Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looking Back at the Careers of the Grammy Nominated Best New Artists of The 1980's - Part 1

For some reason I've been on a music history kick lately. Today, I'm going to analyse the Grammy Award winners (and nominees) for the category of "Best New Artist" from the 1980s. Time will show at how many errors were made and how most of the nominees who didn't win, had a much longer career. I'll break it over two posts and this first one will cover 1980 to 1984.

1.) Best New Artist of 1980: Christopher Cross

Nominees: Irene Cara, Robbie Dupree, Amy Holland, The Pretenders

Analysis: Christopher Cross had that one monster album that I discussed in the last column so I won't go into it again. Since then he had three semi hits...."Think Of Laura" (the most depressing song ever, I thank that I don't know anybody named Laura or I'd be crying like Mark Messier at any Ranger ceremony when it would come on), "All Right" (a very underrated 80's song with a great hook), and of course the immortal "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do" which I hum in my head any time I come out of the LIRR steps onto 7th Ave.

Irene Cara had two major hits..."Fame" and "Flashdance, What A Feeling" (great backing vocals). That's about it. Robbie Dupree had one main song, "Steal Away" which is probably the best song of the lot here. Amy Holland is more famous for marrying Michael McDonald than her brief career. The Pretenders easily had the most staying power with a run of hits "Back on the Chain Gang", "I'll Stand By You", and many others. So much so that they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

* Did the Grammys get it right?: Not even close but Christopher Cross would be the second pick by a country mile.

2.) Best New Artist of 1981: Sheena Easton

Nominees: Adam & The Ants, The Go-Go's, James Ingram, Luther Vandross

Analysis: I'll be honest, I had no idea Sheena Easton was making music in the early 80's. I remember her more from the Prince type songs she did in the mid 80's like "Sugar Walls" and "U Got The Look". She pretty much faded into obscurity although she still is viewed as one of the more sexier acts on the 1980's. Plus, I love the line "I want you to climb inside my Sugar Walls"...there's no sugar on the walls she's talking about, that's for sure.

As for the others...damn, that's a pretty good list. Adam & The Ants were the closest to punk around that time though other than "Goody Two Shoes", I don't think they had a major radio hit, The Go-Go's would go onto make several good songs and Belinda Caryle would go onto a successful solo career (one of the most random songs ever heard in Vegas casino is "Circle In The Sand"). James Ingram had a run of great R&B hits (nobody could do a "WOOOOO!!!!" like him) and a starring vocal role in "We Are The World" and lastly Luther Vandross has one of the most legendary R&B voices of all time.

* Did the Grammys get it right?: Nope....other than Adam & The Ants, the other artists enjoyed a much more successful career than Sheena E. and still tour today (well except for Luther Vandross).

3.) Best New Artist of 1982: Men At Work

Nominees: Asia, Jennifer Holiday, Human League, Stray Cats

Analysis: Its interesting that except for Jennifer Holiday, each of these artists had more than one hit but no more than 3. Men At Work had two major hits in 1983 that you couldn't escape, "Who Can It Be Now" and "Down Under"...I'll admit those are two pretty timeless songs though a tad overplayed. I was 6 years old yet I knew what a vegemite sandwich was (but I didn't want to take a bite of one if offered to me). Other than one more song "Overkill", they really didn't have any more radio friendly songs. Their lead singer still tours today so they have some kind of staying power.

As for the rest, Asia has two pretty good songs, "Heat Of The Moment" (which actually timedates 1982 with the line "and now we find ourselves back in 82'") and "Only Time Will Tell" (one of the greatest "F' You" songs ever). Human League made three all time favorite songs of mine with "Don't You Want Me", "Fascination", and "Human". The male lead singer was sort of scary looking though. I could never get into the Stray Cats though I did like the Brian Setzer Orchestra for while. Finally, Jennifer Holliday had one hit "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going", later featured in the movie Dream Girls but she has one of the most famous cameos in all of music as the gospel voice heard screaming at the end of Foreigner's classic "I Want To Know What Love Is"...I love wikipedia.

Did the Grammys Get It Right: I can't complain with Men At Work only because the other artists didn't really do much themselves.

4.) Best New Artist of 1983: Culture Club

Nominees: Big Country, Eurthymics, Men Without Hats, Musical Youth

Analysis: Well, Culture Club sure had a string of hits and one of the best "VH1 Behind The Music"'s of all time. "Time", "I'm Tumble For You", "Miss Me Blind", "Karma Chameleon", and "Do You Want To Hurt Me" are pretty much on any 80's radio station. Boy George got to sing an ad-libbed line in the immortal "Do They Know Its Christmas Time". They've toured off and on throughout the years though Boy George is currently in jail for tying a mail escort to a bed...that's pretty cool too.

The Eurthymics had a good but slightly overrated career with three big hits ("Sweet Dreams", "Would I Lie To You", and "Here Comes The Rain Again")...Annie Lennox has that distinctive voice. Other than that, its slim pickings for the other nominees. Big Country had that really lame song "In A Big Country" (who name checks their band in the title of a song?!?). Musical Youth had that one niche song called "Pass The Dutchee" which is repeated over and over and over again ad naseum. Men Without Hats had that quirky song "Safety Dance". The safety dance itself looked like it was created by someone who had severe arm spasms. In fact, I need to show the video since its very random.

Did They Get It Right? I have to say yes here. You could make a minor case for the Eurthymics but you'd have to through in Annie Lennox's solo career and that's not fair. If you did that, you'd have to throw in Boy George's "The Crying Game" and that makes me want to lick the curb.

5.) Best New Artist of 1984: Cyndi Lauper

Nominees: Sheila E., Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Corey Hart, The Judds

Analysis: This is so far the easiest one to say the Grammys got it right. Cyndi Lauper has had a pretty solid career though she hasn't had any hits lately. Still, she's one of the icons of the 1980's with "Girls Just Want To Have Fun", "True Colors" "I Drove All Night", and my personal favorite "The Goonies Are Good Enough".

As for the others...hmmmm. Well Sheila E., turned out to be a decent drummer and had one hit, "The Glamorous Life" and I believe was the band leader for Magic Johnson's short lived talk show. Frankie Goes To Hollywood had one monster hit "Relax" but I swear that was done by Duran Duran for the longest time. Corey Hart had two pretty cool songs, "I Wear My Sunglasses At Night" and "Never Surrender"...I can't recall ever seeing him smile. As for the Judds, I'm not a country fan so I can't tell you much about them except that Ashley Judd gets naked in a random movie called "8 Seconds" also starring Luke Perry....sadly I didn't need wikipedia for that one, I knew that one off the top of my head.

* Did the Grammys get it right?: Umm, is the Pope Catholic? Am I currently obsessed with HBO show "Tales From The Crypt"? Do I think Cheap Trick is overrated? Does Duran Duran deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? A resounding "Yes" to all of the above.

Back for 1985-1989 later this week...


Anonymous said...

Yes! Your back, and I love it.

Long Live Hungieman!!!!

Hungieman said...

Consider it a cameo appearance for now (Like Sean Connery at the end of Robin Hood: Prince Of Theives or Jabba The Hut in Star Wars: Episode I).

The most recent topics take a lot more effort to write these days. I'm trying my best.