Best New Artist winners, ranked by popularity today

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January 3, 2020
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Best New Artist winners, ranked by popularity today

Best New Artist is perhaps the most coveted of all Grammy awards presented each February by the Recording Academy. The award is not based on the actual popularity of artists, but on the Academy voters' perception of how those artists will fare in the future. But is winning any indication of future success? The answer depends on the year, it seems—and on the personal life of the performers themselves. While some go on to record-breaking careers, others fade into obscurity.

Given all of this, it's a somewhat eclectic bunch that makes up the class of Best New Artist alumni. Styles range from soul and pop to world music and grunge rock. Stacker has organized winners based on their monthly Spotify listeners as an indicator of popularity today. Keep reading to find out where your favorites land, when they earned the distinction of Best New Artist, and if they went on to fame, notoriety, or simply the tragic end of an act disbanding.

#59. Bob Newhart (1960)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 4,845

Bob Newhart was the first artist to win Grammys in both the Album of the Year and Best New Artist categories, a feat that would only be replicated by three others. His comedy album, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” was the first comedy album to hit #1 on Billboard's chart.

#58. Starland Vocal Band (1976)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 11,294

Based in the 1960s folk scene, the Starland Vocal Band started as acoustic duo Fat City (Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert). This pair—plus Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman—produced the enormously popular “Afternoon Delight” single in the summer of 1976, which took over the airwaves and even led to the group's short-lived CBS TV show featuring a then up-and-comer David Letterman.

#57. Bruce Hornsby & The Range (1986)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 17,412

Brothers Bruce and John Hornsby and their band The Range were the force behind a number of 1980s piano-driven soft rock hits. Their most famous song was “The Way It Is,” off their album of the same name, which sold 2 million copies and stayed on the charts for a year and a half.

#56. Peter Nero (1961)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 47,022

Pianist Peter Nero rose to fame with his interpretations of Gershwin and other popular composers. Also a conductor of the Philly Pops orchestra, he is best known for the million-selling album “Summer of ‘42.” After earning his Best New Artist accolade, Nero went on to release close to 70 more albums—not to mention helping to found the Philly Pops Orchestra.

#55. The Swingle Singers (1963)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 51,959

This French vocal group, famous for taking classical materials and switching them to an a cappella swing setting, was originally headed by American expatriate Ward Swingle. There were seven other original members, and their album debut, "Jazz Sebastian Bach," earned the collective a Grammy Award. The group disbanded a decade after winning Best New Artist. Ward Swingle went to London and re-launched the group as Swingle II.

#54. Robert Goulet (1962)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 75,558

Goulet starred as Lancelot in the Lerner and Loewe production of “Camelot” on Broadway before going on to win the Best New Artist Grammy . He was known for such recordings as “If Ever I Would Leave You” and “My Love, Forgive Me.” Goulet died in 2007 from lung disease.

#53. Marvin Hamlisch (1974)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 76,606

American composer, pianist, and conductor Marvin Hamlisch was best-known for his film scores throughout the 1970s, including “The Sting” and “The Way We Were.” He is also renowned for his work in theater, TV, and classical music as well, producing scores for hits like the Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.

#52. Jody Watley (1987)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 133,391

Known as the “Queen of Cool,” Watley started her career as the central member of dance-soul trio Shalamar before embarking on a solo career. It was a wise move—her self-titled debut album earned her the Best New Artist Grammy in 1987.

#51. Shelby Lynne (2000)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 139,383

Shelby Lynne's eclectic sound ranged from country, blues, Southern soul, roots rock, jazz, and adult contemporary pop. When she finally found her own sound on the album “I am Shelby Lynne,” it marked the beginning of her being embraced by critics and fans alike.

#50. Rickie Lee Jones (1979)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 217,635

Cult favorite Rickie Lee Jones is best known for her folk and jazz styles combined with lyrical songwriting. Her unique style caught the ear of critics and audiences and led to her winning the 1979 Best New Artist Grammy in 1979.

#49. A Taste of Honey (1978)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 225,246

A Taste of Honey was a disco group that formed in the early ‘70s consisting of Janice Marie Johnson, Hazel Payne, Perry Kibble, and Donald Ray Johnson. Their song “Boogie Oogie Oogie” was #1 on Billboard's charts three weeks in a row and sold more than 2 million copies.

#48. Debby Boone (1977)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 239,423

Debby Boone counts multiple celebrities as family members, including Pat Boone for a father, singer Rosemary Clooney as her mother-in-law, and José Ferrer as her father-in-law. She became known when her song “You Light Up My Life” lit up the charts at #1 in 1977.

