For artists, the greatest reward should be in creating amazing work and seeing people enjoy it, but earning recognition in the form of prestigious honors is still important to many...and if even not to the musicians themselves, the fans and history certainly care! Winning a Grammy remains the greatest achievement most musicians can aspire to, and while there are dozens of trophies handed out at the annual ceremony (there used to be over 100, actually), there are still plenty of major stars who have yet to claim one.Here are 10 musicians and groups you won’t believe have never won a Grammy.Katy PerryOne of the most successful pop queens in the business, Katy Perry has charted nine No. 1 hits, but somehow, she’s never won a Grammy. Sure, she’s never been a critical darling, but shouldn’t she have at least one by now? The “Never Really Over” singer has been nominated for 13 prizes, including Record, Song and Album of the Year, but she’s never won any of them.Nicki MinajShe may be the most successful female hip-hop musician of all time, but Nicki Minaj still doesn’t have a Grammy. The rapper and singer has been nominated 10 times, but she has yet to claim a piece of gold, though there are a few she arguably should have taken home, such as Best New Artist. Only a handful of her nominations fall outside the rap categories, where she is typically up for something almost every year.Snoop DoggSnoop Dogg, or as he’s known to the Recording Academy, Calvin Broadus, earned his first Grammy nomination back in 1993 for “Nuthin' But A ‘G’ Thang,” and since then, he’s tacked on 15 more nods...but he hasn’t ended up the champion any year, despite a near-record-setting 16 nominations, including two for Album of the Year as a featured artist.QueenRami Malek may have won an Academy Award for his portrayal of legendary Queen frontman, but the man himself, as well as the band that made history as one of the most successful and impactful rock groups to ever take to the stage, are still waiting for their honors. The act was only nominated for four Grammys during their heyday, and they didn’t end up winning any of them.Tupac ShakurCredited by the Grammys as 2Pac, the pioneering rapper was nominated for half a dozen Grammys, including at least one posthumously. All six of those nods were in rap-focused categories, but somehow one of the most inspired performers the genre has ever experienced never heard his name called, and it has now been 20 years since his last opportunity.BjorkIcelandic oddity Bjork is tough to label when it comes to genre, but Recording Academy voters have named her as one of their favorites in the Alternative Music Album category many times, including several instances when the vertical went by a different name. Eight of her albums have been contenders for that prize, but they’ve never won, and she’s found herself nominated in other categories seven times, bringing her career total to 15.Brian McKnightThe king of R&B holds a very important record, though it’s probably not one he ever wanted to lay claim to. The musician has the distinction of being the artist with the most Grammy nominations without a single win. McKnight has been named as a potential winner 17 times, but he doesn’t have a trophy, and seeing as he hasn’t been nominated for 15 years, he may sadly never break this golden curse.Martina McBrideOne of the true country icons still recording, Martina McBride has proven her talent and her success many times over, and she doesn't need any trophy to tell her she’s a star...but shouldn’t she have at least one Grammy by now? McBride nabbed her first nomination 25 years ago, and she’s racked up 14 total nods since without ever winning a single prize.NasUsually 13 is a lucky number, but is that still the case when that’s the number of Grammy nominations you’ve earned without a win? Nas, one of the greatest rappers in history, has seen his albums and songs be named as nominees in the rap categories a dozen times (he was also once up for Best Short Form Music Video), but somehow, he’s always been beaten. He more than deserves a Grammy by now, and there must be a lifetime achievement honor coming his way, at least.Diana RossOkay, this one only sort of counts. Ross earned 13 nominations as both a soloist, a featured artist, and as a member of The Supremes, but she never managed to win a competitive trophy. In 2012, the Recording Academy attempted to remedy a terrible mistake by giving her a lifetime achievement Grammy...so she does have one sitting on her trophy shelf at home, but it’s not a competitive prize, which is typically what people are talking about when they call an artist a Grammy winner.
Country music has long been dominated by white men, but over the past few years, things have been changing for the better, as more women and people of color have been breaking out and reaching toward the top of the charts. While names like Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen are certainly the future of the genre, plenty of African American musicians have been creating excellent country songs and albums for decades, and some have found true critical and commercial success by doing so.
Here are 10 of the most successful African American musicians in country history.
Charley Pride isn’t just one of the most successful African American musicians in country, he’s one of the most successful musicians period. Throughout his decades-long career, the talented songwriter and performer charted an unbelievable 52 tracks on the Hot Country Songs chart. Of that sum, more than half (29) of those tunes went to No. 1. The trailblazer still claims the sixth-most chart-topping singles on that list, and his contributions to the genre will never be forgotten.
After making his mark on the music industry as the frontman and vocalist for rock band Hootie and the Blowfish and attempting a solo career that ventured into R&B, Darius Rucker tried his hand at country, and while his songs weren’t immediately smashes, he did make history and eventually became one of the most successful African American country musician.
