The list of artists that have never won Grammys includes most everyone who has ever recorded music. And many never will. Unless we get some unearthed recordings from Tupac or Bob Marley or Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, they will only hold a lifetime achievement Grammy at best. That’s exactly what happened to Led Zeppelin, which scored their first ever competitive Grammy in 2014, decades after the group called it quits. The list gets even more frustrating when you consider who has won Grammys. Macklemore has some. So does DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Creed has won a Grammy, as has Train. Hell, even Barack Obama, Magic Johnson, and Martin Luther King Jr. have Grammy awards. The world is a strange place.
As the Grammys approach this weekend, quite a few artists will have a chance to remove themselves from the massive list of never having won and onto the much more selective list of winners. A few of the following artists are included in that company — here’s looking at you Blink-182, Megadeth, and PJ Harvey — while the majority will need to wait until future years to have a chance. Ahead, we’ve only included artists that are still actively making music and/or touring, and are not counting Hall of Fame or Lifetime Achievement Awards. All are deserving either because of their career output or career highlights — and they are all definitely better than Grammy winner Baha Men.
Times Nominated: 0
What Went Wrong: Uh, it’s easy to understand why Nick Cave‘s music isn’t the kind of fare that would attract the more pop-oriented Grammys, but the guy was even nominated for a VMA. In some world, Cave makes more sense for MTV to nominate than for the highest musical award committee. Go figure.
Prognosis: If Nick Cave couldn’t nab a nomination for one of his best career albums that was born out of personal tragedy, than it’s hard to see something else getting him a win. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 0
What Went Wrong: The Grammys are surprisingly silent on the topic of Pixies, whose reputation as ‘90s alt-rock icons hasn’t translated into any direct nominations. Their last tangential honor belongs to artist Vaughan Oliver, who got the nod for his Indie Cindy recording package (Oliver was also nominated in 2011 for Pixies’ Minotaur box set).
Prognosis: Not good, considering the general mediocrity of 2016’s Head Carrier and the continued absence of bassist Kim Deal. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 0
What Went Wrong: The Bristol trip-hop pioneers have been around for more than two decades, but in all that time they’ve only produced three albums. That hasn’t left Grammy voters with many opportunities to correct their oversights.
Prognosis: Portishead don’t seem particularly compatible with the atmosphere of an American awards show, and they also don’t seem to be in a hurry to put out new music. We aren’t holding our breath for this one. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 0
What Went Wrong: If The Strokes were ever going to be nominated, it should have happened with their legendary debut record, which was likely just a little too cool for Grammy voters at the time. Their work since has consistently reached a smaller audience and dipped in quality, keeping them on the outside looking in.
Prognosis: Pretty iffy, considering that the band is pursuing solo endeavors more often than Strokes efforts. Still, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they get a Grammy award at some point as a nod for their longevity, if they indeed make it to longevity. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 1 (2017)
What Went Wrong: Maybe The Recording Academy doesn’t appreciate a good dick joke? In all seriousness, Blink-182 were never a band to take seriously before they toned down their original formula for the surprisingly grown-up (but still pretty juvenile) California.
Prognosis: The California boys might actually snag this year’s Best Rock Album award, though they face stiff competition from … Panic! At the Disco and Weezer?! That’s what I love about these Grammy voters, man. I get older, they stay the same age. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 1 (1993)
What Went Wrong: If you add in The Smiths output, you’d still get just a single career Grammy nomination for Moz. Kinda shocking when you consider the cultural impact he’s made, but Morrissey is an example of his early (and best) music being too hip for Grammy voters at the time and his later material failing to make the commercial or critical impact to entice voters.
Prognosis: If Morrissey hasn’t logged a single nomination since his 1993 Best Alternative Music Album nom for Your Arsenal, it’s not looking too great for our favorite vegan. Still, his status is iconic that it’s possible they throw him a late career bone. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 1 (2006)
What Went Wrong: That’s not a typo. One of England’s longest-lasting and most influential rock bands had to wait until 2006 to snag one measly nomination, a Best Dance Performance nod for “Guilt Is a Useless Emotion”. Seems like Grammys voters have their own history of Power, Corruption & Lies.
Prognosis: The band’s last album (and first without Peter Hook) was 2015’s Music Complete, which certainly seems worthy of a nomination in hindsight. The point is, New Order have still got the goods if voters are paying attention. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 1 (2004)
What Went Wrong: The Icelandic group’s breakthrough third studio album, ( ), had the unique misfortune of going up against a trio of soon-to-be rock classics in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell, Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, and The White Stripes’ Elephant, the latter of which took home the prize for Best Alternative Music Album.
Prognosis: It’s possible that the Grammys have finally caught up to Sigur Rós’ innovative brand of post-rock and will soon reward them accordingly. It’s also possible, given Björk’s similar run of bad luck, that Grammy voters just hate Iceland. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 2 (1993, 2001)
What Went Wrong: One of the strongest and most dynamic bands of the ’80s, The Cure failed to get a nomination for any of its strongest material, instead competing with later albums Wish and Bloodflowers in the Best Alternative Music Album category. They predictably lost, having never gotten a chance to compete with classics like Disintegration or Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
Prognosis: The Cure can still sell out massive concerts, but their days as potential Grammy forces are behind them. As if Robert Smith needed another reason to be mopey. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 2 (2009, 2013)
What Went Wrong: The Grammys tend to steer clear of controversy, and M.I.A.’s brand of politically charged pop has “controversy” written all over it. That’s a shame, because “Paper Planes” isn’t just the 2009 Record of the Year — it’s the Record of the Century so far.
