Whether it’s political statements at the Golden Globes, surprise collaborations at the Brits or someone getting slapped across the chops at the Oscars, you can always rely on some seriously shocking moments during awards season.
The Grammys are certainly no exception to this – after all, rounding up the biggest names in music in an auditorium for hours at a time was never going to be the recipe for a quiet night in, was it?
In the lead-up to this year’s ceremony, we’re counting down 19 of the most shocking and memorable moments from the Grammys over the years...
Adele refuses to accept her Album Of The Year award (2017)
Adele swept the board following the release of her album, 25, but when she won over Beyoncé’s opus Lemonade, even the Hello singer herself had to admit something was up.
“I can’t possibly accept this award,” she said, “The Lemonade album was so monumental... so well thought out and so beautiful and soul-bearing, and we all got to see another side to you that we don’t always let us see.”
Addressing Beyoncé, Adele continued: “All us artists here, we fucking adore you. You are our light, and the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my Black friends feel is empowering, and you make them stand up for themselves. I love you, and I always will.”
Lady Gaga egg-cedes eggs-pectations with her Grammys entrance (2011)
Nobody was egg-specting (alright, enough of that now) Lady Gaga to play it down when she arrived at the Grammys, where she would be opening the show with a debut performance of her then-new single Born This Way, but who could have anticipated this was how she’d make her entrance?
Playing up to the “birth” theme of her track, she was carried down the red carpet in a giant egg, which she emerged from to perform the song on stage later in the show.
Hey, Nicki, who’s your pal? (2012)
Upping the game when it came to dramatic Grammys entrances, Nicki Minaj hit the red carpet in a red Versace cloak, on the arm of an older man who was dressed as the Pope.
She also opened the show that year with a medley of Roman’s Revenge, Roman Holiday and I Feel Pretty (yes, the one from West Side Story), in a performance laden with Catholic imagery which was supposed to show the exorcism of her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski.
Eminem and Elton John put on a show of solidarity after an unlikely duet (2001)
And while we’re on the subject of surprising performances, Eminem made headlines in 2001 when he welcomed Elton John to the stage with him to perform Dido’s parts on his hit Stan.
The two held hands at the end of the performance in what appeared to be the rapper’s attempts to put a stop to accusations of homophobia that had frequently been levelled against him.
Maybe just stop using homophobic language in your songs, Marshall, and then we’ll talk.
Amy Winehouse can’t believe it as Rehab is named Record Of The Year (2008)
In 2008, Amy Winehouse’s personal life had eclipsed her music to the point she wasn’t even allowed to attend the Grammys that year, and was forced to perform over satellite.
When Rehab was given the distinction of winning Record Of The Year over acts like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake, Amy’s endearing look of disbelief pushed people to take the late star into their hearts even more than they already had.
Justin Timberlake apologises post-Super Bowl and it’s all very uncomfortable (2004)
The 2004 Super Bowl took place just seven days before that year’s Grammys, meaning Justin Timberlake had already been splashed all over the news for exposing Janet Jackson’s breast during their Half-Time Show performance.
But if you thought it had been a bad week for him, spare a thought for Janet.
Justin performed his then-new single Señorita during the show, all the while Janet’s scheduled performance with Luther Vandross was axed completely.
And while the former N*SYNC singer apologised to anyone “offended” during his acceptance speech for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (yes he won in a year when Janet had been blacklisted), he made no mention of the woman he’d been sharing the stage with.
It was another 17 years before Justin publicly apologised to Janet for not having done more to defend her at the time.
Pharrell Williams’ hat steals the show on the red carpet (2014)
Remember that week when Pharrell Williams’ hat was photoshopped onto everything? Simpler times, eh?
Jennifer Lopez breaks the internet more than a decade before Kim Kardashian (2000)
And while we’re on the subject of sartorial choices at the Grammys – behold! That dress.
This was an outfit so famous that Google literally invented their “Images” tab because so many people wanted to see what Jennifer Lopez was wearing on the red carpet.
Waiting For Tonight may have lost out to Cher’s Believe in the Best Dance Recording category, but who could deny that Jenny From The Block was the true winner that night?
Milli Vanilli have their Grammys taken away (1990)
The German R&B duo was named Best New Artist in 1990, although their victory was short-lived.
It later transpired the two didn’t actually contribute any of the vocals heard on their releases, prompting the Music Academy to take back their titles.
Billy Porter debuts the headpiece that inspired a million memes (2020)
Billy Porter’s red carpet fashion moments are constantly grabbing headlines, but this effort from the 2020 Grammys is one that particularly stands out.
It wasn’t so much the hat itself that got people talking, but the fact that it was motorised, and the movement of the bedazzled tassles ended up sparking a lot of memes on Twitter that year.
