This is probably one of my 5 favorite Grammy moments of all time (ooh, an idea for another list!).
It’s March 1988, and the Grammy Awards are at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Presenting the Best New Artist trophy are Buster Poindexter, who is enjoying mainstream recognition for the first time in his career thanks to his cover of Arrow’s “Hot Hot Hot”, and Little Richard. What results is Richard going wildly and hilariously off-script (someone should have given him a sitcom right after that performance), and Buster trying not to let on that he’s exasperated as he actually was. I don’t know how many other Grammy moments have resulted in the award being upstaged by the presentation of it (except for that J. Lo dress moment), but the actual award was a pretty cool moment too.
The nominees for Best New Artist weren’t exactly the strongest. Of the five nominees, Cutting Crew and The Breakfast Club were already on minute 14 of their 15 minutes. Terence Trent D’Arby and Swing Out Sister are widely considered one-album wonders in terms of commercial success, even though both acts continue to make good music to this day. The eventual winner, Jody Watley, would go on to have the most commercially successful career (and is still making solid records), but there was controversy over her win, considering her recording career began way back in the late Seventies as a member of Shalamar. This win paved the way for a relaxing of the Best New Artist eligibility to rule that allowed former members of groups (Lauryn Hill) as well as acts that weren’t technically “new” artists (The Jonas Brothers, Fountains of Wayne) to be nominated and/or win. Of course, the category still manages to cause controversy. Folks were quite vocal about Lady Gaga (who owes artists like Watley a pretty big debt in the fashion department) not being nominated in the Best New Artist category last year because she’d already been nominated the previous year. While too late to save Gaga, the rule was overturned earlier this year, paving the way for artists like Drake to potentially be nominated for Best New Artist this year, or Bruno Mars (who will almost certainly be nominated for his collaborations with the likes of B.O.B.) to be nominated next year.
Jody Watley’s emotional acceptance speech still has replay value as well, although I wonder why she was backstage when the nominees were announced, unlike the other nominees, who were all seated in the audience (except TTD, who had either just performed or was just about to).