When it comes to award shows, the Grammys isn’t typically considered a wildcard — that title is still largely reserved for the MTV Video Music Awards. But where there’s a crowd of celebrities taking the stage after being served alcohol (or bringing their own), there’s guaranteed to be drama.
Over the music institution’s six-decade-long history, plenty of eyebrow-raising moments have graced music’s biggest night, from crashed speeches and questionable live performances, to scandalous reunions and over-the-top entrances (remember Lady Gaga’s egg?). With the 66th Grammy Awards just around the corner, NYLON looks back at some of the wildest, discourse-spawning moments, from 1998 and beyond.
2001: Elton John Rehabs Eminem’s Image
In 2001, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP was up for multiple Grammy awards despite the fact a lot of its lyrics were being slammed online for being homophobic. Perhaps in an attempt to placate his detractors, Eminem recruited Elton John for his live performance of “Stan,” during which they hugged and held hands. Still, that didn’t stop John and Eminem from receiving plenty of flack after their stunt aired.
2004: OutKast Puts On An Insensitive “Hey Ya” Performance
Feathers, warpaint, and a green teepee were just a few elements included in OutKast’s 2004 live Grammys performance of “Hey Ya!” After it aired, the San Francisco-based Native American Cultural Center called for a boycott of CBS and OutKast, with one rep calling it “degrading.” CBS later apologized.
2005: 50 Cent Crashes Evanescence’s Speech
50 Cent rushed the Grammys stage during Evanescence’s acceptance speech after the band won Best New Artist over the rapper at the 2005 Grammys. In 2020, as he received his star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he was quoted recounting the incident, saying, “The Best New Artist, they gave that shit to Evanescence … Can you find fucking Evanescence? I ain’t seen Evanescence since that night.”
2006: Madonna & Gorillaz Open The Grammys
The Grammys has seen its fair share of weird band mashups, but one of the weirdest came in 2006 when Madonna performed “Feel Good Inc” and “Hung Up” alongside the virtual band members of Gorillaz, even trying to seduce one of them.
2010: P!nk Flies Over The Crowd With An Aerial Performance
Less scandalous and more an incredible feat, at the 2010 Grammys, P!nk performed “Glitter in the Air” literally from the air, suspended by aerial silks and spinning over the crowd.
2011: Lady Gaga Arrives In An Egg
Lady Gaga made her entrance at the 2011 Grammys in unexpected fashion: encased in a giant egg that was ceremoniously paraded in by her backup dancers. Later in the program, she “hatched” from it during her performance of “Born This Way.”
2012: Nicki Minaj Is “Exorcised” On Stage
Perhaps in the most controversial award-show performance of her career, Nicki Minaj performed an exorcism on herself at the 2012 Grammys. Her spooky set opened with a confession to a priest, and ended with a slew of backlash from the Catholic League.
2014: Macklemore Beats Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album, Tells Lamar He Was “Robbed”
One of the most controversial snubs of Grammy history is still Macklemore’s The Heist beating Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city at the 2014 awards show. The win happened during the non-televised portion of the ceremony, but the next day Macklemore posted the text he sent to Lamar right after, telling him: “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have.”
2015: Kanye West Jokingly “Crashes” Beck’s Acceptance Speech
After Beck’s Morning Phase beat Beyoncé’s Beyoncé for Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammys, Kanye West joking rushed the stage but didn’t linger, despite Beck urging him to come back to the mic.
2015: Madonna Flashes The Grammys Red Carpet
Ever the provocateur, Madonna briefly mooned the papparazzi while being photographed on the red carpet at the 2015 awards.
2016: Taylor Swift Seemingly Disses Kanye West In Speech
At the height of her 2016 beef with Kanye and Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for 1989 and appeared to comment on the drama during her speech: “I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you … you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there, and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
2017: Adele Says Beyoncé Had The Album Of The Year
In another shocking snub, Adele’s 21 beat Beyoncé’s Lemonade for Album of the Year in 2015. To Adele’s credit, she handled the situation gracefully, calling Beyoncé’s record her Album of the Year and exclaiming, through tears, “my artist of my life is Beyoncé.”
2021: Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” Performance Gets 1,000 FCC Complaints
And in perhaps the raunchiest performance to ever hit the Grammys stage, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” involved a stripper pole, lots of hip thrusting, and a giant bed. Afterwards, the performance allegedly prompted over 1,000 FCC complaints, with many calling it “pornographic.”
2022: Olivia Rodrigo & BTS Look Flirty
BTS’s V and Olivia Rodrigo provoked brief online hysteria at the 2022 Grammys when the K-pop superstar appeared to get flirty with the “Drivers License” singer during his performance of “Butter,” leaning over to whisper something in her ear. Afterwards, he ended up sitting next to Rodrigo for the entire ceremony, but alas, nothing else happened.
2023: Harry Styles & Taylor Swift Spied Chatting
Since their breakup in 2013, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles have rarely interacted with each other in public, but that changed at the 2023 Grammys when the exes were spotted chatting during a commercial break. Everything appeared friendly, but, of course, the internet was set into a frenzy.
2023: Ben Affleck Looks Miserable
As images from the 2023 Grammys came pouring out, people online began noticing how miserable Ben Affleck appeared. Later, a rumor that he and J.Lo were arguing started circulating, though they eventually set the record straight saying everything was completely normal between them.
2023: Beyoncé Makes History — But Loses All Major Awards
Beyoncé became the most-awarded artist in all of Grammys history at the 2023 ceremony. But her achievement was quickly overshadowed by the demoralizing fact that, of her 31 trophies, only one was for Album of the Year. At the same ceremony, Renaissance lost that same award to Harry Styles’ Harry’s House, becoming an example of how the Recording Academy consistently sidelines Black artists.