Billie Eilish makes her Grammys debut – and completely sweeps the board (2020)
Billie Eilish made music history when she hit up her first Grammys in 2020, not only scooping the biggest four awards of the night – Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist – but becoming the youngest musician in history to do so.
The then-18-year-old also performed When The Party’s Over during the ceremony with her brother and co-producer, Finneas.
Kanye West lives up to his stage-invading reputation (2015)
Having stormed the stage in defence of Beyoncé at the VMAs six years earlier, Kanye West stood up for Queen Bey once again when she was beaten in the Album Of The Year category by Beck.
Perhaps suddenly remembering the huge backlash that had come his way in the wake of the VMAs incident, Ye decided not to take to the mic this time around, instead shrugging his shoulders and swiftly returning to his front row seat.
The rapper later claimed that if Beck “respected artistry” he would have given his award to Beyoncé for her game-changing self-titled album.
A stage invader crashes Bob Dylan’s performance (1998)
The 1998 Grammys were clearly a year to remember, as in addition to Ol’ Dirty Bastard storming the stage, another unplanned moment helped make headlines, this time while Bob Dylan was performing.
While Bob Dylan performed Love Sick a bare-chested man with “Soy Bomb” written on his torso appeared behind him, and was eventually removed by security.
He later claimed: “Soy represents dense nutritional life. Bomb is, obviously, an explosive destructive force. So, ‘soy bomb’ is what I think art should be: dense, transformational, explosive life!”
Adele’s All I Ask performance doesn’t quite go to plan (2016)
Listen, we all have our off days, as Adele proved at the 2016 Grammys. Despite riding high on her recent comeback with 25, this performance had everyone talking for all the wrong reasons.
She later confessed to “crying all day” following her appearance at the Grammys, she told Ellen Degeneres: “During the changeover the microphones fell onto the piano strings which is what the guitar noise was… and then it kind of put the whole thing off really.”
And unfortunately, her bad Grammys luck didn’t end there (2017)
Things got off to a much smoother start a year later, when she opened the show with a rendition of Hello.
However, when she came back later in the show to perform a surprise tribute to George Michael, things took something of a nosedive.
After a shaky start, she eventually stopped the performance completely one minute in, stating: “I know it’s live TV, I’m sorry. I can’t do it again like last year. I’m sorry for swearing and sorry for starting again, can we please start it again? I’m sorry, I can’t mess this up for him. I’m sorry.”
She then restarted the performance, and paid fitting tribute to the musical legend.
Jennifer Hudson pays beautiful tribute to Whitney Houston (2012)
Jennifer’s flawless version of I Will Always Love You would stand up by itself as a showcase for the Dreamgirls star’s amazing talent.
But when you take into account she’d had less than 24 hours to rehearse the song, as Whitney Houston had died the day before, it makes it all the more poignant and impressive.
Lady Gaga channels Ziggy Stardust as she prepares to honour David Bowie (2016)
Sadly not all tribute performances at the Grammys have won such unanimous praise.
Lady Gaga divided Bowie fans after she was selected to pay tribute to him at the Grammys that year, with some suggesting that by donning his famous outfits and attempting to imitate his performance style, she’d made the show more about herself than her idol.
Even Bowie’s son seemed nonplussed, although when Lorde put her own subdued spin on Life On Mars? at the Brits weeks later, he was far more impressed...
Taylor Swift uses her acceptance speech to fire back at Kanye West (2016)
Following a brief truce, Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s feud was well and truly back on by the 2016 Grammys, after he disparagingly referenced her in his song Famous.
Referring specifically to his notorious “I made that bitch famous” line, Taylor told the crowd: “To all the young women out there, there are going to be people out along the way who will try to undercut your success, and try to take credit for your accomplishments and your fame.”
And as we know, things didn’t end there...
Ariana Grande gets all dressed up with no place to go (2019)
In 2019, Ariana Grande had been scheduled to perform at the Grammys, where she had been nominated for two awards.
Ultimately, she pulled out after a much-publicised row with a producer, but still ended up stealing the show on the night, sharing snaps of her red carpet outfit (which she sported to lay around the house), live-tweeting the whole event and even winning her first Grammy after snubbing the show completely.
She later wore an even more elaborate gown when she attended the following year’s awards.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion give their WAPtastic tune its live debut (2021)
The two rappers’ outrageous collab was a number-one smash on both sides of the Atlantic in 2020, but because of the pandemic, they weren’t able to perform it live together until the following year.
Still, Cardi and Megan made sure WAP got the live debut it deserved, with a performance so raunchy it sparked almost 1000 complaints to the FCC (America’s equivalent to Ofcom).