#47. Bobbie Gentry (1967)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 262,636

1960s country star Bobbie Gentry wrote her own songs, made her own clothes, had her own TV show, and even painted her own album art. She enjoyed a period of intense fame from 1967 to 1971, followed by a Las Vegas residency that included Elvis among its fans. The writer behind hits like “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Fancy”—famously covered by Reba McEntireretired from the spotlight in 1981.

#46. Esperanza Spalding (2010)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 404,195

American jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding won the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011, much to legions of Beliebers' disbelief. She had already cemented her role as a prodigy in jazz circles, however, graduating from Berklee College of Music in three years and becoming, at age 20, the youngest instructor in the school's history. She had also recorded three albums by the time of her Grammy win and has recorded three more since then.

#45. Milli Vanilli (rescinded) (1989)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 586,160

Milli Vanilli was the dance-pop duo famously stripped of their Grammy award for Best New Artist. The reason for the about-face? The public found out Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan had actually been lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks sung by other people.

#44. Arrested Development (1992)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 758,977

After selling 4 million copies of their first album in 1992, Arrested Development looked like they were headed for big things. However, the hip-hop group—known for “Mr. Wendal,” a strangely upbeat song about a wise homeless man—faded as quickly as they appeared.

#43. Paula Cole (1997)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 766,293

Paula Cole rose to fame in the mid-1990s when her song “I Don't Want to Wait” was featured as the theme for the WB hit “Dawson's Creek.” She was nominated for seven Grammys and won Best New Artist in 1997, in addition to headlining Lilith Fair.

#42. Sheena Easton (1981)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 1,062,627

Scottish pop diva Sheena Easton was inspired to pursue a singing career after seeing Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were.” She had several hits in the 1980s, including “We've Got Tonight,” a duet with Kenny Rogers, and singles “Modern Girl” and “9 to 5.”

#41. Marc Cohn (1991)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 1,188,528

Marc Cohn is best known for the adult contemporary hit “Walking in Memphis,” released in 1991, the same year he won the Best New Artist Grammy. His follow-up work featured big names like David Crosby and Graham Nash, but his career momentum slowed for several years after.

#40. Bette Midler (1973)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 1,579,707

The multi-talented performer has been praised for her work in theater, music, and acting—and garnered awards in each of these genres. In fact, her first album The Divine Miss M went platinum and was the impetus for her receiving the 1973 Best New Artist Grammy.

#39. Hootie & the Blowfish (1995)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 1,791,251

Hootie and the Blowfish's blues-rock sound was an anomaly in the grunge-heavy airwaves of the 1990s. The group's hits include “Hold my Hand,” “Let Her Cry,” and “Only Wanna Be With You,” which continue to be soft-rock staples. Today, lead singer Darius Rucker is enjoying a new chapter as a country solo artist. The group has also announced a reunion tour and new album for 2019.

#38. Bobby Darin (1959)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 2,096,320

Pop singer and songwriter Bobby Darin was known for such '50s and '60s hits as “Splish Splash” and “Mack the Knife.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decades after his untimely death at age 37 in 1973.

#37. Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 2,179,117

After his departure from '60s psych-folk outfit The Byrds, David Crosby formed a new band with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. That group's debut album featured such tracks as “Guinevere” and “Long Time Gone.” Soon after, the band known to fans as CSN added a Y to its moniker as Neil Young was added to the roster for stretches of time.

#36. Tom Jones (1965)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 2,348,762

Wales-born singer Tom Jones paired up with Gordon Mills as his songwriter and manager for his first hit, “It's Not Unusual,” landing Jones a record contract in 1964. This precipitated a slew of other chart-toppers—26 U.K. Top 20 hits, to be exact—between 1965 and 1999.

#35. Christopher Cross (1980)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 2,724,193

The Texas-born American singer-songwriter is best known for the single "Sailing" from his self-titled debut album, for which he won the Best New Artist Grammy. In fact, Cross won five Grammys total in 1980. Cross counts Joni Mitchell among his influences and continues to make music today.

#34. LeAnn Rimes (1996)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 2,791,674

Country singer LeAnn Rimes made history when she captured the 1996 Best New Artist Grammy, both as the first country artist to receive the award and as the youngest individual performer to receive a Grammy. Her follow-up, “You Light Up My Life”—which featured her smash single “How Do I Live”—was the first album in music history to simultaneously debut at #1 on the country, pop, and contemporary Christian charts.

#33. Sade (1985)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,104,771

Sade—a band named for its Nigerian-born lead singer—is known for creating soulful, adult-oriented, sophisticated pop music. The single “Smooth Operator” from the group's debut album “Diamond Life” made it to the Billboard Hot 100, which likely influenced the group's Grammy win.

#32. Toni Braxton (1993)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,210,207

After being signed by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds to Arista subsidiary LaFace Records, Toni Braxton released the single “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” and her self-titled debut album. The R&B singer known for her unique alto voice and such hits as “Unbreak my Heart” and “You Mean the World to Me” has suffered significant financial trouble in recent years, even filing for bankruptcy.

