Grammys Best New Artist Award: 10 Biggest Surprises, Upsets Ever!

Esperanza Spalding receives her award at the 2013 Grammys
Jazz artist Esperanza Spalding beat out Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + the Machine, and Mumford & Sons in 2011. Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty

With the 2014 Grammys just around the corner, many are speculating (if not placing bets) on who will take home one of the show's most coveted prizes — the Best New Artist Award. This year's nominees include British electronic artist James Blake, rappers Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, country singer Kacey Musgraves, and British crooner Ed Sheeran.

Though plenty of known greats — like The Beatles, Cyndi Lauper, Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, and Adele — have won the title, many other years resulted in historic surprises and upsets. 

Here are some of the most shocking winners: 

1. Esperanza Spalding (2011)

No one could have predicted this winner! Though Esperanza Spalding is an accomplished jazz artist, she was the least-known nominee in 2011. Her competitors were rapper Drake, English rocker Florence + the Machine, teen pop phenom Justin Bieber, and folk group Mumford & Sons.


maroon 5
Maroon 5, winners of Best New Artist at the 2005 Grammy Awards SGranitz/

2. Maroon 5 (2005)

Though this pop rock group had plenty of popular singles, it was "harder to breathe" next to rapper Kanye West. So when Adam Levine and his crew snagged the award from the future Yeezus, many were shocked. 

Shelby Lynne
Shelby Lynn, winner Best New Artist at the 2001 Grammy Awards Terry McGinnis/

3. Shelby Lynne (2001)

What about the "Thong Song"?! This acclaimed alternative country singer managed to snatch the New Artist award from rapper Sisqo and future country sensation Brad Paisley.

christina aguilera
Christina Aguilera at the 2000 Grammy Awards J. Vespa/

4. Christina Aguilera (2000)

Mouseketeers attack! The new Millennium started with the battle of two fierce pop stars — Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The real-life rivals were pitted against one another for the Best New Artist award, but the "Genie in a Bottle" singer came out victorious. She hadn't even prepared her speech. "I thought with one single out in time for the cut offs for the Grammys, 'Genie in a Bottle,' my god, thank you so so much!" Xtina said in her acceptance speech.  

paula cole
Paula Cole performs at the 1998 Grammy Awards Kevin Mazur/

5. Paula Cole (1998)

Her single "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" was a popular ballad, but few prognosticators thought that this Lilith-Fair-friendly vocalist would best the likes of boy band Hanson, intense singer Fiona Apple, or the legend that is Puff Daddy (aka Diddy).

a taste of honey
A Taste of Honey circa 1980 Bobby Holland/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

6. A Taste of Honey (1979)

This one hit wonder group managed to steal the award from iconic rocker Elvis Costello and new wave group The Cars

starland vocal band
Starland Vocal Band pose with their Grammy awards next to Brian Wilson at the Grammy Awards in 1977 Max Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images

7. Starland Vocal Band (1977)

Their hit "Afternoon Delight" became one of the biggest-selling singles of the '70s, but Starland Vocal Band had little success after that (unless you're asking Ron Burgandy). This pop band beat out rock legends Boston. "Don't Look Back," guys. 

Gerry Beckley, Dan Peek and Dewey Bunnell of America perform on a BBC television show on April 30, 1973 David Warner Ellis/Redferns

8. America (1973)

This British group was known for hits like "A Horse With No Name" and "Sister Golden Hair," but they didn't quite live up to the status of their competitor group — The Eagles — which ended up becoming one of the most successful groups of the '70s. 

jose feliciano
Jose Feliciano performs circa 1970 David Redfern/Redferns

9. Jose Feliciano (1969)

Without him the world wouldn't have best-selling Christmas hit "Feliz Navidad," but was Jose Feliciano better than British supergroup Cream? They brought us Eric Clapton, after all. 

robert goulet
Robert Goulet records the soundtrack to the broadway musical in which he starred, "Camelot", in 1960 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

10. Robert Goulet (1963)

This Canadian performer became better known for his role in the theater later in his career (and for Will Ferrell's impression of him on Saturday Night Live), but still managed to beat out famed pop band The Four Seasons and folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

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