With the Grammys now upon us, there’s no better time to reflect upon previous years of music’s biggest night — particularly on one of the most exciting categories, best new artist. Musicians who manage to snag a nomination in this category fall under the artists-to-watch category… the ones that make you rush out to buy and stream all their music because you’re confident there’s much more to come. We all want to get in on the ground level when it comes to being fans of such new talent.
And this year’s nominees, ranging from country music’s Luke Combs to dynamic R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle, have us seriously hyped up. But do all best new artist winners end up going on to achieve massive success? Out of curiosity, we decided to look back on winners from previous years to see how they’ve fared.
Some need no introduction. Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Adele and Meghan Trainor haven’t strayed far from the public eye since their wins.
Others may come as a surprise (in many cases, a pleasant one!). Here’s an update on some of the Grammys previous best new artists.
Alessia Cara (2018)
Following her breakout popularity due to hits like “Scars to Your Beautiful,” “Here” and “Stay” (with Zedd), Alessia Cara snagged best new artist at the 2018 Grammys. In November 2018, Cara released her second studio album, The Pains of Growing. In May 2019, she embarks on a mini-tour in Canada in promotion of the new album.
Arrested Development (1993)
After their debut album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… burst onto the scene in 1992, Arrested Development picked up best new artist at the 1993 Grammys. Fame followed quickly, with the group recording the song “Revolution” for Spike Lee’s seminal film Malcolm X. Unfortunately, subsequent albums didn’t fare as well and other drama followed. In 2003, they sued Fox network over the name of the TV show Arrested Development (a fact that became a running joke on the show).
They experienced a comeback in 2018, performing on the Trumpet Awards, working in a prison rehabilitation program to help inmates write and record their own songs and releasing their latest album, Craft & Optics.
Bon Iver (2012)
This indie folk band courted acclaim with the release of their second studio album, Bon Iver, Bon Iver — enough in fact to earn them the coveted best new artist award. Fun fact? The album was recorded in a remodeled veterinarian’s clinic in Wisconsin.
After their last performance in 2012, the band took an extended break from recording and performing. They returned to the scene in 2015, announcing a tour of Asia. And in 2016, they released the album 22, A Million, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Chance the Rapper (2017)
Before his third mixtape, Coloring Book, earned him a slew of Grammys (including best new artist), Chance the Rapper already had a cult following for his work as a rapper, singer, songwriter and producer.
Chance has remained in the public eye since his best new artist nod. In November 2018, he released two new songs, “My Own Thing” and “The Man Who Has Everything.” In February 2019, he appeared in a Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl alongside The Backstreet Boys. Notably, his name has also become synonymous with generous philanthropy.
Esperanza Spalding (2011)
This musical prodigy made waves in 2011 with her second studio album, Esperanza, which led to her being crowned best new artist at that year’s Grammys — the first violinist to do so. While Spalding hasn’t necessarily gone on to become a household name, she has remained busy in the musical sphere. In December 2017, she released Exposure, her sixth studio album. She also appeared in Nova’s The Great Math Mystery on PBS to discuss the connection between mathematics and music.
The Evanescence that won best new artist at the 2004 Grammys is no more. The band — which originally consisted of lead singer Amy Lee and songwriter/guitarist Ben Moody — has evolved numerous times over the years. By the time they snagged best new artist, they’d added friends John LeCompt, Rocky Gray and Will Boyd to the band. The following year, Terry Balsamo from Cold replaced Moody. In subsequent years, Boyd, LeCompt and Gray would all leave as well.
In its present form, the band consists of Lee (lead vocals), Tim McCord (bass), Will Hunt (drums), Troy McLawhorn (lead guitar) and Jen Majura (rhythm guitar, backup vocals). In 2017, they toured with a full orchestra in support of their upcoming orchestral album, Synthesis. In February 2019, they announced they’ll be hitting the road again in the spring.
Hootie & the Blowfish (1996)
Sing it with us: “Hoooooold my hand! / Why dontcha hold my hand?” For ‘90s kids, this band’s Grammy-winning album, Cracked Rear View, has been on constant rotation since its debut. Officially, the band went on hiatus in 2008 in order for lead singer Darius Rucker to pursue a solo country music career (he has done very well, for the record).
But much to the delight of hardcore Hootie fans everywhere, the band announced in December 2018 they were reuniting for a 44-city “Group Therapy Tour” with Barenaked Ladies in 2019.
Lauryn Hill (1999)
In 1998, Lauryn Hill released her only solo studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, to rave reviews, both critically and commercially. Songs like “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “Ex Factor” and “Everything Is Everything” established her as a singer-songwriter to be reckoned with. Not long after winning best new artist, though, Hill dropped out of the spotlight altogether due to self-professed dissatisfaction with the music industry and pop culture in general. Over the years, she has performed sporadically but garnered more attention for her personal life — in 2012, she was charged with tax fraud and, in 2013, served three months in prison and three months house arrest.
In January 2019, she announced via her website that she would be launching “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary Tour” with stops planned all over the world, including continental Africa.
LeAnn Rimes (1997)
LeAnn Rimes shot to fame in 1996 with her debut album Blue. The kicker? She was only 13 at the time. In the following decade, she went on to release several more studio albums, make a crossover into pop, record a couple of Christmas EPs and even make a cameo in the cult classic Coyote Ugly.