#31. Carly Simon (1971)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,262,675

Carly Simon, who wrote the 1972 hit single “You're So Vain,” was the first artist to have won an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe for a single track, 1988's “Let the River Run.” She continues to tour and perform—and even made an appearance on an album by Damon Albarn's animated supergroup Gorillaz in 2017.

#30. Sheryl Crow (1994)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,278,057

Sheryl Crow majored in music education and taught elementary school before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her own music career. Once she went solo in 1995, she won her first three of nine Grammy awards, including Best New Artist and Record of the Year for "All I Wanna Do."

#29. Natalie Cole (1975)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,284,916

Daughter of mid-century singer Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole made a name for herself with her 1975 album “Inseparable.” Her R&B sound on songs such as “(This Will Be) An Everlasting Love” and others earned her two Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

#28. Culture Club (1983)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,457,804

Led by the charismatic, cross-dressing Boy George, Culture Club rose to fame as part of the New Wave movement in the early 1980s. The group's catchy brand of pop-soul—including the upbeat “Karma Chameleon”—led to seven straight top-10 hits in the U.K. and six top-10 singles in the U.S. Although Boy George continued to enjoy fame, the group was short-lived, breaking up by 1986.

#27. Ms. Lauryn Hill (1998)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 3,901,328

Lauryn Hill's soulful R&B on “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” album defined a generation as she sang about self-respect and self-love. The record, which featured empowering hits like “That Thing” and “Everything is Everything” took home the Best New Artist Grammy as a result. Though she has been known for her erratic behavior over the years, Hill's influence remains strong: Her hooks have been sampled in recent hits such as “Nice for What” by Drake and “Be Careful” by Cardi B.

#26. Men at Work (1982)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 4,201,390

Australian group Men at Work came on strong freshman album, “Business as Usual,” which broke the American record for the most weeks a debut spent at the top of the charts. The band members' irreverent sense of humor, catchy guitar hooks, and wailing saxophones helped them carve their niche in new wave history.

#25. America (1972)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 4,744,716

Best remembered for the song "A Horse with No Name," the '70s soft-rock group America made a name for itself with pop hooks, great harmonies, and unusual lyrics. America's song "Ventura Highway" has popped up as a road-trip theme in productions such as "Veronica Mars" and "We are Marshall."

#24. Carrie Underwood (2006)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,385,691

Country superstar Carrie Underwood had her big break when she won Season 4 of American Idol. She has since been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and co-hosted the Country Music Awards annually with Brad Paisley.

#23. Zac Brown Band (2009)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,402,930

Country-bluegrass-reggae crossover stars The Zac Brown Band broke onto the scene in 2008 with the debut single “Chicken Fried.” The tune went platinum when it was released, leading to the band securing Best New Artist the following year.

#22. Tracy Chapman (1988)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,475,429

Tracy Chapman's eponymous debut album rose to the top of the charts in 1988 in both the U.S. and U.K., featuring critically acclaimed singles like “Fast Car” and “Talkin' ‘Bout a Revolution.” Although her commercial success peaked in 1995 with her best-selling hit “Gimme One Reason,” she continues to work as a performer and activist.

#21. The Carpenters (1970)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,510,150

Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard formed 1970s pop duo The Carpenters, and had their first big hit with the Burt Bacharach-penned “(They Long to be) Close to You.” After a string of other hits, including “We've Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays,” Karen's health began to fail due to complications from anorexia. She died at 32.

#20. Evanescence (2003)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,726,659

2000s-era post-alternative band Evanescence, fronted by Amy Lee, had an international multi-platinum hit with its first album, Fallen. The group's operatic goth-pop sound on tracks like "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal" led to two Grammys, but also caused rifts within the group. Evanescence continues to perform and produce music today.

#19. Bon Iver (2011)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,759,868

Indie folk band Bon Iver is headed by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon. His efforts on “For Emma, Forever Ago” caught the eye of Kanye West, who influenced the release of the band's self-titled album that in 2011 netted the group two Grammy awards, including Best New Artist. Although Bon Iver is more or less a critical darling, the name famously confused mainstream listeners who took to Twitter to voice their confusion over this “Bonnie Bear” person.

#18. Fun. (2012)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 5,938,150

This indie-rock group blew up in 2012 with its sophomore album “Some Nights.” Guitarist Jack Antonoff is also a prolific producer who has worked with major fellow acts such as Lorde and Taylor Swift.

#17. Norah Jones (2002)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 6,287,242

Norah Jones won five Grammy awards for her jazz-inspired first album, Come Away with Me. She continues to enjoy musical success on her own and in collaboration with other artists, including Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, and has acted in feature films such as “My Blueberry Nights” alongside Natalie Portman and Jude Law.

