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Article

Why do the Best New Artist winners disappear?

Whatever happened to Sheena Easton, Sade, and Christopher Cross?

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Whether it’s Bobbie Gentry (”Ode to Billie Joe”), the Starland Vocal Band (”Afternoon Delight”), or Debby Boone (”You Light Up My Life”), Grammy voters have an astounding knack for picking Best New Artists who vanish from sight almost immediately. The Grammys’ record for nipping budding careers has been even more impressive in the ’80s:

1980 Christopher Cross He also swept Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year, but his career was swept aside in the process: In the decade since, only two Top 10 hits followed.
1981 Sheena Easton The Scottish singer graduated to Jack LaLanne ads.
1982 Men at Work ”Who Can It Be Now?” was a prophetic song title for this Australian band, which broke up three years later after two flop follow-up albums.
1983 Culture Club They’re now remembered more for Boy George’s substance abuse than for ”Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”
1984 Cyndi Lauper Bad movies, self-parody, two forgettable follow-up albums: Well, there’s always her career as an announcer at pro-wrestling matches.
1985 Sade No matter how many copies of ”Smooth Operator” were sold in 1985, it’s not a good sign when people start mispronouncing your name again.
1986-87-88 It’s too soon to tell whether recipients Bruce Hornsby and the Range, Jody Watley, and Tracy Chapman (respectively) will suffer the same fate others have. However, Chapman’s second album didn’t match the impact of her first; Hornsby’s brand of Hush Puppy rock is the current equivalent of Christopher Cross’ ”Sailing”; and Watley seems destined to be a support act on an ’80s nostalgia tour, along with some of the above-named artists.