Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #31: Best New Artist Grammy Winners

Thirteen Performers Who Won the Grammy Award For Best New Artist

Since CBS will air the 50th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday February 10th, I decided to devote this week's Thursday Thirteen to one of the Recording Academy's most prestigious awards... The Best New Artist Grammy. According to, the award is given to a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.

Because some of the winners faded quickly into obscurity after winning, the award is sometimes considered "the kiss of death". To be fair, there have been just as many victors with long careers (Tom Jones, Carly Simon and Mariah Carey, for example) as there have been those who ended up on the side of a milk carton in the show biz section of the grocery store (Starland Vocal Band, Marc Cohn, Paula Cole, etc.). The award has also seen its share of controversy due to the nominating process used over the years (seemingly ineligble performers are allowed to compete, while others are left off the ballot).

Below are 13 winners over the years in chronological order. The year for which they won is in parentheses.

1. Bobby Darin (1959)- Darin, whose hits included "Splish Splash", "Mack the Knife", and "Dream Lover", holds the distinction of being the first recipient of the Best New Artist Grammy. His competition was fairly weak; the only recognizable nominee besides Darin was Edd "Kookie" Byrnes (star of "77 Sunset Strip" who had a hit with "Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb").

2. The Beatles (1964)- Without question, The Beatles had the best breakthrough year of any Best New Artist winner ever (five #1 singles and five #1 albums just to name two of their accomplishments in 1964). Had they lost, it would have gone down as one of the biggest gaffes in Grammy history.

3. Bobbie Gentry (1967)- Ms. Gentry (best known for "Ode To Billie Joe") was the first female soloist to win the award. Her competition that year included The 5th Dimension, Harpers Bizarre, and Jefferson Airplane. Although Gentry faded from the limelight, she did so on her own terms: she retired from show business after a Christmas 1978 appearance on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson".

4. The Carpenters (1970)- Although Karen and Richard had a successful career, there are some who feel that they shouldn't have won that year. Melba Moore, Anne Murray, and The Partridge Family (wtf?) were also up for the award the year The Carpenters took home the trophy. Oh yeah, there was another nominee... some bespectacled dude named Elton John.

5. Natalie Cole (1975)- The daughter of Nat was the first African American to win the trophy. Besides Ms. Cole, the only notable nominee for Best New Artist that year was K.C. & the Sunshine Band.

6. Christopher Cross (1980)- To this day, Cross is the only performer to personally win the "Big Four" Grammy Awards (Best Record, Song, Album, and New Artist) in the same year. Although Norah Jones' debut album and the song "Don't Know Why" won the same four trophies in 2003, she didn't personally win Song of the Year because it's a songwriter's award.

7. Culture Club (1983)- The Karma Chameleon guys took down fellow nominees Big Country, Eurythmics, Men Without Hats, and Musical Youth to walk away with the Best New Artist Grammy. During his acceptance speech, lead singer Boy George tossed a kiss to the camera and said, "Thank you, America. You've got good taste, style and you know a good drag queen when you see one!"

8. Sade- Although Sade was worthy of the award, there was another singer who likely would have won if she had been allowed to compete: Whitney Houston. Due to a technicality (an artist is not eligible if he or she had a previous label or album credit), Ms. Houston was barred from competing. Before her debut release, she made minor contributions to albums by Jermaine Jackson and Teddy Pendergrass.

9. Milli Vanilli (1989)- Due to the revelation that members Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan didn't sing on their debut, this was the only time in Grammy history that an award was revoked. When you stop to consider that Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, and Indigo Girls were among the Best New Artist nominees, Milli Vanilli still had no business winning even if the vocals on the album did belong to them. The Grammy voters made sure that they didn't repeat this embarrassment when they named Mariah Carey Best New Artist in 1990.

10. Toni Braxton (1993)- Ms. Braxton won the award over Belly, Blind Melon, Digable Planets, and SWV (Sisters With Voices). She also took home the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (Another Sad Love Song) that year.

