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Grammys flashback: Was Meghan Trainor cursed by her Best New Artist win in 2016?

Gold Derby 2/28/2023 Jaime Rodriguez
© Provided by Gold Derby

Last year I wrote a piece dissecting the last few Best New Artist Grammy winners, and I classified Meghan Trainor as one of the artists “cursed” by the sometimes-infamous award. Since then it seems like the tide has somewhat turned, with Trainor notching another major hit in late 2022 with “Made You Look,” thanks to a perfectly-executed TikTok campaign that most artists should take notes from. “Made You Look” certainly didn’t change things completely, as its parent album hasn’t really make a splash outside of that song, but it does make me reconsider Trainor’s career. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how Trainor won the Grammy, and perhaps why she hasn’t repeated that awards success despite a couple more hits.

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Trainor had a huge breakthrough with “All About That Bass,” which broke records by reaching the top of the charts while being her debut single with a major label. “Bass” made Meghan a big contender in other categories: it got nominated for Record and Song of the Year. Problem was, Best New Artist rules required artists to have at least five songs released to be eligible for the nomination. At the time, Trainor only had one EP, which contained four songs including “Bass.”

As such, Trainor had to sit out the 2015 Grammys cycle for Best New Artist, but that could’ve worked to her advantage. First, she was likely not beating the 2015 winner, Sam Smith, who was nominated across the board and beat her for Record and Song of the Year. But perhaps most importantly, more time gave Trainor the chance to establish herself more. When “Bass” got nominated, she could have turned out to be a one-hit wonder. But by the time the 2016 cycle came around, she already had a massive album with three more big hits on her hands. As such, the M-Train seemed to be rolling into the Grammys strong.

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But while Trainor should’ve been a sure bet for at least two nominations, she ended up only getting into Best New Artist. Her debut album “Title,” which was by all means a commercial achievement, missed what should have been an easy Best Pop Vocal Album nomination. And when I say easy, I mean it: besides the eventual winner (Taylor Swift’s “1989”), that lineup consisted of a James Taylor album with zero hits, a Florence and the Machine namecheck nomination, a Kelly Clarkson namecheck nomination, and a nomination for Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Special” — which, let’s be real, most people didn’t care for besides its massive lead single “Uptown Funk.” That isn’t to knock any of the nominees, as they’re all great records, but with how mainstream-oriented the pop field tends to be, it was odd for Trainor not to get in despite her massive popularity.

But Trainor was still one of the final five Best New Artist prospects. Her competition included country music star Sam Hunt, rockers James Bay and Courtney Barnett, and powerhouse vocalist Tori Kelly. When the nominations tally came up, Bay had the most with three, with Hunt getting two and the ladies only getting one apiece. Of course, since Meghan had gotten nominations the year prior, this wasn’t necessarily a big problem; “All About That Bass” would’ve surely gotten nominated in any year.

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However, many thought the momentum was shifting towards another person, especially since it seemed like pop voters didn’t care much for Trainor anymore. But even still, country acts rarely win this category, and the rock support James Bay might’ve gotten was likely not enough to edge out a bigger pop act, especially with another rock artist in the mix to take some votes. Then there was Tori Kelly, who likely just did not have a high enough profile to make a dent. That said, she and Hunt are the only ones to have been nominated again since their Best New Artist bids, and she actually won two Grammys the next time she was up for awards.

While she might have been a bit cursed by the award, Trainor has still had an impressive career. Her follow-up album, “Thank You,” produced a couple of hits, and now she’s got a new one for her fourth album, “Takin’ It Back.” And who knows, perhaps I judged Trainor way too soon and she’s got more cards up her sleeve. Plus, in the streaming era, we’ve seen multiple artists who seemed like afterthoughts get hit songs on the charts. Perhaps the Grammys did get it right after all …

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