Rucker has now released five proper country albums, and all of them have peaked inside the top 10 on the Billboard 200, with all but one topping the genre-specific Country Albums tally. The musician has now sent 18 singles onto the Hot Country Songs chart, with half a dozen of them rising all the way to No. 1. Rucker even won the Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance for his song “Wagon Wheel.”
Superstar Kane Brown, who identifies as biracial, isn’t just successful in the country field these days. In fact, he’s become one of the most exciting names in the music industry to watch, and he now has the chart numbers to prove he’s not all hype. The musician has already collected a trio of top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, including a recent chart-topper, Experiment, which made it to No. 1 just last year. 22 of his songs have reached the Hot Country Songs tally, and a pair of them have ruled the tally for at least one week.
Throughout his lifetime, Ray Charles wrote and recorded music in countless genres, as a man as brilliant as he was could not be restrained by just one style. While country was certainly not what he was best-known for, he achieved more in that one field than some who work their entire careers making just one kind of tunes. Charles charted a dozen titles on the Hot Country Songs list, including a joint No. 1 with Willie Nelson, “Seven Spanish Angels.”
Lil Nas X
While Billboard may not call him country, Lil Nas X will undoubtedly be remembered as a genre-bending musician who pushed the twang-heavy sector of the music industry closer to hip-hop than it’s ever been. The newcomer rose all the way to No. 1 on the Hot 100 with his first single “Old Town Road,” which became an international sensation in 2019. The song initially charted on the Hot Country Songs ranking as well, but was removed by the magazine after it was deemed “not country enough.” A remix of the tune featuring genre favorite Billy Ray Cyrus won over many country fans, though it wasn’t enough to put it back on that chart.
She is, of course, remembered more for her rock, R&B, and pop hits, but few people realize that Tina Turner got her start (as a solo artist, at least) in country music. Turner’s first solo album was a unique mix of country and R&B called Tina Turns the Country On! The collection saw the singer covering songs penned by the likes of James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, and even Dolly Parton, and while it wasn’t a commercial success, it’s an important part of her legacy.
Newcomer Jimmie Allen has only just started what could be a long and prosperous career in the country music world, but already things are going well. His debut album Mercury Lane barely missed reaching the top 10 on the Top Country Albums chart, but its lead single “Best Shot” did make it to No. 5 on the Hot Country Songs ranking and it became one of the most-played songs on country radio in 2018.
The Pointer Sisters
Like Tina Turner, The Pointer Sisters aren’t remembered for being country favorites, but they did find some level of success in that world before properly pivoting to the R&B, dance, and pop that made them true icons. The group only landed one top 40 hit on the Hot Country Songs chart, 1974’s “Fairytale,” but they did end up taking home the Grammy (their first) for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the tune, so clearly the industry was paying attention and respecting their art.
Throughout his career, Aaron Neville released albums that fit squarely under many different labels: Christian, gospel, jazz, soul, R&B, and yes, even country. Only two of his singles, 1993’s “The Grand Tour” and 1994’s “I Fall to Pieces” with country favorite Trisha Yearwood, would make it to the Hot Country Songs tally, but his impact stretches beyond those numbers.
Mickey Guyton is a name you should know in advance of her becoming a breakout star, though that hasn’t happened just yet. She has released a handful of EPs and several singles, and while a few of them have ranked on country-only Billboard charts, none of them have become true smashes. With her talent and songwriting credibility, chances are she has a bright future ahead of her, and it’s only a matter of time before she earns the praise and fame she deserves.
