Ranking the Best New Artist Grammy Winners from Most to Least Accurate


(Getty Images)Contrary to popular mythology, there is no Best New Artist Grammy curse that dooms past winners to one-hit wonder obscurity. Sure, a couple of winners (and a huge chunk of the nominees) have fallen off the map completely, but many of the artists who've nabbed the trophy have gone on to become living legends.

Here's our very opinionated take on the Best New Artists of the past 30 years, ranked from best to worst.


1. Mariah Carey, 1991


Mariah Carey's big wins at the 1991 Grammys (for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Vision of Love") helped to make her critically lauded debut album an international blockbuster. She's since sold over 200 million albums, and is regarded as one of the best singers of all time.


(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: The Black Crowes, The Kentucky Headhunters, Wilson Phillips, Lisa Stansfield

2. Adele, 2009


Adele might not have won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2009 had Lady Gaga not been ineligible on a technicality, but she's certainly lived up to the title. Her sophomore album 21 destroyed all competition critically and commercially in 2011, earning the British singer-songwriter immediate icon status.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Duffy, Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum, Jazmine Sullivan

3. Amy Winehouse, 2008


Amy Winehouse
was unable to attend the 2008 Grammy Awards due to visa issues, but it was her night: The singer performed two songs and accepted five awards via satellite. After Winehouse's death in 2011, Adele stated the late singer had "paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again."
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Feist, Ledisi, Paramore, Taylor Swift

4. Cyndi Lauper, 1985


So what if she hasn't had a radio hit since the first Bush presidency: Cyndi Lauper is an icon. She brought New Wave to the masses in a sparkly, sugary, and decidedly feminist package in the early '80s, helping to define the first generation of MTV-bred superstars and charting a path for delightfully unusual female artists.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Sheila E., Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Corey Hart, The Judds

5. Lauryn Hill, 1999

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a complete triumph, becoming the first hip-hop oriented album to win a Grammy for Album of the year. Unfortunately, Lauryn Hill wasn't prepared to deal with the trappings of international fame, and willingly retreated from the public eye for several years. She has yet to release a follow-up.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Backstreet Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Dixie Chicks, Natalie Imbruglia

6. Sheryl Crow, 1995


Sheryl Crow's Best New Artist win was bittersweet, as it arrived amid arguments over who wrote the bulk of her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club. A former backup singer for Michael Jackson, Crow has since established — many times over — that she can write a hit all on her lonesome.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Ace of Base, Counting Crows, Crash Test Dummies, Green Day

7. Christina Aguilera, 2000


Christina Aguilera was "in utter and complete shock" after her first big win, but she shouldn't have been. The woman is often credited with having the best voice of her generation, though her former Mickey Mouse Club co-star and fellow Best New Artist nominee Britney Spears has sold more records.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Macy Gray, Britney Spears, Kid Rock, Susan Tedeschi

8. Sade, 1986

Sade's mark on the music world has been understated but lasting, much like the band's music. The English four-piece brought elements of R&B and jazz to the mainstream adult contemporary world. There's also the number of children that were concieved as a direct result of Sade's music to be considered, as well.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: a-ha, Freddie Jackson, Katrina and the Waves, Julian Lennon

9. Alicia Keys, 2002

All five of Alicia Keys' studio albums have debuted at the top spot in the charts, reflecting one of the most consistent careers in the music industry. It's doubly impressive when one considers that Keys, an accomplished songwriter and producer, calls her own shots. When she sings about being on fire, it's barely hyperbole.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: India.Arie, Nelly Furtado, Linkin Park, David Gray

10. Bon Iver, 2012

The Internet might not have known what to make of Bon Iver's surprise win (the hilarious misnomer "Bonny Bear" trended on Twitter), but that doesn't mean Justin Vernon's indie folk project wasn't wholly deserving. Honest and earnest songwriting has to win sometime. Deal with it, Nicki Minaj fans.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: The Band Perry, J. Cole, Skrillex, Nicki Minaj

11. Norah Jones, 2003

Jones snapped up so many awards at the 45th Grammys, she had trouble juggling them in the press room. It surprised no one: the singer's dreamy debut Come Away With Me delighted everyone and their mothers. Jones' 2004 follow-up, Feels Like Home, sold over 1.3 million copies in its first week on the charts.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Michelle Branch, John Mayer, Avril Lavigne, Ashanti,

12. Carrie Underwood, 2007

Carrie Underwood, the only American Idol alum to win Best New Artist, is country music's reigning queen now that Taylor Swift's gone full pop. She's also an animal rights crusader and one of the only country stars to speak out in favor of gay marriage. If you dislike her, you probably hate puppies, too.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Chris Brown, James Blunt, Corinne Bailey Rae, Imogen Heap

13. Culture Club, 1984

Culture Club fizzled out just two years after nabbing the Best New Artist trophy, as frontman Boy George battled a drug addiction and a troubled relationship with drummer Jon Moss. But the hits they produced during their too-brief peak remain timeless. Let's hope those rumors about new material in 2013 are true.