11. Hootie and the Blowfish (1995)- One of pjazzy's personal favorites (just kidding), Hootie and the Blowfish were the only males nominated that year (they defeated Brandy, Alanis Morissette, Joan Osborne, and Shania Twain). The ladies of the music world took revenge because after the Hootie victory, female soloists went on to win the Best New Artist Grammy 7 years in a row (1996-2002).

12. Shelby Lynne (2000)- Ms. Lynne's victory was a head scratcher for many (including me), because she had been recording and releasing records for over 10 years before winning the award! Somewhere, Whitney Houston (see #8 above) was likely stewing. The other nominees for 2000 were Jill Scott, Papa Roach, Brad Paisley, and Sisqo.

13. John Legend (2005)- Along with the Best New Artist Award, Legend also took home trophies for Best R&B Album (Get Lifted) and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance (Ordinary People). Ciara, Sugarland, Keane, and Fall Out Boy were the other nominees for the Best New Artist award that year.

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Nicholas said...

It would indeed have been ridiculous if The Beatles had not won!

Ode To Billie Joe has become an iconic song of its time. They even made a movie based on it (very forgettable!)

Sandee said...

Know all of them except the last two. Never heard of them. See what happens when you quit watching television or turning on the radio? Great list and information. Have a great TT. :)

SandyCarlson said...

I stop knowing who anybody is at No. 8. Bobby Darin is the man! What a talent he was.

Unknown said...

Hey, great list and gr8 blog! No wonder you know who Victoria Rowell is! I'm gonna have to come back...Happy TT!

pjazzypar said...

AWESOME! How did you know I couldn't fool with Hootie and his blowfish? Starland Vocal Band was the group for real. I loved "Afternoon Delight". It was sort of unfair for Whitney because she really was a new artist, studio work notwithstanding, I actually think she would have taken out Sade, although I love Sade. This one took me back to childhood. I was watching when The Beatles shook up the world that night on Ed Sullivan. Great TT!

The Gal Herself said...

I love Bobby Darin. He's still sooo cool. Paul McCartney is nominated again this year for best Pop Mail Vocal, which I think is unutterably neat. Great list, Malcolm, and thanks for visiting my TT.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Elton who?

No, seriously... the choices are interesting ones, aren't they? All awards are, but the Grammys, especially so. (Jethro Tull, anyone?)

Sharon said...

Milli Vanilli! I liked them. But hey, I was not even 10 years old. lol
I love Natalie Cole. I think she's quite talented.
Fun list for TT. Have a great day!

candyQ said...

I didn't know The Beatles won Best New Artist but the Grammy's certainly got that one right! And I love Christopher Cross... mush, mush!

Lori said...

Great list and who can forget Milli Vanilli?? I still love the Beatles!! Happy TT.

mister anchovy said...

I think Ode to Billie Joe is a fabulous song. Several people have covered it over the years, including Phranc, but I like Ms. Gentry's smokey soulful voice. In 2006, we saw Lucinda Williams perform at the Ryman in Nashville, and she did a fabulous cover of the song. After the show, we all said we thought she should record it.

Malcolm said...

Nicholas: The Beatles' Best New Artist Grammy win in 1964 was one of the first times that the voters acknowledged rock and roll. I think the Beatles were so huge that it was impossible for Grammy voters to ignore them.

Sandee: I know how easy it is to fall out of the loop. Since I rarely listen to current music on the radio, I am sometimes lost when it comes to some of the artists of the last few years.

Sandy: Bobby Darin could do it all... sing, dance, act, play music, etc. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend the 1962 drama "Pressure Point" which also starred Sidney Poitier.

Chuck: Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to your next visit.

Pjazzy: Back when Hootie and the Blowfish were hot, I remembered you saying how much you thought they sucked, lol. You even imitated lead singer Darius Rucker by singing part of their song "Let Her Cry".

