Is There a Best New Artist Curse? What Happened to These 30 Grammy Winners
This year's Grammy nominees for best new artist are Arooj Aftab, Jimmie Allen, Baby Keem, Finneas, Glass Animals, Japanese Breakfast, The Kid Laroi, Arlo Parks, Olivia Rodrigo, and Saweetie. It's undoubtedly going to be a heated race for the coveted award, whose past recipients include household names like Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, and Maroon 5. While those musicians' careers are still firmly intact, there's a handful of other best new artist winners who haven't fared so well. (For example, Paula Cole once asked us, "Where have all the cowboys gone?" but now we're just left wondering where she's gone.) In honor of the upcoming show, we're looking into the status of some of the past best new artist award winners. Keep reading to see what's become of them, and let us know whether you think they've avoided a curse or not.
Year won: 1990
Were they cursed? Yes, very much so actually. After they won the Grammy, Los Angeles Times writer Chuck Philips revealed that lead vocals on the record were not actually Milli Vanilli members Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, and their award was taken back. It was the first time in history that a Grammy was rescinded from its winner. They attempted a comeback in 1998 (with their own singing voices), but sadly, Pilatus died from a drug overdose before the album could be released.
Year won: 1991
Was she cursed? It's hard to imagine Mariah Carey as a "new artist" in any capacity, but the '90s really were a great time for her (not to mention us). We're talking about classics like "Fantasy," "Dreamlover," and "Always Be My Baby" — not to mention "All I Want For Christmas Is You," which we can all agree is timeless. Her career has prevailed over three decades, and you can't argue that she'll go down in history as one of the best vocalists and best songwriters of our time. Nineteen No. 1 hits don't lie!
Year won: 1993
Were they cursed? It depends who you ask. Arrested Development beat out Kris Kross and Billy Ray Cyrus for the best new artist award that year, thanks to catchy, conscious hits like "Tennessee" and "Mr. Wendal." They disbanded in 1996 and completed solo projects before reuniting in 2000; they've been touring ever since.
Year won: 1994
Was she cursed? No, and here's why: if you went through a breakup in the 1990s, chances are you listened to a lot of Toni Braxton. She cemented her place in R&B music history with songs like "Another Sad Love Song" and "Un-Break My Heart." This R&B superstar is still making music and touring. Her most recent project, "Spell My Name", was released in 2020, and she and her sisters starred in seven seasons of WeTV's "Braxton Family Values."
Year won: 1995
Was she cursed? Hell no! Sheryl Crow is still rocking. Crow is one of the most successful country artists of all time and found major success on the pop charts. In 2019, she released an album, "Threads," that she said would be her last full album, but she promised she would continue to release new individual songs.
Hootie & the Blowfish
Year won: 1996
Were they cursed? Kind of. Hootie & the Blowfish beat out Alanis Morissette, Brandy, and Shania Twain that year, but none of their later albums were as successful as their mainstream debut, "Cracked Rear View." They continued to put out new music and tour until around 2008; frontman Darius Rucker announced in an interview that he and his band members were taking a hiatus so that he could pursue his solo career as a country singer. They still get together for charity performances, and Rucker has built a successful country-music career, even becoming the first African American to win the CMA award for new artist of the year.
Year won: 1997
Was she cursed? Yes. After her Grammy win, Rimes's albums continued to perform pretty well, and she did have a major hit with "Can't Fight the Moonlight" in 2000, but she never reached the heights of her mid-'90s days again.
Year won: 1998
Was she cursed? Yes, she was. Most people thought Paula Cole kind of fell off the face of the earth after winning the Grammy, but in reality, she's been performing this whole time. Unfortunately, none of her albums have lived up to the success of "This Fire," which gave us hits like "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and the memorable "Dawson's Creek" theme song "I Don't Want to Wait." Since 2013, Cole has been a member of the voice faculty at Boston's Berklee College of Music.
Year won: 1999
Was she cursed? This is an especially tough one, but we have to admit that yes, Lauryn Hill's career was cursed. After she took home the best new artist award — one of five Grammys she nabbed that year — she dropped out of the public eye due to dissatisfaction with the music industry and an overall indifference to fame. Since then, Hill has released a few songs and done a few festival appearances, but her erratic behavior has made fans skeptical of a proper comeback. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion and served a three-month prison stint. In 2022, she planned to embark on a reunion tour with the Fugees, but it was ultimately canceled. Yes, we'll always have "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "Ex-Factor," but we're still holding out hope that Hill will have a full musical resurgence.
Year won: 2000
Was she cursed? Not at all. Christina Aguilera is an undeniable force in the pop music industry. Since winning the best new artist award, she has gone through a number of transformations — including bubblegum pop star, "dirrty" bad girl, and old Hollywood screen siren — but has still dominated the charts with her many hits. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 and has inspired younger artists like Demi Lovato, Jordin Sparks, and Lady Gaga. She's also served as a voice coach on NBC's "The Voice."
