The roster of Grammy losers for best new artist may be even more star-studded. There’s a reason for that. Every year, there are seven losers for every winner (it was four losers for every winner until last year), so there are more losers than winners who have a chance to make good. And, in many cases, they have done just that.
This is not to say that the Grammys got it wrong in all of these cases. The great bossa nova innovator Antonio Carlos Jobim didn’t win best new artist, but how could he? He had the misfortune of going up against The Beatles for the 1964 award. Not all of these artists lost to world-beaters like The Beatles, but many lost to other worthy artists who may have simply blossomed sooner. Some lost to one- or two-hit wonders who are barely remembered today. You be the judge.
Before we begin, a few honorable mentions to five best new artist losers who went on to have their biggest impact in fields other than recording: comedian and social activist Dick Gregory (1961) and TV and film stars Ann-Margret (1961), the Blues Brothers — John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd (1979) — Robin Williams (1979) and Vanessa Williams (1988).
Without further ado, here are the 50 greatest Grammy losers for best new artist.
46. Toto (1978)
The band won three Grammys, including the 1982 awards for record and album of the year. Rock critics scoffed, but “Africa,” in particular, has stood the test of time. Lost to A Taste of Honey.
42. Jefferson Airplane (1967)
The band morphed into Jefferson Starship (landing a No. 1 album with Red Octopus) and then Starship. This was their only nom as the Airplane. Received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Lost to Bobbie Gentry.
41. Antonio Carlos Jobim (1964)
The bossa nova king finally won a Grammy in 1995 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Lost to The Beatles.
40. Backstreet Boys (1998)
The boy band had two No. 1 albums, but has yet to win a Grammy, despite eight noms. Lost to Lauryn Hill.
38. Brad Paisley (2000)
The country star has won three Grammys and was the CMA’s entertainer of the year in 2010. Lost to Shelby Lynne.
32. Dixie Chicks (1998)
The female country trio has amassed three No. 1 albums and 12 Grammys. They swept album, record and song of the year in 2006. They were the CMA’s entertainer of the year in 2000. Lost to Lauryn Hill.
31. Jonas Brothers (2008)
The brother trio has had three No. 1 albums. This is their only nom to date, though expect more this year, thanks to “Sucker,” their first No. 1 on the Hot 100. Lost to Adele.
28. Shania Twain (1995)
Twain has had two No. 1 albums and has won five Grammys. She was the CMA’s entertainer of the year in 1999. Lost to Hootie & the Blowfish.
22. Nicki Minaj (2011)
Minaj, one of the most successful female rappers in history, has yet to win a Grammy (despite 10 noms). Lost to Bon Iver.
21. The Byrds (1965)
This was the influential group’s only Grammy nom. Lost to Tom Jones.
19. The Four Seasons (1962)
This was one of just two noms for the pop group. They never won. The success of Jersey Boys dramatizes their hits’ staying power. Lost to Robert Goulet.
13. Kendrick Lamar (2013)
The most acclaimed rapper of the second decade of the ’00s has had three No. 1 albums and has won 13 Grammys. Lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
12. Luther Vandross (1981)
The R&B balladeer won eight Grammys, including song of the year for “Dance with My Father.” His album of the same name hit No. 1. Lost to Sheena Easton.
11. Justin Bieber (2010)
The pop star has amassed six No. 1 albums. He won the 2015 Grammy for best dance recording for “Where Are Ü Now.” Lost to Esperanza Spalding.
10. Cream (1968)
This was the trio’s only nom. Cream, which had a No. 1 album in 1968 with Wheels of Fire, received a lifetime achievement award in 2006. Eric Clapton has gone on to win 17 Grammys. Lost to Jose Feliciano.
8. Ed Sheeran (2013)
The affable Brit has landed three No. 1 albums and has won four Grammys, including song of the year for “Thinking Out Loud.” Lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
6. Drake (2010)
The hip-hop star has had nine No. 1 albums and four Grammys. Lost to Esperanza Spalding.
5. Kanye West (2004)
The most acclaimed rapper of the first decade of the 2000s has amassed seven No. 1 albums and 21 Grammys. (That’s more Grammys than any other best new artist nominee—winner or loser.) Lost to Maroon 5.
4. Taylor Swift (2007)
The country-turned-pop superstar has amassed six No. 1 albums and 10 Grammys. She was the first female to win album of the year twice as a lead artist. She was the CMA’s entertainer of the year twice. Lost to Amy Winehouse.
3. Led Zeppelin (1969)
The hard rock band, which amassed seven No. 1 albums, finally won a Grammy in 2013 for Celebration Day. They received a lifetime achievement award in 2005. Lost to Crosby, Stills & Nash.
1. Elton John (1970)
The pop legend has amassed seven No. 1 albums and five Grammys. He received a Grammy Legend Award in 2000. Lost to Carpenters.