Winning the Best New Artist at the Grammys is one of the highest honors a performer can receive, but some observers have long believed that the trophy can be more of a curse than a blessing.
In the 1970s and 1980s, particularly, several victors went on to have relatively short-lived careers after winning the Best New Artist prize. After the 1990 Grammy Awards, Best New Artist winners Milli Vanilli had their trophy revoked after they admitted they didn’t sing on their own album.
The following year, however, the curse seemed to be broken when Mariah Carey took home the award. The “Fantasy” singer went on to become one of the most successful pop artists in history, racking up 19 No. 1 hits and selling more than 220 million records worldwide. As of 2022, she holds the record for most No. 1 singles by a solo artist, beating out artists including Elvis Presley, Rihanna, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. (The only artist with more No. 1 hits than Carey is The Beatles, who have 20.)
By the 2000s, the so-called curse truly seemed to be a thing of the past. From 2000 to 2009, the Recording Academy crowned hitmakers including Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, Carrie Underwood and Adele.
“I’m gonna cry,” the “Easy on Me” songstress said in February 2009 while accepting her trophy. She also gave a shout-out to some of her fellow nominees, saying: “Duffy, I love you, I think you’re amazing. Jonas Brothers, I love you as well!”
The U.K. native is also the first female artist (and second performer ever) to win all four of the “big four” Grammys throughout her career: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. The only other person to repeat the feat since Adele is Billie Eilish, who swept all four categories in 2020.
“That s–t was f–king crazy,” the “Bad Guy” singer told Vogue of her big wins in February 2020. “If anything, it’s an exciting thing for the kids who make music in their bedroom. We’re making progress, I think, in that place — kids who don’t have enough money to use studios.”
In 2021, Megan Thee Stallion became the first female rapper to win Best New Artist since Lauryn Hill took the award home in 1999. When the “Body” musician walked on stage to accept her statue in March of that year, she was initially speechless.
“Thank you to my mama,” Megan later said, referring to her mother, Holly Thomas, who died in 2019. “She’s not here with me today, but I know she’s here with me in spirit, and she always believed I could do this.”
Keep scrolling to see where past Best New Artist winners are now.