Year won: 2002
Was she cursed? Alicia Keys's career has been going strong since she hit the scene with "Fallin'" back in the early 2000s. She's still creating hits, whether it's on her own (like with 2012's "Girl on Fire") or with other artists (see JAY-Z's "Empire State of Mind," which people still sing at full volume when it comes on in an NYC bar).
Year won: 2003
Was she cursed? Yes. Norah Jones rose to fame after her songs "Don't Know Why" and "Come Away With Me" hit the charts, but after winning the best new artist award, she never had a major breakout again. But like many other artists on this list, she continues to make new music. She's also collaborated with other artists like Green Day, Foo Fighters, and OutKast, and she's performed anonymously in a rock band called El Madmo.
Year won: 2004
Were they cursed? In a word: yes. While Amy Lee and the Evanescence boys have been recording and touring since the mid-2000s, they haven't had any huge hits since winning the Grammy. They announced their official hiatus in 2012, saying they would be "taking a break" to "figure things out." They returned in 2015 and have released two albums since.
Year won: 2005
Were they cursed? No, times five. Maroon 5 still keep making music and have sold over 135 million records. Lead singer Adam Levine has become something of a celebrity on his own as a coach on "The Voice" for 16 seasons and the winner of People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2013.
Year won: 2006
Was he cursed?: Absolutely not. In 2018, Legend became the first Black man to EGOT — that is, the first black man to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. He's objectively one of the most successful people to ever win best new artist.
Year won: 2007
Was she cursed? Nope. She's sold over 66 million records globally, has racked up tons of awards, and has the most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart of any female artist since 1991. Besides all that, she continues to dominate both country and mainstream radio stations and is a 12-time host of the annual CMA award ceremony.
Year won: 2008
Was she cursed? Amy Winehouse's career definitely took a hit after she won the Grammy, due mostly to her drug and alcohol dependence; her personal troubles had a huge impact on her public image. Sadly, Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in July 2011. Five months after her death, an album of previously unreleased material, titled "Lioness: Hidden Treasures," was released. It debuted at the top of the UK Albums Chart, giving Winehouse the biggest first-week sales of her career.
Year won: 2009
Was she cursed? Not even for a second. Adele followed up her debut album, "19," with "21," "25," and "30," and all three albums hit No. 1 worldwide. Her No. 1 singles include "Rolling in the Deep," "Someone Like You," "Set Fire to the Rain," "Hello," and "Easy on Me." She has 15 Grammys total, plus an Oscar for "Skyfall."
Zac Brown Band
Year won: 2010
Were they cursed? No. The band have been dominating the country music charts since their win and released their seventh album, "The Comeback," in 2021.
Year won: 2011
Was she cursed? Nope. Esperanza Spalding's win actually made her more visible, since most people hadn't really heard of her before she became "the girl who beat Justin Bieber." She was the first-ever jazz artist to nab the award, and she's been working steadily ever since.
Year won: 2012
Were they cursed? No. As a band, they put out four critically successful albums. Plus, Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon has collaborated with everyone from Kanye West to Taylor Swift (yes, really).
Year won: 2013
Were they cursed? As a band, a little, but as musicians, definitely not. Frontman Nate Ruess released his debut album, "Grand Romantic," in June 2015 and continues to work as a solo artist. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Jack Antonoff found success with his side project, Bleachers, and has also collaborated with some big-name artists, including Taylor Swift, Lorde, The Chicks, St. Vincent, and Carly Rae Jepsen. He's won two Grammys for album of the year with Swift: for "1989" and for "Folklore."
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Year won: 2014
Were they cursed? Yes. Though the duo were successful in the immediate aftermath of their win, they're usually mentioned these days as more of a punchline than anything else. Macklemore's most recent album, "Gemini," came out in 2017.
Year won: 2015
Were they cursed? No. Smith's 2017 album, "The Thrill of It All," and 2020 album, "Love Goes," both performed well. They also won an Oscar in 2016 for their song "Writing's on the Wall" for the James Bond film "Spectre."
Year won: 2016
Was she cursed? No. Though none of Meghan Trainor's follow-up efforts have performed quite as well as her debut, she's still churning out new music, including her 2020 Christmas album. She also hosts "Top Chef Family Style."
Chance the Rapper
Year won: 2017
Was he cursed? Nope. Though Chance the Rapper hasn't released a full album since 2016, he's continued to feature on tracks with other artists.
Year won: 2018
Was she cursed? Too soon to tell. Alessia Cara released her third album, "In the Meantime," in 2021 and has continued to release singles. None of her new music has been a major hit yet, but there's still time for her to break through.
Year won: 2019
Was she cursed? Definitely not. Dua Lipa's 2020 album, "Future Nostalgia," was a massive hit, as was her song "Levitating."
Year won: 2020
Was she cursed? Not at all. Billie Eilish already has seven Grammy awards and an Oscar, and she's up for seven more Grammys at this year's ceremony. Eilish is here to stay.
Megan Thee Stallion
Year won: 2021
Was she cursed? Megan Thee Stallion continues to be one of the biggest artists in the world. This year, she's up for two more Grammys for her song "Thot Sh*t" and for her feature on Lil Nas X's "Montero."