Best new artist is one of the most coveted categories at the Grammy Awards.
Major stars like Adele, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and The Beatles have won in the past.
However, not-so-famous artists have also won, including Esperanza Spalding and Christopher Cross.
The category is also somewhat controversial. Qualifications have shifted over the years, but in general, artists don't actually need to be "new" in order to be nominated. They just need to be "new" to the mainstream.
These days, screening committees are tasked with evaluating whether artists "had attained a breakthrough or prominence prior to the eligibility year." In short, the award is meant to distinguish the artist who had the shiniest banner year - and has an even brighter future.
This hasn't always worked out as planned. While some best new artists have gone on to superstardom, there are just as many winners who have faded from the spotlight.
We rounded up 10 of the most famous best new artists in Grammys history, as well as 10 of the least famous.
(Note: We only considered artists who won 10 or more years ago. For those who won more recently, their fame is too fresh to gauge objectively. Each category is listed in chronological order below.)
Adele is one of the best-selling artists in history.
Year: 2009 at the 51st annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Duffy, Jazmine Sullivan, the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum
Adele earned Grammy recognition thanks to the release of her debut studio album, "19," and breakout hit, "Chasing Pavements." Both surged in popularity in the US following her stellar performance on "Saturday Night Live."
Adele was nominated for four Grammys in 2009, winning two for best new artist and best female pop vocal performance.
Her most recent album, "25," became the first in history to sell more than 3 million copies in its first week in the US. She has also been dubbed the UK's best-selling female artist of the 21st century.
Carrie Underwood has now been named Academy of Country Music's entertainer of the year three times.
Year: 2007 at the 49th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Chris Brown, Corinne Bailey Rae, Imogen Heap, James Blunt
Carrie Underwood rose to fame after winning the fourth season of "American Idol" in 2005. Her debut album, "Some Hearts," was released that same year and became the one of the best-selling country albums in history.
She won both of her Grammy nominations at the following ceremony for best new artist and best female country vocal performance for "Jesus, Take the Wheel."
Underwood has become one of country's biggest stars with massive crossover appeal. In 2015, she was named the top-selling digital artist in country music. In 2020, she won entertainer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, becoming the first woman to do so three times.
John Legend is one of just 16 people to have achieved EGOT status.
Year: 2006 at the 48th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane, Sugarland
John Legend's debut album, "Get Lifted," netted him three Grammys for best new artist, best R&B album, and best male R&B vocal performance for "Ordinary People."
Fifteen years later, Legend has been nominated for 33 Grammys and won 11.
He has also won an Oscar for his work on the movie "Selma," a Tony for the best revival of a play, "Jitney," and most recently, an Emmy for producing "Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert" — making him the first Black man in history to achieve EGOT status.
Maroon 5 recently headlined the Super Bowl halftime show.
Year: 2005 at the 47th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Gretchen Wilson, Joss Stone, Kanye West, Los Lonely Boys
The success of Maroon 5's debut was extensive enough to earn them a best new artist trophy — two full years after the album would've been eligible.
"Songs About Jane" was released in June 2002 and wasn't nominated for any Grammys in 2003. But the album and its hit singles — "Harder To Breathe," "She Will Be Loved," "This Love," and "Sunday Morning" — were still making enough waves to earn the band a best new artist nomination in 2004 and a subsequent win in 2005. The album went quadruple-platinum that same year.
Maroon 5 has remained one of the most prominent bands of the 21st Century, clocking 15 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, four No. 1 singles, and two No. 1 albums. In 2019, they headlined the Super Bowl halftime show.
Alicia Keys, sometimes referred to as the "Queen of R&B," has now won 15 Grammys.
Year: 2002 at the 44th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: David Gray, India.Arie, Linkin Park, Nelly Furtado
Alicia Keys' debut album, "Songs in A Minor," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and earned the singer a whopping five Grammys out of six nominations. She earned best new artist and best R&B album, plus song of the year, best female R&B vocal performance, and best R&B song for "Fallin.'"
