The Grammy awards have always been a bit of a joke. They are notorious for ignoring the best artists and music. The Best New Artist Award is one of their most dicey categories. They are so prone to fall for the latest “cool” artist that they frequently honor artists who are nothing more than a flash in the pan.
This year’s award went to Esperanza Spalding. I confess, I have never heard of her. Now that doesn’t mean that she will prove to be a flash in the pan (Where did she spark a flash?), but based on their track record, I’m not sure I’d be celebrating much if I were her.
She joins the ranks of artists such as Amy Winehouse, Evanescence, Norah Jones, Shelby Lynne, Lauryn Hill, Paula Cole, Marc Cohn, Milli Vanilli, Tracy Chapman, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Christopher Cross, Rickie Lee Jones, A Taste of Honey, Debby Boone, Starland Vocal Band, and Marvin Hamlisch. They beat out Taylor Swift, 50 Cent, John Mayer, Avril Lavigne, Brad Paisley, Backstreet Boys, Puff Daddy, Boyz II Men, Dire Straits, Elvis Costello, Toto, The Cars, Foreigner, Boston, and Bad Company.
Other artists who lost to lesser talents include: Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, and the Eagles. Artist who were not even nominated? Well, that would include the entire slate of Motown artists. In 1970, Michael Jackson and his brothers had 4 number one hits, but the Jackson 5 was never nominated for best new artist. However, the Partridge Family got a nomination that year. Hip-Hop and Rap artists are routinely snubbed. One would think that this category would be a shoo-in for American Idol winners. Yet, only Carrie Underwood has won (or even been nominated, I think).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as thrilled as anyone when an artist I like wins a Grammy. I still remember in 1974 how thrilled I was that Stevie Wonder won the album of the year Grammy. This was the first time an African-American had ever won this award, so the deck was stacked against him. Most believe that his success at the Grammy’s and within the larger music elite was possible because of the credibility he gained by touring with the Rolling Stones in 1972.
Also, I have nothing against Esperanza. She lists Stevie Wonder as a major influence, and so I would probably like her. She may be a major new talent. All I’m saying is that this award is not a very good predictor of future success or promise.