It was one of the most jaw-dropping moments at the 2023 Grammy Awards on Sunday Feb. 5, when last year’s best new artist winner, Olivia Rodrigo, announced her successor.
It was a wide-open field, with no obvious winner such as Rodrigo or Billie Eilish, the 2020 champ. Latto and Måneskin were widely seen as the front-runners, with several other artists (Anitta, Muni Long, Molly Tuttle and Wet Leg) thought to be within striking distance.
The award instead went to Samara Joy, a 23-year-old jazz singer whose chances of winning were discounted by many pop-focused fans. They had much the same reaction 12 years ago to another talented jazz artist, Esperanza Spalding, and she wound up winning too — even among some stacked pop competition.
Joy won a second award on the night — best jazz vocal album for her second album, Linger Awhile. (She beat, among others, Cécile McLorin Salvant, a three-time winner in that category.)
Three of this year’s other best new artist candidates also went home with Grammys. Wet Leg won two awards – best alternative music album for Wet Leg and best alternative music performance for “Chaise Longue.” Long won best R&B performance for “Hrs & Hrs.” Tuttle won best bluegrass album for Crooked Tree (a collab with Golden Highway).
The other nominees in the category this year were Omar Apollo, Tobe Nwigwe and DOMi & JD Beck, whose Not Tight was nominated for best contemporary instrumental album.
So how did Joy pull off this surprise win? Here are six factors that likely played a role:
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