Keys has now won 15 Grammys out of 29 nominations and even hosted the awards show twice.
She has also received the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and she's been included on Time's list of the 100 most influential people twice, in 2005 and 2017. Billboard dubbed Keys the top-selling R&B/hip-hop artist of the 2000s decade.
Christina Aguilera was named one of the greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone.
Year: 2000 at the 42nd annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Britney Spears, Kid Rock, Macy Gray, Susan Tedeschi
Christina Aguilera appeared on "Star Search" at age 11 and "The Mickey Mouse Club" as a young teen. She shot to stardom in 1999 with "Genie in a Bottle," the lead single from her self-titled debut album.
Aguilera won best new artist the following year, her first of five Grammys to date.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked Aguilera as the 58th greatest singer of all time. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and recently completed a residency in Las Vegas, following the release of her favorably-reviewed eighth studio album, 2018's "Liberation."
Sheryl Crow has won nine Grammys and sold more than 50 million albums worldwide.
Year: 1995 at the 37th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Ace of Base, Counting Crows, Crash Test Dummies, Green Day
Sheryl Crow released her debut, "Tuesday Night Music Club," in 1993.
The album gained traction in 1994 after the runaway success of its third single, "All I Wanna Do," which earned Grammys for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance, alongside Crow's best new artist trophy.
Crow has now won nine Grammys out of 31 nominations — although she has recently expressed dissatisfaction with the voting process.
Crow's 10 albums have sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide. Though she said 2019's "Threads" will be her last, Crow has been active in other areas of Hollywood, appearing on TV shows like "30 Rock" and "NCIS."
Mariah Carey is the top female solo artist of all time.
Year: 1991 at the 33rd annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: The Black Crowes, The Kentucky Headhunters, Lisa Stansfield, Wilson Phillips
Mariah Carey's self-titled debut was nominated for five Grammys, including every "Big Four" award. Of those, she only won best new artist, in addition to best female pop vocal performance for "Vision of Love."
Carey has achieved astronomical success throughout her career. She claims two of the most successful songs of all time on the Billboard Hot 100, 19 No. 1 hits, and six No. 1 albums. According to Billboard, Carey is the top female solo artist of all time.
Carly Simon has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Year: 1972 at the 14th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Bill Withers, Chase, Emerson, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, Lake & Palmer
Carly Simon won best new artist after the success of her self-titled debut solo album, which included her first top 10 hit, "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be."
Simon is widely seen as one of the "quintessential singer/songwriters of the '70s." She went on to release 13 top 40 hits, including the No. 1 classic "You're So Vain," which has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Simon herself was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.
The Beatles is the most iconic band of all time.
Year: 1965 at the 7th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Petula Clark, Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Morgana King
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr made their US debut with "Meet the Beatles!" in 1964, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
The following year, the band won two Grammys out of four nominations: best new artist and best performance by a vocal group for "A Hard Day's Night."
Obviously, the rest is history. The Beatles went on to earn seven Grammys, a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and 20 No. 1 hit songs. The band is the best-selling artist of all time and widely seen as the greatest artist of all time.
Esperanza Spalding beat out superstars like Justin Bieber and Drake.
Year: 2011 at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding is the only jazz artist who has ever won best new artist. Her victory was controversial due to her four strong competitors, all of whom went on to greater fame and chart success.
Spalding has released seven studio albums and enjoyed critical acclaim over the years, but remained largely under the mainstream radar.
Shelby Lynne won best new artist after the release of her sixth studio album.
Year: 2001 at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Brad Paisley, Jill Scott, Papa Roach, Sisqó
Shelby Lynne had been a recording artist for more than a decade when she won her first Grammy. Her sixth album, "I Am Shelby Lynne," was seen as her breakthrough project and she was deemed eligible for best new artist.
Best new artist remains Lynne's only Grammy Award. She has released 10 more albums since then, though none have achieved widespread commercial success.
Paula Cole is most famous for writing the theme song of "Dawson's Creek."
