Saturday, February 11, 2012

And the Best New Artist Is…Huh?

The Grammys have long been mocked as “the granny” awards for being out of touch with popular music. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the Best New Artist Award. Dave’s Music Database analyzed the nominees and winners from each year and rated them based on chart history, sales, airplay, other awards, and status on best-of lists. The results were astonishing.

Here’s a list of acts ranked in the top 100 of all time by the DMDB who were not even nominated for the coveted mantelpiece dust-collector: AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Garth Brooks, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Neil Diamond, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Madonna, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Nirvana, Dolly Parton, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Pink Floyd, Prince, Queen, R.E.M., Kenny Rogers, Smokey Robinson, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, The Temptations, U2, The Who, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Young.

The Rolling Stones: We’re not worthy – so said the Grammys

In fact, when the DMDB determined the top-rated act of each year, only 14 acts were nominated for Best New Artist. That means the other 37 years were represented by acts other than those listed above.

While it could be argued that some of these were solo artists who’d formerly been with groups and therefore weren’t technically new artists, the Grammy for Best New Artist has gone to acts like Jody Watley and Lauryn Hill, who’d first been part of the respective groups Shalamar and the Fugees.

Also, it could be argued that some of the acts above didn’t really make a strong showing the first year they would have hit the public scene. Considering the Grammys odd sense of “new”, this one doesn’t wash either. This year’s Bon Iver shouldn’t even be eligible considering the 2008 release of For Emma, Forever Ago. Similarly, Esperanza Spalding hardly represents the class of 2011 since her debut album came out in 2006.

Bon Iver: one of this year’s nominees for Best New Artist. First album came out in…2008?

Even when just those acts who were actually nominated are evaluated, the Grammys have a startling bad record of picking the act that has gone on to have the most influence or success. Based on the DMDB’s ratings, The Grammys only gave it to the top-rated nominee 12 out of 51 times. Certainly it isn’t fair to expect Grammy voters to gaze into a crystal ball and predict which artist will have the greatest impact on future music, but can’t we expect a better rate than this?

Here are the actual winners for each year followed by who the DMDB considered the top-rated nominee from that class. The third act is the one the DMDB says should have won. Those few cases when that act was even in the running are noted with an asterisk (*). Note: the year reflects when the award was given, but the act made its name in the year before (or earlier). This is also why you will see some acts show up in more than one year. Example: Green Day is the highest rated nominee in 1995, but based on their first release, should have actually been in the class of 1989.

The Beatles: one of the few cases when a deserving act was nominated and won

1959: Bobby Darin; highest rated nominee: Bobby Darin; should’ve won: Kenny Rogers
1960: no award; should’ve won: Isley Brothers
1961: Bob Newhart; highest rated nominee: Leontyne Price; should’ve won: Four Tops
1962: Peter Nero; highest rated nominee: The Lettermen; should’ve won: The Beatles *
1963: Robert Goulet; highest rated nominee: The Four Seasons; should’ve won: Stevie Wonder
1964: The Swingle Sisters; highest rated nominee: Vikki Carr; should’ve won: The Rolling Stones
1965: The Beatles; highest rated nominee: The Beatles; should’ve won: Rod Stewart
1966: Tom Jones; highest rated nominee: The Byrds; should’ve won: The Who
1967: no award; should’ve won: David Bowie
1968: Bobbie Gentry; highest rated nominee: Jefferson Airplane; should’ve won: Bee Gees
1969: Jose Felciano; highest rated nominee: Cream; should’ve won: Elton John *

1977 winner: Starland Vocal Band – because everyone knows they were far more influential than, say, Boston or the Sex Pistols

1970: Crosby, Stills & Nash; highest rated nominee: Led Zeppelin; should’ve won: Led Zeppelin *
1971: Carpenters; highest rated nominee: Elton John; should’ve won: Paul McCartney
1972: Carly Simon; highest rated nominee: Carly Simon; should’ve won: Michael Jackson
1973: America; highest rated nominee: Eagles; should’ve won: Eagles *
1974: Bette Midler; highest rated nominee: Barry White; should’ve won: Bruce Springsteen
1975: Marvin Hamlisch; highest rated nominee: Bad Company; should’ve won: AC/DC
1976: Natalie Cole; highest rated nominee: Natalie Cole; should’ve won: Tina Turner
1977: Starland Vocal Band; highest rated nominee: Boston; should’ve won: Sex Pistols
1978: Debby Boone; highest rated nominee: Foreigner; should’ve won: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
1979: A Taste of Honey; highest rated nominee: Elvis Costello; should’ve won: Prince