"Afternoon Delight" is a guilty pleasure of mine. I would be interested to hear other songs by them because that's the only one I know.

The Gal Herself: I heard a couple of tracks from Sir Paul's latest CD "Memory Almost Full". I liked both of them, esp. "My Ever Present Past".

Susan: I remember the Jethro Tull controversy. The first and last time that anyone ever referred to them as "heavy metal".

Sharon: Since you weren't in double digits age-wise, we'll let the Milli Vanilli thing slide, lol. I agree with you on Natalie Cole. I was glad when she finally was able to put her demons to rest.

Candy: Christopher Cross... another artist who's in my "Guilty Pleasure Hall of Fame". "Sailing", "Ride Like the Wind", and "Arthur's Theme" are some of my faves by him.

Lori: As much as some people would like to (esp. the Grammy voters), Milli Vanilli will never be forgotten. I had heard that there is supposed to be a movie about them in the works... should be interesting.

Mister Anchovy: I really like the feel of "Ode To Billie Joe". I have never heard any other versions besides the one by Bobbie Gentry, but I can imagine that Lucinda did a helluva job on it.

Natalie said...

I love numbers 1, 2 & 13! Have a great day!

Robin said...

I admit that my musical tastes run to "older than dirt", but I could listen to all of the first 7 over and over again.

And Ode to Billie Jo? That one was stuck in my head long before I understood what it was about.

Xakara said...

What ever happened to Sade?

Rasmenia said...

As I was reading through this list, I suddenly realized that Hootie & his Blowfish seem to have disappeared.

Whatever happened to them? Did they grab hold of that award & immediately after take a flying leap off of the face of the Earth?

Holly Smith said...

OK. I have the Milli Vanilli tape, and I like whoever it is that is singing on Blame It On the Rain and Girl You Know It's True....I have no shame in it, being that I've already made more embarrassing admissions before...

I thought all of the ones you listed were deserving, but who the heck is Shelby Lynne? I've never heard of her. I'm a huge Brad Paisley fan, so I think he should have won that year. Also, I never noticed that after Hootie seven women won in a row. That's pretty cool!

Holly Smith said...

Also, I just noticed that we have "Ride Like the Wind" on the ipod. Chris likes to sneak "his music" on it when he can...LOL

Amy said...

I don't think any could out sing Karen Carpenter. Her voice definitely soothes my soul lol. Some of those newer ones I've never heard of (Shelby Lynne?) but I think that's because I don't listen to much mainstream music anymore. Great list and thanks for stopping by!

Joyismygoal said...

Fun list ,some good memories there

Noner said...

I've heard of most of them except the newest ones. None of them have ever ranked as my favorite music though. Not even the Beatles.

Thanks for stopping by my TT.

oneluvgurl said...

Any list with such great singers is wonderful! Best list I have seen so far!

Happy TT! :)

Open Grove Claudia said...

I've been listening to a lot of R&B lately - Pandora, you know, takes you unknown places. I was just listening to Toni Braxton wondering about her. It's fun to see Karen Carpenter's smiling face - the culture club - and of course, those hotties from Millie Vanillie - poor guys.

Boy - talk about the kiss of death...

Happy TT!

Bloggers said...

Great list!!
mine is up on

Unknown said...

I hardly ever watch the Grammys but this is still a great list. I would have been surprised if the Beatles never got it.

And Milli Vanilli?!?!?!? My good lip syncing or not who would choose them?! lol

Well Happy TT. And thanks for stopping by

Michelle said...

Great list! Thanks for dropping by. About the song Kelly, it's my sister's name so I searched for a song by that name. Boy was I surprised to find it. And a video to boot!! Woot woot! Happy tt!

Dane Bramage said...

On the whole Sade/Whitney thing. I bought albums by both of them for different musical tastes. I would have voted for Sade. "Your Love IS King" is indelibly etched into my brain. Right next to the cell cluster containing "Smoothe Operator". Whitney didn't suffer for her lack of Grammy though.

