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Five Kinds of Albums the Grammys Haven’t Awarded Album of the Year in Over 20 Years

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With another year of the Grammy Awards behind us, it’s time we all take a well-deserved deep breath as we tally the highs and lows of the night. There were some genuinely great moments — Joni Mitchell’s tender ceremony performance debut, Miley Cyrus’ uncontainable joy at her first-ever Grammys win, and the awe-inspired look on Luke Combs’ face basking in Tracy Chapman’s presence come to mind — and, in classic Grammys fashion, there were plenty of head-scratching incidents, too.

SZA entered the evening with the most nominations of the night, amassing nine nods for her chart-topping sophomore album, SOS. The album had the kind of run that only comes from a confluence of critical acclaim, enormous commercial success, and a piercing of the general zeitgeist. If SOS wasn’t enough to merit an Album of the Year win, with all the boxes it ticked, what more has to be done?

Today, we’ve taken a stroll through Grammys history, rounding up some of the types of music in which the Recording Academy members have recently been reluctant to award Album of the Year. Albums in these categories have taken home the big award previously, but not in over 20 years. From projects by other Black women like SZA to beloved hip-hop albums, transcendent soundtracks, and live recordings, here are our notable categoric shutouts.

Albums by Black Women

Beyoncé, photo by Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

First Win: At the 1992 ceremony, Natalie Cole became the first Black woman to take home the gold for Unforgettable… with Love. The first Grammys ceremony was held in 1959, meaning it took over 30 years to hit this landmark.

Most Recent Win: Perhaps more distressing is the fact that it’s now been almost as long of a window since a similar win occurred. Lauryn Hill secured Album of the Year with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at the 1999 ceremony, which was 25 years ago.

What the Academy Is Missing: As Jay-Z made sure to emphasize at this year’s ceremony, there’s one particularly egregious snub when it comes to Black women who haven’t secured Album of the Year, and it’s the queen herself. Jay made a good point: that Beyoncé is the most Grammy-awarded artist of all time but her many trophies don’t include the top prize feels head-scratching at best, and pointed at worst.

Beyoncé isn’t the only one to face this specific hurdle, particularly in the years since Hill’s win — Lizzo and H.E.R. have both historically been awards darlings, and all three of H.E.R.’s studio albums have been nominated for Album of the Year, but none have secured the win. — Mary Siroky

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