On May 17 the Billboard Music Awards will celebrate the recording industry’s top brass with a night of performances, honors, and tributes. One especially exciting and contentious category at the annual ceremony is the Top New Artist award, which rounds up the year’s biggest breakout acts and crowns a champion (or two). The award is a fairly good predictor of future success — past winners include Kanye West and Justin Bieber — and nabbing a Top New Artist honor has major career implications. This year’s group of nominees is especially strong — 5 Seconds of Summer, Iggy Azalea, Hozier, Sam Smith, and Meghan Trainor all had huge years, so the 2015 winner is really anyone’s guess.
The supremely talented and promising pack of nominees got us wondering: what’s become of Billboard’s Top New Artist honorees from the past? We did some digging around to find out — read on to discover what the past 10 winners are up to now, and check out the nominees on the road here and the full list of 2015 Billboard Music Awards nominees here.
(Note: the Billboard Music Awards did not take place between 2007-2010, so we’re starting our list with 2001)
2001: Alicia Keys and Lifehouse
Alicia Keys burst onto the scene in 2001 with her debut album Songs in A Minor, a Grammy-winning tour de force that established her as the top-selling new artist of the year. The Billboard Music Awards predicted big things from Miss Keys when they named her the year’s Top New Artist, and they were right — she has remained at the forefront of pop culture ever since, earning diva status with an impressive five chart-topping albums over the past 15 years. In 2014 she released “We Are Here” as the lead single from her yet-to-be-titled sixth album, due out in 2015:
Lifehouse had a major moment in the early noughties with their 2000 debut album No Name Face and chart-topping debut single “Hanging by a Moment”. Though they never achieved stardom on the level of Alicia Keys, they’ve remained busy over the years with extensive touring and six studio albums. Their seventh, 2015’s Out of the Wasteland, is due out on May 26 and features the single “Hurricane”:
Ashanti hit the ground running in 2002 with her self-titled debut album, a multi-platinum smash that spawned the chart-topping hit “Foolish” and earned her eight Billboard Music Awards including Top New Artist. Since then she’s been a major player, finishing out the ’00s as the third highest selling R&B artist of the decade, just behind Alicia Keys and Beyonce. Her fifth album, 2014’s BraveHeart, was a Top 10 hit thanks to sultry singles like “Early in the Morning” (feat. French Montana):
Evanescence topped charts around the world with their 2003 debut album Fallen, a massive success that sold more than 17 million copies and earned them two Grammys. They remained a major force throughout the decade, but by the early ’00s lineup changes and label disputes led to a hiatus. Their last single was 2012’s “Lost In Paradise”, but several 2015 reunion shows have fans hoping for new material from the band.
2004: Kanye West and Ashlee Simpson
Billboard was right on the money with Kanye — the visionary rapper has been a dominant force on the musical landscape ever since winning the award in 2004. His virtually unrivaled critical and commercial success includes a whopping 21 Grammy Awards, two appearances on Time Magazine’s Most Influential People list, and more than 80 million in record sales worldwide. Kanye remains one of rap’s most respected figures, and fans around the world eagerly await his highly anticipated seventh studio album So Help Me God, due out later this year. Kanye topped the charts once again in early 2015 with the genre-defying ballad “FourFiveSeconds”, a collaboration with Rihanna and Sir Paul McCartney:
Ashlee Simpson topped the charts with her 2004 debut album Autobiography and its 2005 follow-up I Am Me, but her success hasn’t kept pace with the likes of Kanye. The past few years have been quiet for Ms. Simpson, but she’s hinted at a potential comeback. Her last official release was the 2012 single “Bat for a Heart”:
2005: Gwen Stefani
Although Gwen had already enjoyed massive success for more than a decade as frontwoman of No Doubt, her 2004 debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby. made her eligible for the Top New Artist award. Once again, Billboard nailed it — Gwen has been a pop culture icon ever since, turning out hit after hit while continually reinventing both her sound and her personal style. It’s been nearly a decade since she released an album, but the wait is almost over — Gwen plans to drop a new full-length in 2015. Check out her Pharrell-produced new track “Spark the Fire” below:
2006: Chris Brown
R&B bad boy Chris Brown is a household name today, but in 2006 he was a little-known newcomer enjoying his first taste of success with his self-titled debut album. Since Billboard named him their Top New Artist in 2006 Brown has remained a constant presence on the charts, cranking out hit after hit while also enjoying success as an actor. Brown recently burned up the charts with Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne with the track “Only”, a hard-edged cut from Nicki Minaj’s 2014 album The Pinkprint.
2007-2010: Awards not held
2011: Justin Bieber
The Biebs was just a fresh-faced YouTube sensation when he won Top New Artist in 2011, but once again the savvy minds at Billboard hit the bullseye. Since then he’s become a household name with one of the most devoted fanbases in music. Bieber hasn’t released an album since 2012’s Believe, but Beliebers are in luck — he recently confirmed that his highly anticipated fourth album would hit shelves some time in 2015. Check out his latest guest vocal on Jack Ü’s 2015 track “Where Are Ü now” below:
2012: Wiz Khalifa
Rap wunderkind Wiz Khalifa has been an emblem of the hip hop high life ever since his 2006 debut album Show and Prove first made him an underground sensation, but Billboard didn’t crown him their Top New Artist until 2012. Despite the delay, the honor was well-deserved — since then Khalifa has consistently slain the competition with witty, funny songs about smoke-filled days and bottle-poppin’ nights. His sixth studio album Blacc Hollywood peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2014, and he topped charts around the world in 2015 with his track “See You Again” from the Furious 7 soundtrack:
2013: One Direction
When Billboard named British boy band One Direction their Top New Artist in 2013, it was clear the only direction was up. Since then the band has become a global sensation and a touring juggernaut, breaking revenue and attendance records with their epic live performances. In 2014 One Direction scored their fourth consecutive No. 1 album with Four, which spawned the hugely popular romantic ballad “Night Changes”:
As far as pop music is concerned, 2013 was the year of Lorde, and Billboard took note. As Billboard’s 2014 Top New Artist she has some big shoes to fill, and only time will tell if she reaches the same echelon of stardom as previous winners like Kanye West and Gwen Stefani. Check out her latest hit “Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1 soundtrack below: