album: Roc-A-Fella Records, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Interscope Records, The Emancipation of Mimi: Island Records, Open Wide/Columbia, Taking the Long Way: Open Wide, FutureSex/LoveSounds: Jive Records, River: The Joni Letters: Verve Records, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Columbia Nashville, Raising Sand: Rounder Records, Tha Carter III: Cash Money Records, Fearless: Big Machine Records, The Suburbs: Merge Records, Thank Me Later: Cash Money Records, 21: Columbia Records, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Roc-A-Fella Records, Babel: Glassnote Records, Channel Orange: Def Jam, Random Access Memories: Columbia Records, Same Trailer, Different Park: Mercury Nashville, Morning Phase: Capitol Records, Beyoncé: Columbia Records, 1989: Big Machine Records, To Pimp a Butterfly: Aftermath/Interscope (Top Dawg Entertainment), 25: XL/Columbia Records, Anti: Roc Nation, Culture: Quality Control Music.


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