Year: 1996
Lost to: Alanis Morrisette, Jagged Little Pill
Other nominees: Michael Jackson, HIStory: Past Present and Future, Book I; Joan Osborne, Relish; Pearl Jam, Vitalogy

Mariah Carey had already established herself as a powerful pop force—with a voice that set new vocal standards that remain largely unreachable to this day—by the release of Daydream in 1995. But the album, her fifth, took the singer to another level of pop dominance as she moved closer toward hip-hop-influenced sounds. The lead single, “Fantasy,” became the first by a female musician to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, and “One Sweet Day,” in collaboration with Boyz II Men, remains the longest-running No. 1 song in history, having spent 16 weeks at the top mark. It was, and still is, Carey’s highest-selling album of her career—not only that, it remains one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. Carey was poised to dominate the 1996 Grammys, but despite her six nominations (including Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Album of the Year), she was shut out completely in a controversial upset. Album of the Year went to Alanis Morissette’s grunge-pop breakthrough, Jagged Little Pill. (It’s likely that the unexpected defeat was like rain on Mariah’s wedding day.)