In recent years, Rimes has made more headlines for her marriage to now-husband Eddie Cibrian than for her music. However, she did appear in and record music for the Hallmark original movie It’s Christmas, Eve in 2018.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2014)
This sometimes-duo of rapper Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) and Ryan Lewis, a record producer-slash-DJ, hit it big with their 2012 collaborative album The Heist in 2012. With singles like “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” setting fire to the charts, it wasn’t any huge surprise when they took home best new artist at the Grammys in 2014.
However, after the release of their second album, 2016’s This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore announced the duo was going on indefinite hiatus. In 2017, Macklemore released his second solo album and, for three months in 2018, he toured the U.S. with Kesha. Macklemore has also made a name as a prominent social activist in the music community.
Norah Jones (2003)
With the 2002 release of her solo music album Come Away with Me, bluesy singer Norah Jones became a global phenom — that album alone sold over 27 million copies and included seminal hits like the eponymous “Come Away with Me,” “Don’t Know Why,” “Feelin’ the Same Way” and “Turn Me On.” She went on to release albums in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2016.
She has toured consistently every few years since then, most recently announcing a North American tour that will kick off in June 2019 on the East Coast.
Paula Cole (1998)
When you think of Paula Cole, you likely think of one song in particular: “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” Or it could be her single “I Don’t Want to Wait,” which was used as the theme song for the super-popular ‘90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek. These nostalgic hits coincide with her winning best new artist at the Grammys.
After taking a brief hiatus to raise her daughter, Sky, Cole continued creating music. In fact, she has released a total of eight albums to date. And it will undoubtedly make fans happy to know Cole is actively touring and recently revealed she plans to release a new album of originals in 2019.
Sam Smith (2015)
While Sam Smith’s debut album, In the Lonely Hour, certainly garnered attention with its first two singles, it catapulted into the stratosphere with the third, “Stay With Me.” With the fourth, “I’m Not the Only One,” reaching the top five in the U.S. and internationally, Smith was a shoo-in for best new artist at the 2015 Grammys.
Smith hasn’t slowed down much since. In September 2015, he and Jimmy Napes composed “Writing’s on the Wall,” which was used as the theme song for the 24th James Bond film, Spectre (he won a slew of awards for it too). In 2017, Smith’s second studio album, The Thrill of It All, became his first No. 1 album in the U.S., and he began touring in promotion of it in 2018.
Shelby Lynne (2001)
Shelby Lynne might be the most unique of all the best new artist winners given her extensive career prior earning that title — the album that led to her win, I Am Shelby Lynne, was her sixth studio album. That album saw Lynne score a track on the Bridget Jones’s Diary soundtrack with “Dreamsome.”
Following several albums that were met with mixed reviews, Lynne garnered buzz for 2008’s Just a Little Lovin.’ It led to exciting new developments in Lynne’s career too, namely a cameo on the hit Lifetime series Army Wives. In 2017, Lynne released a cover album with her sister, Allison Moorer, and in 2018, starred in the rock and roll movie Here I Am.
Sheryl Crow (1995)
Can we all just take a moment to praise the music gods for Sheryl Crow’s debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club? With classic tracks like “Leaving Las Vegas,” “All I Wanna Do,” “Strong Enough” and “Can’t Cry Anymore,” it’s little wonder it helped Crow secure best new artist at the Grammys in 1995.
Subsequent albums (she has 10!) have experienced varying degrees of success, but Crow hasn’t really gone anywhere. She’s remained in the headlines, whether it be for her music, her former relationship with Lance Armstrong or her polarizing comments about toilet paper. And on Feb. 6, 2019, news broke that Crow has signed with Big Machine Label Group to release a duets album with rock and country superstars as well as a rumored final album.
Toni Braxton (1994)
Although she started her career touring with her sisters, Toni Braxton broke off on her own with a self-titled debut studio album in 1993. From it came internationally successful tracks like “Another Sad Love Song” and “Breathe Again,” not to mention a best new artist trophy.
While Braxton’s second and third studio albums were also commercial successes, she didn’t recapture that early inertia again until 2018 with the release of her eighth studio album, Sex & Cigarettes. Once again, Braxton earned Grammy nominations. However, Braxton’s main claim to fame these days is arguably the reality television series Braxton Family Values, on which she stars and is an executive producer.
Zac Brown Band (2010)
One of the few artists in the country music genre to snag the best new artist award, this Georgia-based band caught their big break largely due to the massive success of their single “Chicken Fried.” Follow-up smash hits included “Whatever It Is,” “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “Free” and, let’s be honest, many more.
In 2012, the band began experimenting with their sound, venturing more into the rock realm with a four-song EP titled The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1 (produced by, you guessed it, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame). In 2015, they released a sort of country-rock-reggae hybrid album Jekyll + Hyde, which featured two big hits: “Homegrown” and “Heavy is the Head.” They continued their crossover success in 2018 with a performance with Shawn Mendes on CMT Crossroads.
The band will once again be hitting the road in summer 2019 for their highly anticipated “Owl Tour.”
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