Grammy for best new artist: Career boost or ‘kiss of death’?

Published 9:59 AM EST, Sat February 13, 2016

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Winners of the Grammy for best new artist are a mixed bag

On the one hand, the Beatles; on the other, Milli Vanilli

(CNN) —  

Getting the Grammy Award for best new artist isn’t always a career booster.

Just ask the Starland Vocal Band.

The “Afternoon Delight” group won two Grammys at the 1977 awards: best vocal arrangement and best new artist.

“That was basically the kiss of death,” band member Taffy Danoff told VH1 in a “100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders” special. “I feel sorry for everyone who’s gotten it since.”

Danoff has a point. Other winners for best new artist have included the Swingle Singers, Debby Boone, A Taste of Honey and Milli Vanilli (whose award was vacated after they were found to have not sung on their album). Regardless of what you think of their quality, they’re probably best known these days as answers to trivia questions.

Even artists who established notable followings, such as Rickie Lee Jones and Marc Cohn, didn’t have the kind of breakout success the award was expected to bring. “Bad Days in History” author Michael Farquhar called the award “pop music’s ticket to obscurity.”

On the other hand, the category’s winners have included the Beatles, Carly Simon, Sade, Alicia Keys and Adele – musicians who have had both critical appreciation and popular success.

So, “kiss of death”? Maybe not. But “mixed bag” certainly applies.

This year’s nominees are Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt and Tori Kelly. Will the winner go on to dominance – or become the answer to a future trivia question about one-hit wonders? Tune in a few years from now.