Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More Envelopes, Please

Even though the Grammy Awards won't be handed out again until next February, we're looking back this week at the peculiar spectacle that is the Best New Artist award. (Click here for part 1.)

1978: The winner: Taste of Honey. The losers: the Cars, Elvis Costello, Chris Rea, Toto. Until the Milli Vanilli fiasco of 1989, this was the most laughable miss in Best New Artist history. "Boogie Oogie Oogie," my foot.

1979: The winner: Rickie Lee Jones. The losers: the Blues Brothers, the Knack, Dire Straits, Robin Williams. This provides evidence for a contention I've made previously, that 1979 was one of classic rock's greatest years--all but Williams were getting significant AOR airplay that year, and have endured, more or less, in the classic rock era. (Did you remember that Robin Williams made a record? It won the Best Comedy Album Grammy.)

1986: The winner: Bruce Hornsby and the Range. The losers: Simply Red, Nu Shooz, Glass Tiger, Timbuk 3. At least the lone hits by Glass Tiger ("Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone") and Timbuk 3 ("The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades") were tolerable: "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz is one of the worst records of the 1980s. And Simply Red has had a better career than all of them put together.

1990: The winner: Mariah Carey. Among the losers: Black Crowes, Wilson Phillips. Regardless of how you feel about Carey's diva antics or dull records, she's had a longer and more successful career than almost everyone else who's won this award since 1959. How the voters resisted picking Wilson Phillips, given the girls' Beach Boys/Mamas and the Papas pedigree, I have no idea.

1994: The winner: Sheryl Crow. Among the losers: Green Day, Counting Crows. Another decent pick, it seems, but how good, we won't know for a long time.

1995: The winner: Hootie and the Blowfish. Among the losers: Shania Twain, Alanis Morrisette. This was an easy pick back then--remember how massive a pop-culture phenomenon they were? So massive, in fact, that the albums following their 14-million-selling debut album, both of which sold multi-millions, were perceived as failures, and the band is perceived now as a 90s relic on a par with Beanie Babies and the Psychic Friends Network.

Among the others who were nominated for Best New Artist but lost over the years: Jefferson Airplane, Cream, the Byrds, Elton John, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Foreigner, and Bad Company. (And Susan Tedeschi, who lost to Christina Aguilera in 1999.) What does all this prove? Nothin', except that giving an artist a Grammy Award (no matter what the category, but especially with Best New Artist) isn't the same thing as making them a star.


At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was in 1987 that Jody Watley won the Best New Artist Grammy, which isn't all that interesting except for the fact that she was originally a member of Shalamar, who'd been charting hits since the late 1970s. Kinda makes you wonder what the voters' definition of "new" is... Dave P.


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