Best New Artist is one of the Grammys most nebulous and ill-defined categories with one of its most straightforward names. While the creators of the award couldn’t even nail down a definition of “new” — the album that makes an artist eligible does’t have to be their first — they still decided to give the award a massive sense of importance and finality right there in the title. Of all the upstart musicians, across all the genres, this one right here is the absolute best, the award seems to say.
So, it stands to reason that those best new artists — the most promising of all the musicians just starting out — should have a long, prosperous career ahead of them, right? The Academy certainly has to consider that these artists are the next men and women up to give them their Rookie of The Year equivalent. But how good are the Grammys at predicting the future? How much weight does such a heavy title actually carry?
There’s only one way to find out. Let’s take a look back at the last 20 years of Best New Artist winners to see how they held up over time, and whether or not the Recording Academy would have been better suited picking someone else.
1997 – Winner: LeAnn Rimes
The Tony Rich Project
There’s pretty much no doubt that Rimes was the correct pick. Rimes had a great story built into her win at the time. She was only 14 years old and two excellent country singles that still see regular radio rotation two full decades later in “One Way Ticket” and her Patsy Cline cover “Blue.” Rimes was so undeniable that her next album went platinum four times over in spite of being largely standards, covers and church songs. No offense to Garbage — who released a great album just last year — or No Dobut’s still-classic Tragic Kingdom but the Grammys called this one correctly.