26 of the most shocking Grammy moments of all time

26 of the most shocking Grammy moments of all time
  • The 66th Grammy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 4.

  • We're looking back on the most surprising and iconic moments from the show throughout its history.

  • There have been several shocking wins, crashed acceptance speeches, and impromptu performances.

Known as music's biggest night, the Grammy Awards always deliver incredible performances and career-making wins.

Occasionally, the award show goes rogue with crashed acceptance speeches, impromptu performances, and technical difficulties.

Here are 26 jaw-dropping moments from the Grammy Awards through the years.

Long before Ariana Grande sang "God Is a Woman," Helen Reddy made that proclamation during her 1973 acceptance speech.

A black and white photo of Helen standing at a podium.
Helen Reddy giving her acceptance speech for best female song of the year at the 15th Grammy Awards on March 5, 1973.Associated Press/AP Images

Australian singer Reddy won best female pop vocal performance for her song "I Am Woman" in 1973. The artist and her anthem were symbols of the women's liberation movement at the time, BBC News reported.

During her brief acceptance speech, Reddy said, "I would like to thank Jeff Wald, because he makes my success possible, and I would like to thank God because She makes everything possible," according to the Recording Academy.

This feminist statement didn't go over well with the conservative audience — NPR called it "an audacious move." However, at a time when women's rights issues were being discussed — the Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate in 1972 — it was an impactful statement.

"It really resonated for a lot of people," Nadine Hubbs, a professor of musicology at the University of Michigan, told NPR in 2018. "She was putting into words some really important social changes that were going on at the moment."

There was a tie for song of the year between legend Barbra Streisand and newcomer Debby Boone in 1978.

Black and white photos of Barbra and Helen smiling and holding their gramophone awards.
Barbra Streisand (left) pictured with her award for best female pop vocal performance and Debby Boone (right) with her award for best new artist, both at the 20th Grammy Awards on February 23, 1978.Lennox McLendon/AP Images; Associated Press/AP Images

At the 20th Grammy Awards, there was a tie for song of the year — it was the first time this happened in this category, Parade reported.

Streisand and Paul Williams won for "Evergreen," the theme from her version of "A Star is Born," while Boone's song "You Light Up My Life," from the movie of the same name, also won.

However, as song of the year goes to the songwriter, not the performer, songwriter Joe Brooks accepted the award instead of Boone.

That night, Streisand also won for best female pop vocal performance and Boone took home the award for best new artist, according to the official website of the Grammy Awards.

Annie Lennox fooled show producers and the audience while dressed in drag in 1984.

Annie in an Elvis-like wig and a black suit and tie making a muscles pose and Dave smiling in sunglasses and a shiny silver jacket.
Eurythmics' members Annie Lennox in drag (left) and Dave Stewart (right) pictured after their performance at the 26th Grammy Awards on February 28, 1984.Barry King/Getty Images

Lennox was set to perform "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," but the show's production staff were panicking because they couldn't find her ... because she was unrecognizable while dressed in drag.

"People were unaware that it was me, so it was almost like being a fly on the wall for a while," Lennox told CTV News in 2009.

After Lennox took to the stage, staff and audience were first confused who the "man" was, as she was also singing in a deeper, lower register than normal, and she happened to be rocking mutton chops.

This was radical for the '80s. Lennox told CTV that she was responding to the whispers surrounding her sexuality and androgynous style.

In a true upset, rock/jazz band Jethro Tull beat Metallica for the Grammy's first award for best hard rock or heavy metal performance in 1987.

Jethro Tull performing in 1977.
Jethro Tull performs live on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, on February 11 1977.Ian Dickson/Getty Images

In 1989, the Grammys added an award for best hard rock or heavy metal performance. Pitted against AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction, and the favorites to win, Metallica, the rock-and-jazz old-timers Jethro Tull surprisingly won for "Crest of a Knave."

Presenters Alice Cooper and Lita Ford seemed just as shocked as the half-clapping audience. The pair accepted the award on the group's behalf.

In an interview with KSHE 95, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson said that members of Metallica were "actually very gentlemanly" about their loss.

In 1994, Frank Sinatra's acceptance speech was cut off early, so Billy Joel paused his performance to purposely waste time.

