The Best New Artist award at the Grammys is kind of a sham when you think about it. With a few exceptions, the artists who win the award aren’t nominated for anything else that year; it’s a way for Grammy to pat them on the head and say, “Good effort this year, kid. The future looks bright for you. See you soon.”
Years Grammy Got It Wrong
In 1977, the Starland Vocal Band won the award based solely on the success of their naughty single “Afternoon Delight” (wink, wink). Their follow-up album didn’t even crack the Top 100; four years later, they had broken up. Among the nominees that year was Boston, who would release six studio albums and have four Top 10 hits.
Debby Boone, daughter of crooner 1950s crooner Pat Boone, won the 1978 award due to her smash hit “You Light Up My Life.” She was a true one-hit wonder, with no single cracking the Hot 100 after her initial success. She hit the country charts a few times before turning to gospel music, where she surprisingly won two more Grammys. Who did she beat out for Best New Artist? Foreigner, who released nine studio albums and had nine Top 10 hits.
After two embarrassing years, you’d think Grammy could throw a dart at the nominee list and do better. But in 1979, they messed up big time, giving it to A Taste of Honey for their disco hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” The group had one more top 5 hit in 1981 but disappeared from the public eye. They beat out The Cars, Elvis Costello and Toto for the award. Two of those artists are in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. (Sorry, Toto.) A Taste of Honey is not.
In 1983, Men at Work beat out Asia, Jennifer Holliday, the Human League and the Stray Cats in one of the most competitive contests in the award’s history. Men at Work released only two more albums before disappearing from the spotlight. Their last album barely cracked the Top 50.
Years Grammy Declared It a Wash
- 1971 – The Carpenters won and released several great albums and singles throughout the 1970s. But they won over Elton John? No way.
- 1973 – The group America won and had a decent career, but took the award from the Eagles, who are world famous despite my objections.
- 1975 – Composer Marvin Hamlisch won a lackluster competition over Bad Company, Johnny Bristol, David Essex, Graham Central Station and Phoebe Snow. Yeah, I know. Who?
- 2012 – Bon Iver howled their way to the award, beating another ho-hum list of nominees including The Band Perry, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Skrillex. The least offensive artist won.
Years Grammy Got It Right
- 1986 – Sade. Regardless of whether you think Sade is a singer or a band, the artist has sold 75 million albums worldwide.
- 1991 – Mariah Carey. In her 30-year career, Carey has sold more than 200 million records worldwide and is one of the best-selling artists of all time. She has 19 No. 1 songs – the most by any solo artist – and has won five Grammy Awards.
- 1995 – Sheryl Crow won a competitive contest over such notables as Counting Crows and Green Day. But she lived up to the hype, recording 11 studio albums that have sold 50 million albums worldwide, releasing 45 singles, and winning nine Grammy Awards.
- 2002 – Alicia Keys. Keys’ Best New Artist award was the first of 15 Grammy Awards. She has sold more than 50 million albums and 40 million singles worldwide.
- 2009 – Adele. Adele was one of the rare winners who won a second Grammy the same year – for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She has sold more than 120 million records and won 15 Grammys.