Year: 1998 at the 40th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Erykah Badu, Fiona Apple, Hanson, Puff Daddy
Paula Cole received her first Grammy nomination after the success of "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" in 1997, the lead single from her second studio album, "This Fire."
Cole was nominated for six other Grammys in 1998, but best new artist remains her only win, and she hasn't been nominated since.
"Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" remains her only top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The album's second single, "I Don't Want to Wait," became the theme song for the popular TV series "Dawson's Creek," which has somewhat eclipsed Cole's legacy as artist.
Marc Cohn never recreated the success of his debut album.
Year: 1992 at the 34th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Boyz II Men, C+C Music Factory, Color Me Badd, Seal
Marc Cohn won best new artist after the success of "Walking in Memphis," a single from his debut studio album, which was also nominated for song of the year and best male pop vocal performance.
It remains Cohn's signature song and only top 40 hit. He also hasn't been nominated for a Grammy since.
Bruce Hornsby & The Range didn’t last long as a group.
Year: 1987 at the 29th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Glass Tiger, Nu Shooz, Simply Red, Timbuk3
Although Bruce Hornsby went on to receive 11 additional Grammy nominations and two awards, his project with The Range was relatively short-lived and low-profile.
After the group won best new artist, they received one more Grammy nomination the following year (best pop performance by a duo or group) and lost. Bruce Hornsby & The Range released their third and final album in 1990.
Men at Work split in 1984, the year after they won best new artist.
Year: 1983 at the 25th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Asia, Jennifer Holliday, The Human League, Stray Cats
Men at Work is a generally well-known name, but the Australian band peaked before their best new artist win, releasing two top 5 albums in 1981 and 1983.
In 1984, the group split when two original members were asked to leave. A fractured version of Men at Work continued making music, albeit with middling success.
Their third album, 1985's "Two Hearts," was a comparative flop and peaked at No. 50 on the Billboard 200. Since the release of the album's lead single "Everything I Need," none of the band's songs have cracked the top 40.
Christopher Cross is best known as the first artist to sweep the Big Four categories.
Year: 1981 at the 23rd annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Amy Holland, Irene Cara, Robbie Dupree, The Pretenders
The following year, he earned three more nominations (and an Oscar) for cowriting and performing the theme for the 1981 film "Arthur."
Then, Cross promptly dropped out of the spotlight. His sophomore album, 1983's "Another Page," peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200. His third album peaked at No. 127. None of his subsequent 12 albums even cracked the chart.
A Taste of Honey was a one-hit wonder.
Year: 1979 at the 21st annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Chris Rea, Elvis Costello, The Cars, Toto
A Taste of Honey is best known for their debut single, "Boogie Oogie Oogie," a defining song from the disco era.
The smash hit was nominated for best R&B vocal performance by a duo, group, or chorus the same year that A Taste of Honey won best new artist.
Unfortunately, the group never achieved the same level of success again. They informally split as their popularity waned in the '80s.
Debby Boone found niche success making Christian music.
Year: 1978 at the 20th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Andy Gibb, Foreigner, Shaun Cassidy, Stephen Bishop
Debby Boone is best known for her 1977 hit, "You Light Up My Life," which was nominated for record of the year and best female pop vocal performance. She lost both, but won best new artist.
Boone briefly focused on country music, but pivoted to Christian themes shortly after. She earned several Grammy nominations in "inspirational" and gospel categories, but never achieved mainstream stardom.
A member of Starland Vocal Band said that winning best new artist was "the kiss of death."
Year: 1977 at the 19th annual Grammy Awards
Other nominees: Boston, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, The Brothers Johnson, Wild Cherry
Starland Vocal Band won their only two Grammys — best new artist and best arrangement — thanks to the runaway success of "Afternoon Delight," the group's only hit song. "Afternoon Delight" was also nominated for record of the year and best pop vocal performance by a duo, group, or chorus.
In fact, singer Taffy Danoff blamed the Grammys for the group's failure to recreate their early success, calling best new artist "the kiss of death" in a 2002 interview for VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders."
"I feel sorry for everyone who's gotten it since," she said.
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