This post is a touch “cold coffee,” since the Grammys were two-plus weeks ago, but I forgot about my intentions to write it. I became disillusioned by the Grammy Awards as a college sophomore when Toni Braxton took home the “Best New Artist” statue. It’s nothing against Toni — although I think she’s effing terrible — but rather against who was overlooked.
None of the following were ever nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in the late ’80s/early ’90s: Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Green Day. Soundgarden. Soul Asylum. And etc. etc. One could argue that there were some technical qualification issues due to timing of first album release, etc. But there have certainly been exceptions made in this regard before.
Evidently the Grammys have some algorithm that a mere layperson such as myself cannot understand. Two parts album sales, one part political correctness, a healthy dollop of attempted hipness, and a dash of what I can only call “non-threatening-ness.”
So, with apologies for the BuzzFeed-like presentation, I bring you some artists that were really truly nominated for Best New Artist back in their day. Sure, I have the benefit of hindsight, but even so … Kris Kross (spoiler alert … they’re number 2).
I actually think the nominees have gotten a little bit less crazy of late (Justin Bieber’s 2011 nod notwithstanding). Perhaps because it’s become easier for an artist not signed to a major label to gain traction and a following? Or perhaps because the acts of today don’t seem ridiculous until they are safely in the rear view mirror.
9. Hanson, 1998. God knows it breaks my heart to have these boys — one of my favorite bands (yes, bands) of all time — on this list. But let’s be frank. In 1998, they weren’t being nominated because they wrote their own songs, played their own instruments, or had a released a pretty damn good pop album with Middle of Nowhere. The Grammy powers that be have proven time and time again that they care not about such things. No, they were being nominated for being OH SO YOUNG and having a silly (and omnipresent) novelty hit.
8. The Tony Rich Project, 1997. This guy stole from the Alan Parsons book (whose “Project” was basically just two dudes) and gave himself a pretentious “band” name versus just simply striking out by his lonesome. Speaking of “lonesome,” he also had just one hit, “Nobody Knows,” which was far from a wonder.
7. SWV, 1994. S, double-U, S, V, U, S, double-U, double-V, U, S, double-U, V, V. Love will be right here. Actually, that song is pretty much a jam. Maybe they deserved this nomination.
6. Ace of Base, 1995. “Just like ABBA, but not as good!”
5. Color Me Badd, 1992. Assemble bootleg versions of George Michael, Vanilla Ice, Kenny G, and Rob (or Fab) from Milli Vanilli, throw in some harmonies, add jewel-toned suits, choreography, and scandalous (!) lyrics, and that’s Color Me Badd. Make no mistake … I played the hell out of their debut album, C.M.B.
4. C+C Music Factory, 1992. Apparently 1992 — the year I graduated high school — had slim pickings. Two years after the whole Milli Vanilli scandal, C+C Music Factory gets tapped as a Best New Artist nominee, despite being criticized (and sued) for having the more conventionally attractive Zelma Davis lip-synching to vocals from Martha Wash.
3. Tone Loc, 1990. 1990 was a rocky year on the Grammys front. Let’s recap: Milli Vanilli was crowned as Best New Artist (beating out Indigo Girls and Neneh Cherry). The dreadlocked duo was subsequently stripped of this title when that pesky lip-synching scandal broke (thank you, Club MTV tour!) The runner-up, whoever it may have been, wasn’t given the award … there simply wasn’t a Best New Artist that year. Before all this happened, though, Tone Loc was nominated. Tone “Funky Cold Medina” Loc! I’m sure even he found it hilarious.
2. Kris Kross, 1993. I mean. Honestly.
1. Billy Ray Cyrus, 1993. 1992 (the year honored by the 1993 awards) was apparently the WORST YEAR FOR NEW MUSIC EVER, despite the release of, just for example, The Chronic by Dr. Dre (his debut album), Dirt by Alice in Chains (their second album but the first to chart in the top 40), and Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut effort. But nope, a certified novelty act with a mullet FOR GOD’S SAKE beats all of those amateurs.