It is official; the 2010s are coming to an end. As we look into 2020, the Grammys have unveiled their final “Best New Artist” list of the decade. Without a doubt everyone’s definitive list for who is going to have a lasting and successful career in music, the 2020 list of nominations feature some fan-favorites, interesting surprises, and odd snubs (we’re looking at you complete absence of a single BTS nomination in any of the 84 categories).
With Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Maggie Rogers, Lil Nas X, ROSALÍA, Black Pumas, Tank and The Bangas, and Yola all finding themselves nominated for “Best New Artist” this year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the past winners. And after going back through a decade of winners and losers, it is safe to say “Best New Artist” may just be the wildest and most contentious Grammy category out there.
2010 - Zac Brown Band
2010 was a much simpler year. The Zac Brown Band had a hit on their hands, featuring none other than Margarita-loving and island-life-living Jimmy Buffet. The result would be a Grammy win for “Best New Artist,” beating out the likes of MGMT, Silversun Pickups, The Ting Tings, Keri Hilson. Not the best year for indie pop, but a great year for anyone who loves enjoying some fried chicken and beer to the sounds of the Zac Brown Band.
2011 - Esperanza Spalding
2011 may have been the biggest commercial upset to date. With some of today’s biggest pop and rock bands earning nominations–we’re talking Drake, Justin Bieber, Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons–the win would be a whole lot less pop and a whole lot more contemporary jazz. Acclaimed bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding would take home the illustrious award, proving that jazz was still alive and kicking, at least as of 2011.
2012 - Bon Iver
2012 marked a high point for EDM. Festival culture was ramping up and Skrillex had cemented himself as one the genre’s greatest innovators. Yet, 2012 saw the Grammys taking a step back and basking in the somber reflections of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Taking home the Grammy over not just Skrillex but J. Cole, The Band Perry, and Nicki Minaj, 2012 was Bon Iver’s year and the year the Internet collectively asked, “Who is Bonnie Bear?”
2013 - fun.
If the crowd that boo’d Drake off stage at this year’s Camp Flog Gnaw were at the 2013 Grammys, there would be a veritable riot. With the majority of nominations leaning more in the country and folk tradition, fun. would beat out the likes of The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, and Hunter Hayes. Yet, the true upset would lie in the indie pop-rock band taking home the award over R&B purveyor Frank Ocean.
2014 - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
2014 was an amazing year for music as a whole but hip-hop in particular. Yes, we had nominations for country-pop superstar in the making Kacey Musgraves, the only man who can turn down a check from Drake, James Blake, and one of the to-be biggest artists on the planet, Ed Sheeran, but the award would deservingly go to one of the best rappers of the decade, Kendrick Lamar. Just kidding. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis beat out Kendrick Lamar, taking home the award much to hip-hop’s collective dismay.
2015 - Sam Smith
2015 dodged a bullet in not giving the award to Iggy Azalea, whose list of feuds over the decade is enough to constitute both a standalone Billboard and Cosmopolitan article. Instead, the 2015 Grammys played it smart and safe by giving the honor to Sam Smith, who took home the honor over Bastille, Brandy Clark, HAIM, and the aforementioned Azalea.
2016 - Meghan Trainor
Not much to say here. Meghan Trainor took home the award over Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt, and Tori Kelly in a year where pop sounded a whole lot like country at times.
2017 - Chance the Rapper
2017 will always be my go-to-year for explaining why I will never quite understand the Grammys’ “Best New Artist” category. And no, it’s not because The Chainsmokers earned a nomination. Chance the Rapper took home the award, beating out Anderson .Paak, Maren Morris, and Keslea Ballerini, in spite of having released numerous mixtapes in the previous five years. The Grammys really knocked down my door in 2017 to ask if I had heard of this Chance the Rapper guy.
2018 - Alessia Cara
In a contentious year where pop-R&B reigned supreme, we saw some of our favorites pitted against one another. Khalid versus SZA. Julia Michaels versus Alessia Cara. Lil Uzi Vert just being Lil Uzi Vert. The award for “Best New Artist” would ultimately go to Canadian pop-R&B singer and songwriter Alessia Cara.
2019 - Dua Lipa
2019 marked a major change-up. Finding themselves as indecisive on me on any given day, the Grammys upped their number of “Best New Artist” nominations from five to eight. Making even more room for speculation, but not straying too far from the world’s ongoing obsession with pop-R&B, Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Bebe Rexha, Jorja Smith, and Dua Lipa all received nominations, as well as Margo Price, Luke Combs, and Greta Van Fleet who all made a good case for country and rock. However, it was Dua Lipa who would ultimately take home the award, because, really, was there any other pop queen in 2019 quite like Dua?