Or course, the Beatles won it, too, and they survived. You don't suppose it may have been that they deserved it more than Starland Vocal Band, whose "Afternoon Delight" may be the most annoying single of the 1970s? I'd have to go with "Yes" on that one.
Here's a look at Grammy's most embarrassing decisions in the field of handing out a Best New Artist trophy.
This is over Cream, among the most important artists of the psychedelic era. Cream, whose lead guitarist Eric Clapton never sounded more heroic. Cream, who by that point had dropped "Disraeli Gears," a psychedelic masterpiece whose highlights ranged from "Sunshine of Your Love" to "Tales of Brave Ulysses," and followed it up with "White Room." Cream, for whom the cliché supergroup fit almost like an understatement. Cream, who lost the Best New Artist Grammy to Jose Feliciano, a guitarist Grammy voters more than likely knew from his Flamenco-flavored lite-jazz reading of the Doors hit, "Light My Fire." Man, that's silly.
Yeah, I know I put them on the most deserving list as well (because they're great), but seriously. Over Zeppelin? And without Neil Young? Those first two Zeppelin albums revolutionized the art of rock and roll, defining heavy music's possibilities for every generation since while spinning off such undisputed hard-rock classics as "Communication Breakdown," "Good Times Bad Times," "Dazed and Confused," "Heartbreaker" and "Whole Lotta Love." And have I mentioned Jimmy Page?
It's fun to like the Carpenters, I know. I do it, too. They even earned an alt-rock tribute album in the '90s. But there's no way they deserved this more than Elton John. I know he hadn't really made his mark yet, but we're talking Best New Artist, not a Hall of Fame induction. As '70s schmaltz goes, "Your Song" is at least as good as "Close To You," and that same album also featured "Border Song" and "Take Me To The Pilot."
By the time they lost the Best New Artist Grammy to America (a soft-rock dynasty whose win may have had more to do with the fact that the Beatles' producer, George Martin, had taken them under his wing), the Eagles had already conquered U.S. airwaves with three of the best songs on the biggest-selling album in U.S. history, "The Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975)." That's "Take It Easy," "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" versus "A Horse With No Name" and "Ventura Highway." Yeah, I know. It's kind of close. But while America would peak with "Sister Golden Hair," the Eagles gave us "Hotel California," and there really is no contest.
Hey, I like "Boogie Oogie Oogie." It's cute. And when I put it on, my shoulders shake (aside from which that bassline really makes the most of Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs"). But Elvis Costello was actually brilliant, a lyrical genius who'd taken the piss and vinegar of early punk and spit it back in his own mercurial language in pop songs as deadly as "Radio Radio," "Pump It Up" and "(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea." If he'd buried his head in the sand after losing the Grammy to a lightweight disco also-ran, "My Aim Is True" and "This Year's Model" would have guaranteed the man a home in any self-respecting Hall of Fame.
His debut album swept the big four categories (Album, Song and Record of the Year in addition to Best New Artist). And as yacht rock goes, it tops most Kenny Loggins records. But that first Pretenders album is among the most important relics of the New Wave era, introducing one of rock's great female archetypes, the awe-inspiring Chrissie Hynde, who let you know straight-up "I'm gonna have some of your attention" in their breakthrough single, "Brass in Pocket."
Yeah, "Sugar Walls" was hot (thanks Prince). But Sheena Easton was the cheeky "Morning Train girl" back in 1982, when Grammy gave her Best New Artist over Adam & the Ants. By then, the Ants had delivered their masterpiece, "Kings of the Wild Frontier," and followed through with one of New Wave's most exotic pop hooks in "Stand and Deliver."
If this had been a modeling award, I'd be like "All right, I don't see it, but whatever." After all, they did appear in all the photographs and videos. In fact, they may have done all that while someone else was in the studio recording all the vocals on their album. What, they never heard of Auto-Tune? The Grammy should have gone to Neneh Cherry.
Even if that "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone" song hadn't been among the more annoying records of the decade, Best New Artist should have gone to Erykah Badu, a neo-soul iconoclast whose Baduizm barely scratched the surface of her full potential. "Live" was even better, spinning off her most inspired single yet, "Tyrone." And after losing Best New Artist, she went on to paint her very funky masterpiece in "Mama's Gun."
Even Adam Levine knew Kanye West deserved this Grammy more than he did, starting his acceptance speech with a flustered, "Oh, my God. Kanye West, I want to thank you so much for being unbelievable." Maroon 5 did a decent job of making Hall and Oates sound like a fresh idea, but Kanye dropped the most inspired mainstream hip-hop album of the post-"Stankonia" era, effortlessly living up to his own hype (which can't be easy). And he's followed through with two more masterpieces, one interesting departure and this year's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."