#16. Amy Winehouse (2007)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 7,916,312

The “Back to Black” artist, remembered for her signature beehive hairdo and jazz-tinged R&B sound, was also known for self-destructive behavior. The singer died at 27 years old following a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

#15. Cyndi Lauper (1984)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 8,077,583

The '80s pop icon from Queens, N.Y., whose hits included "Time After Time" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is known for her eclectic fashion sense and infectious pop melodies. Lauper is also one of the founders of the True Colors Fund, which fights LGBTQ teen homelessness.

#14. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2013)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 9,524,701

Hip-hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis memorably combined forces to produce several songs in the 2000s and 2010s, including “Same Love” and “Can't Hold Us.” The pair parted ways professionally in 2017, but both have continued with their solo careers.

#13. Jose Feliciano (1968)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 9,529,366

Puerto Rican guitarist, singer, and composer José Feliciano became widely known for his 1968 cover of the Doors' “Light My Fire,” which he followed up with the 1970 pop hit “Feliz Navidad.” Feliciano's take on the Spanish-language Christmas song is now one of the most-played songs in the pop canon.

#12. Chance the Rapper (2016)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 15,203,619

Chance the Rapper was the first artist to have an album (“Coloring Book”) win a Grammy based solely on streaming. The album blends soul, gospel, and hip-hop, and was the artist and activist's third so-called “mixtape.”

#11. Alicia Keys (2001)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 17,308,522

Alicia Keys, who wrote her first song at 14, in 2001 took home the Best New Artist Grammy the same year her debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” was released. The R&B artist and former coach on NBC's “The Voice” has won a total of nine Grammys to date.

#10. Christina Aguilera (1999)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 17,804,214

Late-1990s pop sensation Christina Aguilera was at first overshadowed by her fellow Mickey Mouse Club alum Britney Spears, who also released an album in the late '90s. That all ended with "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" two songs that launched Aguilera to the top of the charts and netted her the Best New Artist Grammy for 1999.

#9. Meghan Trainor (2015)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 17,929,731

Meghan Trainor, whose debut album included such hits as “All About that Bass,” “Lips Are Movin',” and “Like I'm Gonna Lose You,” is a product of the modern era. Her sassy lyrics and catchy melodies stem from years of editing her own music on GarageBand, which she was doing by the time she was 11 years old.

#8. John Legend (2005)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 18,567,820

R&B sensation John Legend started his music career as a child prodigy, playing piano and singing in the church choir. He went on to direct his college a cappella group at the University of Pennsylvania and collaborated with Kanye West on his demo. His smooth sound and mainstream appeal have made him a star; in 2018, he became the youngest person and first African-American man to win the distinction of EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards combination).

#7. The Beatles (1964)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 20,306,333

It's no surprise that British Invasion legends The Beatles are the most popular artist of all time. The group, which hit the airwaves with their brand of mellow pop in the 1960s and caused Beatlemania to spread across North America, solidified success with a Best New Artist award. Members Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr went on to enjoy worldwide success respectively as solo artists, although Lennon's career ended prematurely upon his shocking 1980 assassination.

#6. Alessia Cara (2017)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 20,670,021

Canadian singer Alessia Cara was 10 when she received a guitar from her parents and was just 13 when she became known for performing covers on her YouTube channel. Cara became the first Canadian to win the Best New Artist Grammy in 2017 for her inspirational self-penned pop songs.

#5. Adele (2008)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 20,805,276

Soulful songstress Adele has become an international success with hits such as "Hello," "Someone Like You," and "Rolling in the Deep." The England-born singer has won an impressive 15 Grammys and an Oscar since her breakout at age 19.

#4. Mariah Carey (1990)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 29,435,221

Iconic pop diva Mariah Carey is well-known for the holiday mega-hit “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and for hitting the high notes on “Fantasy” and “Daydream.” She has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and is the third best-selling woman artist of all time.

#3. Dua Lipa (2019)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 40,682,484


#2. Sam Smith (2014)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 43,537,705

U.K. singer Sam Smith won Best New Artist shortly after releasing his debut record, In the Lonely Hour, and coming out to the world as gay. He won three other Grammys that year, including Record of the Year for “Stay with Me.”

#1. Maroon 5 (2004)

- Monthly Spotify listeners: 49,884,268

Although they reached the limelight in the mid-2000s for songs including “She Will Be Loved” and “This Love,” Maroon 5 had been performing together for 10 years when they won Best New Artist in 2005. Known for their “funk-soul-pop-rock” sound and good-looking frontman Adam Levine (dubbed 2013's Sexiest Man Alive), the band enjoyed a comfortable spot on the top of the North American charts as their “Songs About Jane” album went platinum.

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