Bono giving a peace sign and embracing an older Sinatra who is smiling in a tuxedo.
Bono and Frank Sinatra pose after Bono presented Sinatra with the legend award at the 36th Grammy Awards on March 1, 1994.KMazur/Getty Images

At the 36th Grammys, Sinatra was honored with the legend award. After presenter Bono's 4-minute introduction, Sinatra gave an emotional, comical, and slightly displeased 4-minute acceptance speech, according to the official Grammys website. At that point, music started playing the singer off, upsetting Sinatra and the audience.

In response, in the middle of performing "The River of Dreams," Joel, his musicians, and a choir abruptly stopped. Joel held up his wrist to read his watch and comically said, "valuable advertising time going by." After pausing for 20 seconds, the upbeat performance started up again.

Performance artist "Soy Bomb Guy" crashed Bob Dylan's set to make a statement in 1998.

Bob Dylan singing and playing guitar while a man without a shirt on and the words "soy bomb" written on his chest in black paint is posing oddly behind him onstage.
Performance artist "Soy Bomb (Michael Portnoy) crashed Bob Dylan's performance at the 40th Grammy Awards on February 25, 1998.KMazur/Getty Images

Midway through Dylan's low-key performance of "Love Sick" in 1998, one of his backup dancers ran up shirtless with the words "SOY BOMB" painted on his chest. As he danced energetically next to Dylan, the singer looked around, confused, but continued his performance stone-faced. The man was then taken off stage.

It was revealed that the "Soy Bomb Guy" was actually respected performance artist Michael Portnoy, The Hollywood Reporter reported. He later revealed, "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," Yahoo reported in 2012.

After Luciano Pavarotti called out sick, Aretha Franklin gave an impromptu performance of his iconic song "Nessun Dorma" in Italian, also at the 1998 ceremony.

Aretha in a burgundy gown with black lace and gold embellishments and a brown fur coat and scarf walking on the red carpet.
Aretha Franklin prior to giving a last-minute stand-in performance at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards on February 25, 1998.Steve Azzara/Getty Images

At the 1998 Grammys, The Queen of Soul stepped in for a surprise performance (to the audience and production crew) of "Nessun Dorma."

While the show was airing, producer Ken Ehrlich was told that opera singer Pavarotti who was set to perform would not be coming because, in Pavarotti's words, "my voice is bad," Ehlrich told Billboard in 2018.

Panicking, he asked Franklin — who had already sung earlier in the ceremony — if she could fill in and sing Pavarotti's song, since she sang it at a prior event honoring the opera legend.

"Aretha's performance was such a moment. I don't want to say it dwarfed the rest of the show, but it was epic," Ehlrich said.

The 1998 Grammys again proved shocking when Wu-Tang Clan rapper ODB crashed an acceptance speech for an award the group wasn't even nominated for.

The Wu-Tang singer speaking into a microphone while a Grammys employee tries to escort him off the stage.
Wu-Tang Clan member ODB crashes Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech for song of the year at the 40th Grammy Awards on February 25, 1998.Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Before Shawn Colvin could grab her award for song of the year for "Sunny Came Home," she was upstaged by Wu-Tang Clan rapper ODB, Yahoo reported.

Ranting about his expensive outfit and his group's support for children, ODB expressed that he thought Wu-Tang was going to win, saying, "Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best."

The most confusing part was the timing, though. Sean "Puffy" Combs and Wu-Tang were nominated earlier in the night in an un-televised, separate category from Colvin: best rap album.

Jennifer Lopez showed up to the 2000 Grammys in a daring dress that changed history, and the internet, for good.

JLO in a green plant print sheer long sleeve gown with a plunging neckline down to her hips revealing a lot of cleavage and her belly button. Sean Combs in a grey suit and sunglasses.
Jennifer Lopez and Sean Combs attend the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards on February 23, 2000.Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images

When Lopez showed up to the Grammys red carpet in "that" dress, it wasn't just a look: It was a moment. Wearing a green sheer dress with a plunging neckline by Versace, she awed both everyone around her and everyone watching at home. It was one of the most daring looks the Grammys had ever seen before.

The singer may not have won a Grammy that night, but she still stole the show.

People tried looking up photos of Lopez at such a rapid speed and in such high numbers that it inspired the creation of Google Images.

Despite Eminem's homophobic lyrics, Elton John teamed up with the rapper for a surprising performance and embrace in 2001.