Thanks for visiting my T13 #66 13 Movie Titles that are Song Titles too.

Unknown said...

John Legend is fantastic. Great TT.


SJ Reidhead said...

Bobby D's Mack the Knife is one of my favorites.

the Pink Flamingo

Rebecca said...

Hehe, you said Hootie! :P Oops, sorry... but um, seriously - Rockin' With Frigga is up! :D

Happy TT :-)

Michelle B said...

I love music! What a great tribute to Grammy winners of the past:) Happy TT (a little late).

Calliope said...

Yay! A Timely Grammy Education. Now I'm set to raise an eyebrow at this year's winner. Thanks for stopping by my TT.


Malcolm said...

Natalie: One of the things I love about The Beatles is that they never allowed themselves to get pigeonholed. Just on "The White Album" alone they tackled blues, music hall, straight up rock and roll, etc.

Robin: If by "older than dirt" you mean music from the 50s through the 80s, I am in that category as well. If anyone ever questions why I listen to it, I always tell them that good music never goes out of style.

Xakara: That's a good question about Sade. I went to her website and found that it doesn't have any updated info. Her last album was recorded back in 2002.

Rasmenia: Hootie and the Blowfish are still recording and touring, although on a much smaller scale than their heyday. The last time I saw the lead singer (Darius Rucker) was when he appeared as a singing cowboy on a Burger King commercial a few years ago. When I saw that spot, I was like, "What the hell?"

Holly: One thing I like about you is that you aren't afraid to come out of the musical closet and admit to liking music that will cause most people to turn up their nose. Although I didn't buy the Milli Vanilli album, I will admit that some of those tunes were catchy. "Blame It On the Rain" and "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" are two that come to mind.

Back when Shelby Lynne won the Best New Artist Grammy in 2001, I was trying to remember where I had heard her name. Considering that she had been recording since 1989, who knows where I heard her name.

Now I've got "Ride Like the Wind" in my head... and that's not a bad thing.

Christopher Cross- And I got such a long way to go

Michael McDonald- Such a long way to go

See what you've started Holly, lol.

Praisefiddler: Over the past few years, I have really grown to appreciate Karen Carpenter's singing voice. My favorite song by The Carpenters is "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft". Do you remember that one?

Noner: It's not surprising that some of the Best New Artist winners don't coincide with the tastes of the general public. It boggles my mind when I think of some of the popular artists who were never even nominated for Best New Artist.

Oneluvgurl: I am glad you enjoyed this TT. I will try to return the favor this weekend.

Open Grove: One of my co-workers turned me on to Pandora a couple of years ago. That pic of Karen Carpenter with the silly expression on her face is my favorite one of her.

Danni: To this day, there are many (including me) who won't let the Grammy voters live down the Milli Vanilli incident. The year that they won, they either lip-synched on the Grammy telecast or they didn't perform at all which raised my eyebrows.

Michelle: Thanks for explaining the inclusion of the Del Shannon tune "Kelly" on your TT this week. Here is another song with the name Kelly that you might enjoy:

Dane Bramage: I also preferred Sade over Whitney. I can't think of any Sade tune that I don't like; my favorite one is "Hang On To Your Love".

Ed: I give John Legend a lot of credit for being confident enough to change his last name to Legend. It helps that he has the talent to back it up.

SJ: Bobby's version of "Mack the Knife" is a song that I can listen to over and over. I remember Dick Clark telling the story of how he tried to talk Bobby out of releasing "Mack the Knife" as a single because he thought it would kill Bobby's career. Of course, it only turned out to be the biggest hit Bobby ever had.

Frigga: Thanks for letting me know about Rockin' with Frigga.

Michelle B: I am glad that you enjoyed my Grammy TT. Thanks for stopping by.

CelticAngel: I think that this year's race for Best New Artist will be a tight one between Amy Winehouse and Feist. I have a feeling that Amy will prevail though. At any rate, I will be watching on Sunday night.

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