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The Grammys: The curse of the Best New Artist award?

Milli VanilliA Best New Artist curse? Girl, you know it's true. Maybe.

Conventional wisdom has long held that the winner of a Grammy Award for Best New Artist is jinxed, destined to a career of flop albums, gigs at car dealership openings and all-purpose shame. This is otherwise known as the Curse Of Christopher Cross (BNA winner, '81).

But is the Grammy curse a made-up thing? Unlike, say, the Mummy's Curse, which we all know is real? We consider the evidence, after the jump.

Evidence That There Is A Curse

1. Christopher Cross. He released more than a dozen albums after his win, yet his own parents probably could not pick him out of a lineup.

2. Milli Vanilli. Their '90 BNA award was confiscated after a lip-synching scandal. The Grammy committee, perhaps figuring everyone had suffered enough, did not issue an award to the runner-up that year. And then one of the Millis died, which is depressing, but probably not relevant.

3. A member of the Starland Vocal Band (BNA winner, '77), the unfortunately named Taffy Danoff, told a TV interviewer that winning a BNA was "the kiss of death." Wondering what ever happened to the Starland Vocal Band? The fact that Danoff recounted this anecdote on a show called "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders" should pretty much explain it.

4. Lauryn Hill (BNA winner, '99). Heard from her lately?

But wait!

Evidence That There Isn't A Curse, Possibly

1.Christopher Cross. After years of ignominy, he has recently emerged as one of the accidental forefathers of yacht rock. Hey, it's something.

2. Mariah Carey ('91). Sheryl Crow ('95). Norah Jones ('03).

3. The '00s: Most of the past decade's winners have gone on to entirely respectable careers, from Christina Aguilera ('00) to Carrie Underwood ('07). The jury's still out on the last two winners, Amy Winehouse and Adele.

What We Can Learn From All This

Here's our theory: Grammy voters tend to favor middle of the road artists, which is why they would give every single award, even the heavy metal one, to Steely Dan or Sheryl Crow if this were allowed. This is part of the reason the Grammys are taken about as seriously as High Times magazine's Stony Awards.

It's a given that voters will choose the blandest act possible. In the '70s and '80s, when Easy Listening and AM pop were king, this led to some indefensible choices (Debby Boone, '78, Sheena Easton, who beat out Luther Vandross in '82).

But as easy listening has given way to the more palatable light pop and adult alternative, the pool of new artists has improved, paving the way for tastefully bland acts with long-arc career potential (Alicia Keys '02, John Legend '06) to emerge victorious.

The same sense of caution that makes the results in other categories seem hopelessly fusty works in the Grammys' favor here. Voters may not be looking for the next Radiohead, but they're at least looking for the next John Mayer-type legacy act.

This is good news for the Grammys themselves - Best New Artist is one of the only categories that's less embarrassing than it used to be - but bad news for trendier acts like the Jonas Brothers (nominees, '09), Avril Lavigne (nominee, '03), Sisqo (remember Sisqo? Nominee '01) and, probably, MGMT (nominee, '10).

It's also why the Ting Tings probably won't win this year. That, and the fact that even the average Grammy voter can tell they're pretty terrible.

By Allison Stewart  |  January 26, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Grammys  | Tags: Alicia Keys, Christopher Cross, John Legend, Lauryn Hill, Milli Vanilli, Sheryl Crow  
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Why isn't Lady Gaga nominated in this category? She's in all the top categories -- why not best new artist? Please, someone explain.

Posted by: amyargetsinger | January 26, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Gaga was nominated in 2009 for best dance recording with "Just Dance." I *believe* this makes her not "new" by Grammy standards. Weird science.

Posted by: ChrisRichards | January 27, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE STARLAND VOCAL BAND? Uhhhh... they opened a restaurant in the Palisades neighborhood in DC called the Starland Cafe and ran it for 25 years. Allison, do you even know the city you live in? The reality of their situation is MUCH FUNNIER and more interesting than what you wrote.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 27, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

From Starland Vocal Band
2009 Washington Area Music Association

2008 Washington Area Music Association
(Jon Carroll & Love Returns/ Live Returns Live at the Barns)
-- POP ROCK DUO/GROUP (Jon Carroll & Love Returns)
--Azalea City Recordings--

2007 Washington Area Music Association
--SONG OF THE YEAR (Paint That Dollar)
--ALBUM OF THE YEAR (Love Returns)
--MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR (General Award Category)
--ROCK RECORDING (Love Returns)

Posted by: jdcarroll88 | February 1, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Hey--I'll raise my hand.

Posted by: jdcarroll88 | February 1, 2010 12:05 AM | Report abuse

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