Elton John in a yellow suit jacket with large pink circles holding his hand up to hold Eminem's hand, whose wearing a white t-shirt, backwards hat, and a speaking into a microphone.
Elton John and Eminem stand united after their performance at the 43rd Grammy Awards on February 21, 2001.Hector Mata/Getty Images

One of the most controversial artists of the early 2000s was Eminem. His album "The Marshall Mathers LP" was both praised for its artistry and criticized for its homophobic lyrics. After it was leaked that Eminem would perform a duet with gay icon John at the Grammys, members of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD were horrified, Entertainment Weekly reported.

During the performance, Eminem was rapping his song "Stan" before a spotlight in the background showed John playing piano and singing the chorus, traditionally sung by Dido.

At the end of the performance, the two embraced, held hands, and hugged in a memorable moment.

50 Cent briefly crashed Evanescence's acceptance speech for best new artist after he lost in 2004.

50 Cent in a jersey and baseball cap with his hands off walking off stage with the band and lead singer Amy Lee holding the award with the other hand up to her face while in disbelief and smiling.
50 Cent crashes Evanescence's acceptance speech for best new artist at the 46th Grammy Awards on February 8, 2004.Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

As Evanescence took the stage at the 46th Grammy Awards to accept their award for best new artist, a brief altercation took place.

Lead singer Amy Lee was heard saying, "Oh, what did I do? This is my first time!" before 50 Cent walked on to the stage and between the band members before walking right off.

Evanescence laughed it off and Lee jokingly thanked 50 Cent in her speech, People magazine reported. The rapper was also nominated for best new artist, but lost to the rock group.

For the first time since completing chemotherapy to treat her breast cancer, Melissa Etheridge performed on the 2005 Grammys stage totally bald.

Melissa performing onstage with her guitar while bald from the chemotherapy.
Melissa Etheridge performed for the first time since completing chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer at the 47th Grammy Awards on February 13, 2005.Michael Caulfield Archive/Getty Images

In her first performance since taking a break from working and receiving chemotherapy to combat breast cancer, Etheridge took the stage in 2005 for a tribute to Janis Joplin.

Met with roaring applause, Etheridge stepped out with no hair and gave an exceptional and passionate performance of "Piece of My Heart" with singer Joss Stone.

Looking back on it in 2014, Etheridge told Entertainment Weekly, "I wanted to show people that I've been through hell, yeah. This is awful, but I am not dying. I wanted to present myself as, 'I'm back, I'm not weak, this has made me stronger.'"

After Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna after a pre-Grammys party in 2009, the two withdrew from performing, and other entertainers took their spots.

Rihanna in blue, green, and white striped strapless dress with her arm around Chris in a black leather jacket. Both are smiling and sitting at a dinner table.
Rihanna and Chris Brown pictured at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party in Beverly Hills, California, on February 7, 2009.Lester Cohen/Getty Images

At Clive Davis' pre-Grammys party the day prior to the show in 2009, Rihanna and then-boyfriend Brown were all smiles. But afterwards, the couple had an altercation and Brown physically assaulted Rihanna, E! News reported.

The next day, Brown was arrested and Rihanna, who had a photo of her battered face leaked online, was hospitalized. Both were set to perform separately at the Grammys, but, understandably, were forced to pull out.

Hours before the show aired, a last-minute performance from U2 and duet between Justin Timberlake and Al Green were planned.

Brown later pleaded guilty to one count of assault with the intent of doing great bodily injury in connection with the incident and was sentenced to five years probation.

Pregnant rapper M.I.A. gave an amazing performance on her due date in 2009.

M.I.A performs pregnant at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2009.
M.I.A performs pregnant at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2009.John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

M.I.A. performed while very pregnant at the Grammys with Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I., and Lil Wayne. In fact, it was later revealed that the event was on her actual due date and that she started having contractions while it was airing, according to a 2009 MTV report.

Singing her hit "Paper Planes" while her singing partners sang "Swagga Like Us," M.I.A. made it through a successful performance. She gave birth to her son three days later, The Guardian reported.

Pink shocked the world with her aerial skills and performance at the 2010 Grammys.

Pink laying horizontally in the air held up my a sheet of fabric, while she sings and water flies off her body.
Pink's performance included an aerial act at the 52nd Grammy Awards on January 31, 2010.Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Four months after her first dramatic aerial act on the VMAs stage, Pink performed "Glitter in the Air" at the Grammys. After taking off her dress to reveal a sheer bodysuit, she was lifted into the air on silks.

