The Grammys are probably the biggest and most well-known awards the music industry has to offer and yet for rock and metal fans it has long been a source of frustration and ire due to the often dismissive way they treat our beloved bands. This has led to plenty of confusion and mixed messages from the metal faithful, the ceremony becoming a lightning rod for any and all prejudices within the industry as well as the perceived ongoing decline of heavy music in general. This confusion has resulted in the Grammys becoming somewhat paradoxical as far as metal music is concerned, often derided as unimportant and irrelevant while also lambasted for not giving rock the credit it deserves. It has become Schrödinger’s Award Ceremony.
Prior to last night’s show there were whispers that this may have been the year that rock made its comeback, multiple nominations for GRETA VAN FLEET – themselves a divisive force within the scene – showed that rock music had gained a foothold in the mainstream once more and a good night for the band could see the floodgates open for a scene that has been quietly growing stronger away from the limelight. However, in reality the Grammys reverted to type, and last night’s event almost precisely revealed the paradox in microcosm.
While GRETA VAN FLEET’s nominations were indeed a step in the right direction, it was little more than lip service to a band that have spectacularly bucked the trend of the music buying public and have scored a number one with their debut album in a whirlwind of hype that has rarely been seen for guitar-based music in recent years. On the night the only award they picked up was in the specialist rock category, basically highlighting their status as the most high profile band in a genre the Grammys are otherwise happy to ignore, again it’s not to be sniffed at, especially as it is recognition for a new band rather than validation of an older, established band; something the Grammys hasn’t always done for sure, but it still smacks of a ‘best of the rest’ mentality when it comes to rock music. More interesting was the award for best metal album, given to HIGH ON FIRE, a leftfield choice in a strong field, but of course relegated to merely being a footnote at the ceremony, it gives HIGH ON FIRE a respectability and credibility that they certainly deserve, but will it have a major impact on their career trajectory? It’s unlikely.
So, a mixed bag for rock and metal on the night, but it could be argued that the raised profile of GRETA VAN FLEET shows signs that the Grammys are starting to take rock seriously once again, however it was during the In Memoriam section that the Grammys showed their true colours and proved why they are an irrelevance for many fans and indeed bands within the genre. Amongst the many musicians that were honoured after passing away in the past 12 months there was one glaring omission. VINNIE PAUL. A founding member and driving force behind one of the most influential metal bands of all time and he doesn’t even warrant a mention? It is disrespectful to both the genre and the man itself. It’s not even as if PANTERA were obscure or niche artists whose influence has grown over time, they had a number one album on the Billboard 200, for crying out loud. They achieved something incredible especially for a band who never compromised their metal style or brutality and VINNIE PAUL was an integral part of their success, it is rare that a drummer becomes as iconic as the singer or guitarist in a band, but VINNIE PAUL managed to be as much a part of PANTERA’s image as either his wildly talented brother, DIMEBAG DARRELL or the brutal and controversial figure of PHIL ANSELMO. For VINNIE PAUL not to be recognised at all does not just show that the Grammys have no respect for the current metal scene but also have never had any respect for it at all.
Should metal fans be concerned about all this? Well, unsurprisingly in this most contradictory of relationships, the answer is yes and no. If metal is ever going to get the respect as an art form that it deserves then high-profile recognition is needed. But part of the allure of metal music in the first place is its outsider status. Would mainstream recognition harm the genre more than help it? Are metal fans happier to be hated and misunderstood than they would be being lauded and loved? The opprobrium that greets any band that dares to strive for mainstream success would suggest so, just see the outcry at the release of this year’s ‘amo’ by BRING ME THE HORIZON for proof of that.
The fear is that rock and metal are dying breeds but looking to the Grammys for evidence of this is a pointless endeavour, because even at the height of the genres commercial triumphs the awards show would still ignore or side-line some of the biggest selling artists in the world. It is akin to asking a blind man his favourite colour; he can give you an opinion, but you’re unlikely to trust it. In truth the Grammy’s and rock music exist in different spheres, and while a band like GRETA VAN FLEET will occasionally drift into the middle segment of that particular Venn diagram, by and large rock and metal don’t need the Grammys and the Grammys don’t need rock or metal. For the Grammys rock music might as well be dead, for the legions of fans of the genre around the world we know it’s very much alive. Like Schrödinger’s cat somehow it manages to exist in both states at once, so perhaps it’s best if we just leave the box unopened and let the Grammys get on with their business while we get on with ours.