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20 Strangest Best New Artist Grammy Wins

A short history of the Grammys' most bizarre honor
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WTF BNA

Congratulations, young pop star! You have just won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist! Get ready for a long and fruitful career. Perhaps in the field of VCR repair or rotary-phone design. Maybe managing an Internet café? Let's face it, this Grammy goes to a lot of artists who never get heard from again, so don't worry too hard about Lorde. It's the notorious Curse of the Best New Artist. Winning the award can be a sign of impending doom — it's like the scene in a Mel Brooks movie where somebody says, "At least it's not raining."

But that's why Best New Artist is everybody's favorite Grammy category — it's the one with the most bizarro picks. Some years they give it to the Beatles, Mariah Carey or Adele. Other years it's the Starland Vocal Band, A Taste of Honey or Evanescence. And once it was Milli Vanilli. Nobody can predict these things. When Lily Tomlin presented the statue for Best New Artist of 1982, she said, "This award is not just for the new star of today, but for someone who just possibly may be a star for years to come." Then she gave it to Men at Work. That's how it goes when you bet on the rookies. Sometimes they score wildly successful debuts, then suddenly find themselves up the hootie without a blowfish.

So here's a salute to 20 awesomely weird BNA wins. (The pre-Beatle years don't count, unless you really want to argue about how Ann-Margret got robbed in 1962.) Some of these were surprise upsets. Others were total one-shot scams. And one was Milli Vanilli. But practically all of them gave the world a half-decent song or two, which is all you can ask of a pop star. Better one glorious moment than a career of mediocrity — that's what Best New Artist is all about. By Rob Sheffield

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