What Are the Past 10 Billboard Music Awards Top New Artist Winners Up To Now?

We look back on over a decade of new talent honorees, to see how their careers have evolved.

On Sunday, May 20, viewers around the world be waiting to see which of their favorite artists will be taking home 2018 Billboard Music Awards. As it all goes down on NBC, we will be watching for many exciting categories, but we’ll also have our eye on the Best New Artist victor.

Why? Well, historically, this category has honored a whole list of one-hit-wonders and flops like Justin BieberGwen StefaniKanye WestBritney Spears, the Spice Girls, and more. We’re totally kidding: nearly all of these BBMA victors have gone on to have incredible careers, which is why we’re showing you what the past 10 New Artist category winners are up to now.

2004 – Kanye West and Ashlee Simpson

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

2004 was the last year where Top New Artist winners were split into male and female categories. And the winners couldn’t have been more different. Kanye West‘s career has taken off in every imaginable direction since he picked up this honor: he’s taken the worlds of rap, hip hop, fashion, and yes — even Twitter — by storm. He’s married to Kim Kardashian, which also keeps him in the gossip mags daily, even though that’s probably the last thing he cares about.

Ashlee Simpson‘s own victory set her in a different trajectory. Her 2004 debut album Autobiography was such a huge hit that it’s no surprise she was honored at this BBMA ceremony. But the star hasn’t released any music since 2012, much to fans’ dismay. Still, she’s married to Diana Ross‘ son Evan Ross, and comes from a fierce line of talented Simpsons herself, so she’s very much musical royalty.

Ashlee SImpson

2005 – Gwen Stefani

What hasn’t Gwen Stefani done since 2005? The artist was already fan-beloved from her days in No Doubt when she went solo with Love. Angel. Music. Baby. In the years since her big Top New Artist win, she has had continued major solo album success, an exciting No Doubt reunion, and a run on The Voice.

2006 – Chris Brown

2006 was a simpler time for Chris Brown. He was a young, bright-eyed teen who was still getting used to his newfound and seemingly instant fame. He has gotten into a ton of trouble, and has been met with constant controversy. But you’ve got to give it to him: his music has never stopped topping the charts, and his latest feature on Lil Dicky‘s viral hit song “Freaky Friday” (and the hilarious music video) reminds us about all our favorite things about Chris through the years.

Oddly enough, there was no Top New Artist category for the years 2007-2010. So we have to skip ahead for our next winner update.

2011 – Justin Bieber

Remember baby Biebs, with the swoopy hair and the charming hooks? I’ve literally never seen a young star become a household name quicker. Since taking home his New Artist award, he has released three more major albums, one more successful than the last. He’s had many controversial moments and brightly spotlighted celebrity romances, but he’s always maintained his superstar status.

2012 – Wiz Khalifa

It was odd that Billboard waited until 2012 to honor Wiz Khalifa, especially since he put his debut album out way back in 2006. We’re not complaining too much though, since most of the hip hop artist’s best work has happened in more recent years. Some of his most notable post-win features include “See You Again” with Charlie Puth, and “Sucker for Pain” with the all-star list of Imagine Dragons, Lil Wayne, Logic, and Ty Dolla $ign.

2013 – One Direction

How do you even summarize the mega force that is One Direction? Formed on X Factor back in 2010, I’d argue that the band became a household name in 2013, when this Billboard honor occurred. It was far from their peak though, and the guys grew stronger and stronger with each new record release, five major ones in total. Zayn Malik left the band in 2015, and then the whole group went on an “indefinite hiatus” in 2016, but each member went on to release incredible solo music.

2014 – Lorde

No one could have predicted the power that Lorde‘s song “Royals” was going to have. The star dropped this track as a teen, and her debut album Pure Heroine took over the charts. Just when we thought she couldn’t possibly top herself, she came back with Melodrama in 2017, a solid sophomore album that proved her iconic status is here to stay.

2015 – Sam Smith

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sam Smith has made some bold career moves over the past few years, and not all of them were voluntary. He shot to instant superstardom after the release of his debut album, In the Lonely Hour. Right when it felt like he was really taking off, Sam had to take a break and undergo vocal chord surgery in 2015. Though it was likely the toughest choice to have to make, he recovered stronger than ever, and was able to make an arguably even more powerful sophomore album in 2017, The Thrill of It All.

2016 – Fetty Wap

The viral hit song “Trap Queen” skyrocketed Fetty Wap to huge Billboard success. There has been some talk about the rapper being a one- (or two-) hit-wonder, which the star himself has fired back against. He has been featured on some of the hottest rising tracks, like Fifth Harmony’s “All In My Head (Flex),” and David Guetta and Sia’s “Bang My Head.”

2017 – Zayn

After breaking hearts by leaving One Direction even before its hiatus, Zayn Malik quickly cemented his solo sound and began topping the charts all on his own. This was technically his second New Artist honor, since he picked up the other with 1D, but his sound was completely different this time around. In the year since this honor, he’s released many more singles and is currently teasing a second album drop.

This year’s nominees include 21 Savage, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Khalid, and Kodak Black. You can see the winner make their debut in this place in history during the BBMAs at 8 PM on May 20 on NBC.

Written by Kristine Hope Kowalski

Kristine is a writer and celebrity entertainment news journalist with a specific obsession with Nickelodeon + Disney Channel shows, boy bands, K-Pop, Broadway, and international series dramas. If she's not writing or tucked away in a good book, she is most likely traveling the world and spamming her friends' Instagram feeds with photos from her adventures. Kristine has a BA in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University (2011), and an MA in Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Thought from NYU (2013). She is currently pursuing her second Master's in Journalism through the Harvard Extension School.