Photo Credit: Tina Turner
This moment is an especially interesting time in country music, as there are so many new names popping up on the charts, and every single one of them has a new way of looking at love and life, adding another important voice to the genre. The past few years have seen several stars break out, and there next few could be huge for any number of artists who have already found some success with debut albums and surprise hit singles.One name to watch closely is Mitchell Tenpenny, who has been promoting his debut major label album Telling All My Secrets for well over a year now to great success. In addition to spinning off his first top 40 hit on the Hot 100, “Drunk Me,” he has recently pushed a new cut “Alcohol You Later” and even a poppier, danceable version of “Drunk Me,” which is an unexpected move for a country musician. Mitchell talks about his breakout year and what he has planned next to keep the momentum going.Last year was really huge for you. How did it feel to finally release your major label debut?Mitchell Tenpenny: It felt good! It was a dream come true to finally put out something we worked so hard on for so long! Throughout the past two years or so, you've released some songs as singles, then re-released them as your fan base has grown. How does it feel seeing people catch on to songs that have been out for so long?Tenpenny: It’s crazy! I think the best part about it is to see everyone singing the songs back to me when I’m on stage. It doesn’t get much better than that! Tell us about the story behind "Drunk Me," your breakout hit.Tenpenny: It’s about quitting drinking to stand a chance of getting over somebody. You’re heartbroken and you go to drink, but then they’re even more on your mind, so you realize maybe stopping is the best option. The song did really well on the charts, and you've just re-released it as a remix. What made you go that route?Tenpenny: We just wanted to put it out in a way that no one has ever heard it before and I think it turned out amazing. R3hab put an amazing spin on it, while keeping it authentic. In addition to making your own music, you've written for other people as well. Do you prefer to write for yourself or other musicians?Tenpenny: I prefer to just write the best song I can, and if that means it’s better for someone else, then I’m always down to let that happen. Who is someone you'd love to write a song for?Tenpenny: John Mayer would be a dream come true. I’d love to write it with him if I could! Is there a piece of music, either recorded by you or by someone else, that you're really proud of?Tenpenny: I’m proud of my song “Walk Like Him”. I knew I always wanted to write a song to honor my dad, so when it finally came to fruition it was beyond special! Your album is now almost half a year old--what's the plan to keep promoting it?Tenpenny: Just to keep pushing “Alcohol You Later” to country radio and keep integrating songs from the album into our live set! What does the rest of 2019 bring for you?Tenpenny: Gah 2019 has a lot more to come! Just excited to keep traveling the country and meeting everyone who believes in what we’re doing!
Last year, bubbling under pop singer Ava Max finally broke through and scored one of the biggest hit single throughout much of the world, especially in Europe. Her tune “Sweet But Psycho” went straight to No. 1 in countries all across the continent, and that helped her grab the attention of radio programmers and playlist makers in the U.S.While it’s taking much longer to become a certified smash, “Sweet But Psycho” has been rising steadily, and it just recently became a top 20 hit in the U.S., where Max is from. She’s now followed that up with another poppy composition, “So Am I,” which could go on to become her next major success.While no official dates have been set just yet, Max says her debut album is coming this year, and with some luck and a lot of hard work, she might just be the next great star to break through and dominate the charts with pop music.We spoke with Max about how she got started and what her new fans can expect from her coming up.Can you talk a bit about your career over the past couple of years for the people who are just discovering you? Who are you? What have you been doing?Ava Max: I've been in this music industry since I was like 14. I've been singing since I was seven. It's tough because you've really gotta have those connections and meet people and they have to love you and you have to be the whole package. It wasn’t an instant thing for me. I never met someone and, oh my god my dreams came true. It was a hussle. I had jobs on the side. Obviously, there were times when I wanted to quit but I couldn't see myself doing anything else. I was only good at this.So the album is coming and the singles “Sweet But Psycho” and “So Am I” are out. Are you planning on touring these?Max: We're working on a headlining show after the album comes out.So probably soon, it sounds like.Max: Definitely. I can't wait to go out there.What can fans expect like for the rest of the year from you, the people who are really getting into you now?Max: They're definitely going to get to know a lot more of me. I think that every interview I do and every video interview I do they get to know a little bit and a little bit more. I'm a new artist to them, so all of this is going to be new. The album, the show. I'm going to be traveling a lot.Is it strange to think that you’ve you've been doing this for a long time—the album is three years in the works—but there are people discovering you every day. Does that feel weird to you? How are you navigating that?Max: Oh my gosh, it feels so weird. Like, especially in Europe when there was paparazzi. It was my first time experiencing that. And I did not like that, I was not into it, all the cameras. But, you know, it comes with it.The album has no features, which can be a really great way for a new artist to build momentum. What made you want to do this entirely on your own?Max: I think it's because we had so many amazing songs over the past three years, we took so much time on this album, that when the album was done I just couldn't take any songs off. They're really pop songs, so maybe after the album's out...maybe the deluxe album will have a feature. Maybe a surprise feature. We'll see. But I definitely did not want to take out any more song. Photo Credit: Ava Max
Chances are you don’t know the name Ricky Reed, and that’s perfectly okay. As a songwriter and producer, he’s worked on hit singles and album tracks for some of the most popular musicians on the planet, such as Christina Aguilera, Jason Derulo, Twenty One Pilots, Meghan Trainor, Halsey, and Kesha, though the people behind the scenes don’t often get the recognition they deserve. As an artist, he goes by the name Wallpaper. (or at least he did when he started that project many years ago), and while that group developed a loyal fan base, they never scored a serious hit...though now that he’s in a very different point in his life and he knows how to craft a proper smash, the next time he comes out with music, things could go better for him.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Reed about the songs he’s penned for others, who he’d want to work with next, and what he felt should have been a smash.
In the past several years, you've scored hit after hit after hit, and the list of artists you’ve worked with is pretty crazy. Is there anything in particular that you are really proud of?