While Pink had cables and a partner supporting her in her previous performance, this time she was solely held up by fabric and her own core strength. Dipped into a pool of water, she quickly twirled around while somehow effortlessly belting out notes.

In 2011, Lady Gaga proved how dedicated to her craft she is when she was carried into the awards in a giant egg, only emerging during her performance.

Performers in skin colored latex outfits holding an oversized blue marble-like egg on beams on their shoulders. Gaga is seen coming out of the glowing egg with dramatic makeup and sharp prosthetics on her face.
Lady Gaga being carried in an egg by performers on the red carpet (left) and emerging from it in her performance (right) at the 53rd Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011.Dan MacMedan/Getty Images; Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

In true Lady Gaga fashion, she showed her unique artistry at the Grammys red carpet by arriving in an oversized egg carried on the shoulders of latex-clad performers.

She came out of the egg during her debut performance of "Born This Way." With jagged prosthetics on her face, she looked more alien than human.

After taking home three golden gramophones that night, she was interviewed by Jay Leno the next day. Gaga told Leno that she was in the "temperature-controlled vessel" for three days prior to the Grammys.

After Whitney Houston died the day before the Grammys in 2012, Jennifer Hudson sang an emotional tribute to the legend.

Jennifer in a black halter dress singing passionately into a microphone.
Jennifer Hudson giving a last-minute performance at the 54th Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Prior to Clive Davis' 2012 pre-Grammy party where Houston was expected to perform, the singer was found dead in her hotel room. With this sudden and tragic loss, the world and music community was in mourning.

In a last-minute performance at the Grammys, powerhouse vocalist Hudson paid tribute to Houston, singing "I Will Always Love You," giving a pitch-perfect performance. At the end, she sang, "Whitney, we love you." She received an emotional standing ovation.

Nicki Minaj was called sacrilegious when she was escorted on the red carpet by a fake Catholic bishop and later performed an "exorcism" during the 2012 show.

A man dressed in a traditional bishop uniform with a large hat escorting Nicki in a dramatic silk hooded dress with a large Versace medusa logo on it. In another photo she is suspended in the air by wires laying horizontally in a flowing dress above dancers.
Nicki Minaj walking on the red carpet with a fake Catholic bishop (left) and being suspended into the air for the exorcism portion of her performance at the 54th Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012.Steve Granitz/Getty Images; Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Minaj walked the Grammys red carpet accompanied by a faux priest and wearing a devilish outfit with Versace's Medusa emblem on it, The Huffington Post reported.

Then, taking the stage to perform "Roman Holiday," Minaj started off next to the priest in a confessional setup. The screen then cut to the words "The Exorcism of Roman" and a short horror film of the priest meeting with a deranged Minaj.

During her theatrical performance on the stage, the singer reenacted an exorcism. Hooked up to cables, she laid horizontally and even began levitating.

This upset the Catholic League, who heaped criticism on the singer and the Recording Academy, the Washington Post reported.

"I don't know what is the big issue?" Minaj said at an event a few days later. She added that it was part of a movie she was writing, the Associated Press reported.

Queen Latifah surprised everyone by officiating 33 marriages onstage while Macklemore performed "Same Love" in 2014.

Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis, and Queen Latifah hugging and smiling in front of a choir and a stained-glass window design.
Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis, and Queen Latifah pose after performing at the 56th Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014.Michael Tran/Getty Images

In 2014, Queen Latifah introduced Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' performance of their same-sex anthem "Same Love," saying, "This song is a love song, not for some of us, but for all of us."

Towards the end of the song, Latifah stepped back onstage and the audience erupted in cheers as they realized what was happening — 33 gay and straight couples were lined up in the aisles, ready to get married. Latifah served as an ordained minister and the couples exchanged rings, Rolling Stone reported.

As Latifah pronounced them married, a second wave of shock came when Madonna came out. She sang "Open Your Heart," accompanied by a choir and marching band.

After Kanye West crashed Taylor Swift's VMA acceptance speech in 2009, he did the same to Beck in 2015, once again because of Beyoncé's loss.

Kanye walking across stage while Beck holds his award and his hand up ready to defend himself.
Kanye West crashes Beck's acceptance speech for best album of the year at the 57th Grammy Awards on February 8, 2015.Robert Gauthier/Getty Images

After West infamously crashed Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs, declaring that it belonged to Beyoncé instead, he nearly did the same in 2015.

