Who Is The Only Artist To Refuse To Accept A Grammy Award?
In the history of Grammy Awards, only one artist has refused their award: Sinead O'Connor. The Grammy Awards hit their 61st year in 2019, marking more than six decades worth of awards spanning nearly every genre in music given out to musicians, singers, music groups, and beyond for their work. The Grammys have become the preeminent award show in the music industry, a symbol of true accomplishment for an artist that will forever be associated with their work and elevate them in their field. But in 1991, something unprecedented occurred: one nominated artist refused to attend that award ceremony and upon winning an award, became the first artist in Grammy history to have refused accepting an award through non-attendance.
The artist who dared do the unthinkable, the radical, the unforeseeable was Irish singer Sinead O'Connor. O'Connor had been on a hot streak in the year preceding the 33rd Grammys. In 1990, she released her sophomore album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, which included the lead single, "Nothing Compares 2 U." The song became an instant hit, a baleful ballad that burned up the charts. O'Connor's vocal abilities, which allowed her to soar to unreachable notes and express true pain through her lyrics, immediately connected with the public.
By the time the 33rd Grammys rolled around in February 1991, O'Connor had earned four nominations: Best Alternative Music Performance, Record of the Year, Best Vocal Pop Performance (Female), and Best Music Video - Short Form. O'Connor was also set to perform "Nothing Compares 2 U" at the ceremony.
Before the big night, the L.A. Times reported on O'Connor's refusal to attend the Grammys, causing a stir. As revealed in a statement released by the singer, O'Connor refused to attend the ceremony because she felt the Grammys promoted "'false and destructive materialistic values' of the music industry," apparently wanting no parts of it as a result. Below is the statement O'Connor sent to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, wherein she explained her reasons for refusing to attend the Grammys:
"As artists, I believe our function is to express the feelings of the human race--to always speak the truth and never keep it hidden even though we are operating in a world which does not like the sound of the truth. I believe that our purpose is to inspire and, in some way, guide and heal the human race, of which we are all equal members. They acknowledge mostly the commercial side of art. They respect mostly material gain since that is the main reason for their existence. And they have created a great respect among artists for material gain--by honoring us and exalting us when we achieve it, ignoring, for the most part, those of us who have not."
O'Connor ended up winning for Best Alternative Music Performance for her album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. Her absence from the program, in combination with her letter passionately detailing why she wouldn't participate in the ceremony, have earned her a spot in Grammys infamy. To this day, she remains the only music artist to have ever refused to accept a Grammy award.