Ricky Reed: Boy. We're in the middle of it right now, but I would probably say Lizzo. Because she is an artist that I started working with very, very early on in her career. She signed to my label Nice Life, and it's been a holistic top-to-bottom process of grinding it out with her for whatever it's been now, about four years or so.
It's the whole thing people say, with different albums you work on, different songs you work on, they're all my babies, and I've obviously had great experiences across the board all with different musicians. There's just been so much sweat and tears with Lizzo that, to see her finally arriving at the international table right now is just... It's funny, it's full circle. It's the first thing that's been surreal, as surreal as my first hit, which we talked about a long time ago. Nothing has felt as unreal, like I'm in a parallel universe, quite like that did until now with Lizzo.
Lizzo deserves the entire world. This is what I tell people. Just put Lizzo in charge of the world, honestly. This might be kind of the same question, but is there something you worked on that didn't get the attention that you feel it deserved?
Reed: Interesting question. Felt deserved, but didn't get there. I guess I can only speak to a couple of my favorite songs that I've written that didn't. These weren't songs that they tried to make big 'ole hits and spent millions and millions of dollars on. Just songs of mine that I was like, "Man I'm so proud of that, and I wish more people would have heard it."
Oddly, one is a Christina Aguilera song, a ballad that I wrote.
We love that song.
Reed: You know what song I'm talking about?
It's the last song on the track list of her most recent album, and it's...I can't name it...but it was my standout from the album.
Reed: Yeah. That's maybe the song I'm proudest of. Also, I wrote that song with her right around when I was getting married myself. We actually had some friends of mine perform it at my own wedding. I'm just very attached to it. I feel like songs that have that timeless feeling will always keep their moment. I don't have any ill feelings about it. I know that song will still find its place.
What do you have coming up in terms of songwriting and/or production that we may be hearing soon?
Reed: The only one that you really need to know about now is called The Wrong Man. It's a concept album written and performed by my friend, songwriter Ross Golan in the show called “And the Writer Is...", a podcast. He wrote a concept album about a man being wrongly framed, and charged with murder.
I produced the album, but an off-Broadway show directed by Tommy Kale, the director of Hamilton and the music director Alex Lacamoire also from Hamilton. The off-Broadway show is premiering this fall, and an animated film premiered just this weekend at Tribeca Film Festival. That is one of the craziest pieces of music I've ever been remotely close to. It took a couple years to make as a labor of love. I think it's going to be something really special.
Amazing. I've been following your career since Wallpaper. I still play "#STUPiDFACEDD" and still play "Fucking Best Song Everrr" all the time.
Reed: That's awesome.
Gym playlist for sure. Do you have any interest in going that artist route again?
Reed: Oh yeah. I have had a pretty eventful last couple of years, personally. Me and my wife got married three years ago. We had our first kid one year ago. We had twins two weeks ago.
Oh my god, congrats!
Reed: Thank you. I've experienced a lot of life in the last handful of years. I'm still processing it, but have a lot of music that I need to get out into the world. It's starting to fill up on hard drives. I would say not even just one project for me as an artist, but potentially two or even three in the next year.
Oh wow. Amazing.
Reed: I'm coming.
Is there anybody left that you haven't worked with that you would love to write a song for or produce for?
Reed: Man. I mean, there's some of the icons of course, like Beyoncé and Adele. There's a lot of up-and-coming artists that I love, and would love to work with. I feel like I need to pull out my phone. I've been following a lot of really amazing new bands.
Let me see here. There's an artist named Westerman. If you haven't heard him, you should check him out. I would love to work with him. There's one artist I really wanted to work with, and I ended up signing him. We're actually putting out his music as we speak. A young new artist named John Robert. He was one that I was wanted to...and then just ended up signing him. Sometimes that's what you’ve got to do.
The truth at this point, I'm just trying to get around to finishing all my projects with my homies. Teddy Geiger, Harris Martin, Nate Mercereau. There's a lot of things that are just trying to get wrapped up so the world can hear them.
At this point, I imagine the offers come to you. How do you decide what you'll take on, what you don't have time for, how do you chose?
Reed: It's pretty straight forward, honestly. It's if I get the feeling in my gut or not. I will say that, I enjoy meeting people so much, and I'm just a lover of people of all kinds. I told my manager, I was like, "Dude you gotta stop telling me, 'Just meet them, just have a coffee,' because every time it happens I agree to do people's albums!” I don't have enough time to do an album for everybody I meet for a coffee.
Frankly, that's my problem. I love meeting new people. I love working with new people. As it is right now, I have three children to raise, and a label to run, and so I'm trying to be a little more selective and make my life not completely insane.
Which I imagine it is, but I get that.
Reed: A little bit.
Photo Credit: Ricky Reed