Eagles, one of the biggest bands of all time, didn't win the Grammy for Best New Artist. They lost to America, the pop trio best known for "A Horse With No Name." How can that be? America had a bigger first year than Eagles did. America had a #1 album and a #1 single right off the bat in the spring of 1972. Eagles didn't hit #1 on either chart until 1975.
Grammy voters aren't supposed to take sales into account, but they can see what's happening and sometimes can't help but be swayed by it. Voting is a snapshot in time. It reflects what's happening right then and there. Voters don't have the luxury of the long view; of seeing which acts build over time and which sputter out.
[Related: 8 Last-Minute Grammy Dramas]
Of course, the operative word in the category is "best" new artist, not "biggest" or "longest-lasting." Esperanza Spalding
scored a huge upset three years ago by beating Mumford & Sons
(future Album of the Year winners), Drake
, Justin Bieber
and Florence + the Machine
, all of whom have had far more commercial success. Few would argue that Spalding isn't a talented and worthy artist—though some might wonder how you fairly compare such wildly disparate artists.
Tragedy befell two Best New Artist winners. Karen Carpenter
died of complications from anorexia nervosa less than 12 years after Carpenters
won as Best New Artist of 1970. Amy Winehouse
died of alcohol poisoning less than four years after she won as Best New Artist of 2007. In both cases, artists they had defeated for Best New Artist (Elton John
and Taylor Swift
, respectively) became unstoppable forces of nature.
Here are 12 of the most surprising outcomes.