In an upset, Beck beat Beyoncé for album of the year. When he took the stage, West did too, approaching the microphone, but quickly turning away. Beck waved for him to come back, but the rapper was already sitting and laughing with the rest of the audience.

While seemingly joking during the ceremony, during a televised interview with E! afterward, West said, "Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should've given his award to Beyoncé."

Adele sang off-key and off-time before her microphone cut out in a technical-difficulty disaster in 2016.

Adele in a red long sleeve gown holding a microphone on stage.
Adele performs onstage during the 58th Grammy Awards on February 15, 2016.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

A much-anticipated performance by Adele was turned sour by several audio issues. As she started singing "All I Ask," the song immediately sounded off with a clattering triangle sound. Adele was thrown off and sang off-key before her microphone cut out briefly.

Although Adele powered through, the distractions kept her out of tune. Afterward, the singer tweeted, "The piano mics fell on the piano strings, that's what the guitar sound was."

Cardi B and Offset, who were thought to be broken up, made a surprising display of affection on the red carpet in 2019.

Cardi B and Offset touching tongues at the 2019 Grammys.
Cardi B and Offset at the 2019 Grammys.Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Although Cardi B had recently announced her separation from Offset, the two appeared at the 2019 Grammys looking as intimate as ever. The two touched tongues on the red carpet, which came as a complete surprise to viewers who thought they were broken up.

Further confirming that they had resumed their relationship, Offset joined Cardi B on stage as she gave her acceptance speech when her album, "Invasion of Privacy," won best rap album.

In December 2023, Cardi B indicated the couple was no longer together.

Alicia Keys played two pianos simultaneously at the 2019 Grammys, and the audience went wild.

Alicia Keys at the 2019 Grammys.
Alicia Keys at the 2019 Grammys.CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

To the audience's surprise, Alicia Keys played two pianos at the same time during the 61st annual Grammy Awards in 2019. Her medley, which she titled, "Songs I Wish I Wrote," included crowd-pleasers such as "Lucid Dreams" by Juice WRLD', "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon, and "Doo-Wop (That Thing)" by Lauryn Hill.

"I've always wanted to play two pianos," she said before beginning her performance.

In their first performance since overdosing in 2018, Demi Lovato had to restart their emotional performance at the 2020 ceremony.

Demi in a large white ballgown singing into a microphone on stage with a piano player performing behind her.
Demi Lovato performing at the 62nd Annual Awards on January 26, 2020.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

At the 62nd Grammy Awards, Lovato took to the stage for the first time since overdosing in July 2018. They performed "Anyone" — a song that calls out for help — which was written before their overdose and was released the same day as the Grammys.

Overly emotional, Lovato's voice cracked through the first line of the song before they had to pause. Receiving supportive applause, the singer restarted. They belted out a powerful performance, cementing their triumphant comeback.

In 2022, Doja Cat almost missed her chance to accept her award for best pop duo with SZA because she was using the restroom.

Doja Cat and SZA at the 2022 Grammys.
Doja Cat and SZA at the 2022 Grammys.CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Doja Cat was using the bathroom when it was announced that she and fellow pop artist SZA had won best pop duo for their song, "Kiss Me More."

When she made it onto the stage, Doja Cat was out of breath. She said she'd never used the bathroom so quickly "in my whole life."

"Thank you, everybody," she continued, while adjusting her dress, "I really appreciate it."

In 2023, Harry Styles was criticized for his "As It Was" performance and his acceptance speech for album of the year.

harry styles grammys 2023
Harry Styles accepts the award for album of the year at the 2023 Grammys.Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Styles' two Grammy wins in 2023 were not without controversy.

While singing "As It Was," Styles appeared to trip and almost fall over on the stage's moving turnstile, and some fans pointed out that it wasn't his strongest vocal performance. Several of his dancers later posted on social media that the turnstile malfunctioned and started spinning in the wrong direction, forcing them to perform the choreography backwards.

Later in the show, as Styles accepted the album of the year award for "Harry's House," he said, "This doesn't happen to people like me very often," even though he was the 33rd white man to win the award. The comment attracted online criticism, especially because he won over Beyoncé, who has been nominated for album of the year four times but never won.

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