(via blogspot)Other nominees that year: Eurythmics, Men Without Hats, Big Country, Musical Youth

14. John Legend, 2006

Though John Legend is a nine-time Grammy winner and a multi-platinum selling artist, one gets the sense that he hasn't even hit his stride yet. The Ivy-educated performer has contributed to some of the best songs of the past decade (most recently, Kanye's "All of the Lights"), but he has yet to score a career-defining hit.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Fall Out Boy, Ciara, Keane, Sugarland

15. Tracy Chapman, 1989

Tracy Chapman's eponymous debut album was a stunning success when it dropped in 1988, bringing political consciousness to the pop arena with its stories of struggle and loss. Unfortunately, many of her albums since then have gone relatively unnoticed, with the exception of her 1995 mega-hit New Beginning.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Vanessa L. Williams, Take 6, Rick Astley, Toni Childs

16. Toni Braxton, 1994

Mary J. Blige may have been the queen of R&B in the '90s, but it was Toni Braxton who dominated the pop airwaves with hit single after hit single. The singer won over adult contemporary fans with her dramatic ballads and appealed to younger audiences with her saucy sex appeal.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Blind Melon, SWV, Digable Planets, Belly

17. Arrested Development, 1993

Precious few hip-hop acts have been recognized in the Best New Artist category, so it was a big deal when the politically conscious collective Arrested Development triumphed. But the group suffered serious sophomore slump, disbanded in 1996, and only generated headlines in the aughts for suing the Fox network. Sigh.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Sophie B. Hawkins, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kris Kross, Jon Secada

18. Zac Brown Band, 2010

Zac Brown Band has charted nine number one country singles in the past couple of years, but ask anyone who doesn't listen to country who they are and you'll likely get the blankest of stares. The band didn't need a crossover hit to score the top spot on the Billboard 200 with their most recent album, Uncaged.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Keri Hilson, Silversun Pickups, MGMT, The Ting Tings


19. Jody Watley, 1988

Ex-Soul Train dancer Jody Watley was the epitome of cool in the late '80s, an MTV superstar who was as famous for her image as she was her music. Often credited as the first pop singer to feature a rapper on a specialized bridge, Watley saw significantly less airplay in the '90s, although she continues to make music.
(via Tumblr)Other nominees that year: Terence Trent D'Arby, Breakfast Club, Cutting Crew, Swing Out Sister

20. Maroon 5, 2005

While Maroon 5 has exhibited impressive staying power of late, the 2005 award really should have gone to Kanye West. If anything, it might have prevented the rapper from future awards show meltdowns, like that time he crashed the stage at the MTV EMAs and rambled about how his video cost a million dollars.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Kanye West, Los Lonely Boys, Joss Stone, Gretchen Wilson

21. Bruce Hornsby and the Range, 1987

The only Bruce Hornsby song most people remember is "The Way It Is," and many only recognize it as that song Tupac sampled in his song "Changes." Hornsby, whose artistry shines most in live performance, is still far more memorable than nominee Nu Shooz, however.

(via NPR)Other nominees that year: Glass Tiger, Simply Red, Timbuk3, Nu Shooz

22. Hootie and the Blowfish, 1996

There was no band bigger than Hootie and the Blowfish in the mid-'90s, perhaps because they were so wholly inoffensive. But it should have gone to Alanis Morisette, whose album Jagged Little Pill opened doors for women in rock. She settled for Album of the Year.


Other nominees that year: Brandy, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Joan Osbourne

23. Shelby Lynne, 2001

Among the reasons that Shelby Lynne is awesome is the fact that she showed up at the Grammys in a disco crop top. And hey, she wasn't Sisqó. But it seemed a little strange that someone who'd been releasing major-label records for 10 years was being lauded as something "new."


(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Sisqó, Brad Paisley, Jill Scott, Papa Roach

24. Esperanza Spalding, 2011

No one really knew who Esperanza Spalding was when she won her Best New Artist trophy two years ago. Now, she's best known as that woman who had her Wikipedia page hacked by angry Justin Bieber fans. While her talent is undeniable, so is the fact that she's a niche artist.


(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Justin Bieber, Florence + The Machine, Drake, Mumford & Sons

25. Men at Work, 1983

Men at Work has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, and somehow managed to make the rock flute happen. Unfortunately, constant touring took its toll on the band after the breakout success of their 1982 album Cargo, and by the time they released a follow-up, only two original band members remained.

(Columbia Records)Other nominees that year: Asia, The Human League, Stray Cats, Jennifer Holliday

26. LeAnn Rimes, 1997

LeAnn Rimes blew the country music world away with her cover of the Patsy Cline classic "Blue" in 1996, and soundtracked every middle school dance the following year with "How Do I Live."  But no one's been paying any attention to her music in recent years, as she's become more famous for her tumultuous personal life.
(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: No Doubt, Jewel, Garbage, The Tony Rich Project

27. Marc Cohn, 1992

Marc Cohn's breakthrough hit "Walking in Memphis" is every Nashville karaoke singer's go-to tune, but the Ohio-bred folk rocker hasn't charted a single in about twenty years.




(Atlantic)Other nominees that year: Color Me Badd, C+C Music Factory, Boyz II Men, Seal

28. Paula Cole, 1998

Lilith Fair staple Paula Cole seemed to have vanished along with all the cowboys after the commercial disappointment of her 1999 follow-up to her breakthrough album This Fire. In 2007, however, she reemerged as an independent artist, and is planning to release a Kickstarter-funded album later this year.

(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu, Hanson, Puff Daddy

29. Evanescence, 2004

At some point, the rap rock/nu metal explosion of the early aughts softened, and gothish melodrama found a home on the airwaves. While Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee certainly has admirable pipes, the band can't be forgiven for having anything to do with Daredevil. Sorry.


(Getty Images)Other nominees that year: 50 Cent, Fountains of Wayne, Heather Headley, Sean Paul

30. Milli Vanilli, 1990

Milli Vanilli shouldn't even be on this list, as the duo was stripped of its Grammy once it emerged that Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan hadn't performed any of the vocals on the album. But the fact that these two won in the first place is a great reminder that these awards, however prestigious, are completely subjective.
(Arista)Other nominees that year: Tone Loc, Indigo Girls, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul
I'm the former Zimbio Music Editor. Into music, cats, karaoke, and shiny things. Follow me: Google
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