Rickie Lee Jones: what a savvy pick because, as we all know, fellow class of 1980 prospects Dire Straits and U2 went nowhere

1980: Rickie Lee Jones; highest rated nominee: Dire Straits; should’ve won: U2
1981: Christopher Cross; highest rated nominee: Pretenders; should’ve won: Stevie Ray Vaughan
1982: Sheena Easton; highest rated nominee: Luther Vandross; should’ve won: R.E.M.
1983: Men at Work; highest rated nominee: The Human League; should’ve won: Madonna
1984: Culture Club; highest rated nominee: Eurythmics; should’ve won: Metallica
1985: Cyndi Lauper; highest rated nominee: Cyndi Lauper; should’ve won: Whitney Houston
1986: Sade; highest rated nominee: Sade; should’ve won: LL Cool J
1987: Bruce Hornsby + the Range; highest rated nominee: Simply Red; should’ve won: Guns N’ Roses
1988: Jody Watley; highest rated nominee: Jody Watley; should’ve won: Public Enemy
1989: Tracy Chapman; highest rated nominee: Rick Astley; should’ve won: Green Day *

Yup. Milli Vanilli won a Best New Artist Grammy. Nirvana wasn’t even nominated.

1990: Milli Vanilli; highest rated nominee: Milli Vanilli; should’ve won: Nirvana
1991: Mariah Carey; highest rated nominee: Mariah Carey; should’ve won: Mariah Carey *
1992: Marc Cohn; highest rated nominee: Boyz II Men; should’ve won: Pearl Jam
1993: Arrested Development; highest rated nominee: Billy Ray Cyrus; should’ve won: Tupac Shakur
1994: Toni Braxton; highest rated nominee: Toni Braxton; should’ve won: R. Kelly
1995: Sheryl Crow; highest rated nominee: Green Day; should’ve won: Oasis
1996: Hootie & the Blowfish; highest rated nominee: Shania Twain; should’ve won: Backstreet Boys *
1997: LeAnn Rimes; highest rated nominee: LeAnn Rimes; should’ve won: Jay-Z
1998: Paula Cole; highest rated nominee: Puff Daddy; should’ve won: Andrea Bocelli *
1999: Lauryn Hill; highest rated nominee: Backstreet Boys; should’ve won: Britney Spears *

2001 Best New Artist Shelby Lynne. First Album? 1989. Wait, huh?

2000: Christina Aguilera; highest rated nominee: Britney Spears; should’ve won: Eminem
2001: Shelby Lynne; highest rated nominee: Brad Paisley; should’ve won: Pink
2002: Alicia Keys; highest rated nominee: Alicia Keys; should’ve won: Alicia Keys *
2003: Norah Jones; highest rated nominee: Avril Lavigne; should’ve won: Beyonce
2004: Evanescence; highest rated nominee: 50 Cent; should’ve won: Kanye West *
2005: Maroon 5; highest rated nominee: Kanye West; should’ve won: Akon
2006: John Legend; highest rated nominee: John Legend; should’ve won: Rihanna
2007: Carrie Underwood; highest rated nominee: Carrie Underwood; should’ve won: Taylor Swift *
2008: Amy Winehouse; highest rated nominee: Taylor Swift; should’ve won: Lady Antebellum *
2009: Adele; highest rated nominee: Adele; should’ve won: Lady Gaga

Once again, the Grammys are confused by the meaning of the word “new”. 2011 winner Esperanza Spalding released her debut album in 2006.

2010: Zac Brown Band; highest rated nominee: Zac Brown Band; should’ve won: Glee Cast
2011: Esperanza Spalding; highest rated nominee: Justin Bieber; should’ve won: Nicki Minaj *

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  1. Meh- they made some awful choices but really at time some of those acts were really on top of the game. Carly Simon was a beast on the charts and in the media, especially among women. Whereas MJ didn't really do much outside of The Jackson 5 until the Off The Wall blew up. And really he wasn't a new artists since he'd been performing with The Jackson 5 same for Paul McCartney...

    But generally the BNA has to make a big splash to get nominated and to win or be a REAL HUGE critical darling Esperanze Spalding (especially true for any genre that is not pop/rock i.e. white).

    1. Als Tina Turner was not new either in '76 just because she went solo I don't think that should really count as new in most cases. Same for Cher, she was not new.