Prognosis: M.I.A. may have just released her last album in AIM, so we don’t see her snagging a Grammy any time soon. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 2 (1989, 2017)
What Went Wrong: No self-respecting Iggy Pop fan would rank “Cold Metal” among the punk legend’s best work, but the lead single of 1988’s Instinct somehow earned his only nomination prior to 2017’s Post Pop Depression.
Prognosis: We’d like Pop’s chances if this were any other year, but it’s hard to imagine him taking home the prize in a crowded field led by the late David Bowie’s Blackstar and another strong entry from 2009 winners Radiohead. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 3 (2007, 2015)
What Went Wrong: The Grammys only put one foot on the hype train for Arctic Monkeys’ 2007 debut, Whatever People I Am, That’s What I’m Not, resulting in a pair of nominations but no wins. AM single “Do I Wanna Know?” was a strong contender in 2015, but it proved just a little too sexy for the voters’ palates.
Prognosis: With a new album due out sooner rather than later, Alex Turner and co. seem to be firing on all cylinders and there’s no reason to think they won’t collect one of these years. –Collin Brennan
Guns N’ Roses
Times Nominated: 3 (1990, 1992, 1993)
What Went Wrong: Never really critical darlings, Guns N’ Roses competed three times in the weirdest (now extinct) Grammy category of Best Hard Rock Performance, which pitted singles against albums. Maybe if “November Rain” had been singled out rather than the entirety of Use Your Illusion I in 1992, it could have beaten Van Hagar, err, Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. We’ll never know.
Prognosis: Since their last Grammy nomination, GnR has released one album of original material, and it was pretty terrible, so we’re not holding out hope of them winning any statues. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 3 (2006, 2008)
What Went Wrong: LCD Soundsystem‘s Grammy losses are cases of big misses by the voters. No way The Chemical Brothers should have beat Sound of Silver for Best Dance/Electronic Album in 2008 (or even beaten Justice from that year), and there’s no way that The Chemical Brothers should have beaten the self-titled album two years earlier. As for the loss for “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House”, guess what? Yeah, it was beaten by the fuckin’ Chemical Brothers. Give us a break, Grammys.
Prognosis: If and when the new LCD album happens, maybe we’ll be lucky and The Chemical Brothers will take that year off. Christ. –Philip Cosores
My Morning Jacket
Times Nominated: 3 (2009, 2012, 2016)
What Went Wrong: My Morning Jacket’s two best albums, It Still Moves and Z, both failed to catch the eye of Grammy voters. But they did increase the band’s reputation such that their next three records all nabbed nominations for Best Alternative Music Album. It’s hard to argue against losing to Radiohead, Bon Iver, or Alabama Shakes, but MMJ can at least say that they are on the radar.
Prognosis: It’s a little surprising that the Kentucky natives have seen such favor with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why that should end. Another great album or a particularly weak field could see the band steal a trophy. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 4 (1998, 2001, 2016, 2017)
What Went Wrong: Patti Smith’s biggest problem is that none of her nominations were for her iconic 1975 debut album, Horses. Interest in punk’s so-called poet laureate has surged in recent years, which certainly gives her a chance in the Spoken Word Album category.
Prognosis: Strong, especially given the rave reviews for M Train and Smith’s resurgent career as a memoirist. –Collin Brennan
Times Nominated: 5 (1995, 2001, 2006, 2010)
What Went Wrong: It took Anton Corbijn’s phenomenal 1995 Devotional video to finally convince Grammy voters that Depeche Mode were worthy of a nomination. That’s a crime, especially since the group’s most iconic records — 1987’s Music for the Masses and 1990’s Violator — had already been earning them mainstream fans for years.
Prognosis: With their fourteenth studio album, Spirit, due for release in spring 2017, there’s no time like the near future for these recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees. –Collin Brennan
Death Cab for Cutie
Times Nominated: 6 (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016)
What Went Wrong: Death Cab for Cutie’s best chance for a Grammy came and went in 2007, when they were nominated for Plans’ hit acoustic single “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”. They’ve made some sneaky-good music since then, but they’ve never quite made it out of the dark.
Prognosis: Ben Gibbard will possess your heart, but he will probably never possess a Grammy. –Collin Brennan
Queens of the Stone Age
Times Nominated: 6 (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2014)
What Went Wrong: Some of Queens of the Stone Age‘s losses are understandable, including a couple defeats to strong Foo Fighters songs and one to Led Zeppelin that was their first ever competitive Grammy win. Other times, you just have to scratch your head and wonder who would choose Evanescence over these guys.
Prognosis: Pretty good, even though their usual category of Best Hard Rock Performance has been dissolved. Since the band’s commercial breakthrough Songs for the Deaf, each of their four LPs has earned at least one nomination, making a win likely just a matter of time. –Philip Cosores
Times Nominated: 7 (2002, 2005, 2015)
What Went Wrong: His best album, Heartbreaker, didn’t manage to rustle up any Grammy noms, but he’s since seen periodic influxes of attention, including a trio of losses for his most recent album of original music. He’s always been a bit of an outsider, and even when getting critical and commercial success, the honor for Adams was in just being nominated.
Prognosis: In a couple weeks, Ryan Adams will release an album far better than anything he’s ever been nominated for. If any year made sense to win, it will be 2018. –Philip Cosores