Photo by Michael Elins / courtesy of Tenacious D
Let’s get one thing straight: the Grammys mean nothing. It’s a big, glittery, star-studded event that matters to the music and entertainment writers assigned to cover it, the people invited to attend the ceremony, and the people who can’t resist holing up on Twitter all night to discuss it, and literally no one else. They’re good for bullet points on press releases and ego plumping, and that’s about it. However, the very least that most music fan can expect from the Grammys is a logical, if annoying, decision—the most popular artists with the most clout and most cultural significance usually win. It usually makes sense.
As usual, though, heavy metal fans can’t even hope for that. Once again, we got the shaft, and a fucking joke band won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance. For a cover. That appeared on the same tribute compilation as one of the others songs nominated. Their last record, 2012's Rize of the Fenix, was nominated for a Grammy, too. For Best Comedy Album. Because they are a joke band.
As my very sharp, very smart friend Gary noted,
From Jethro Tull to Tenacious D, when it comes to heavy metal and hard rock, the Grammys have always been absolutely excellent at Not Getting It. Metal fans don’t expect them to understand why their picks are always so unspeakably lame—if not downright offensive—and what’s more, we don’t really care that much. It's a nice feather in your hat if you do win—Black Sabbath, Slayer, Pantera, and Dream Theater have all enjoyed nice little sales bumps after receiving this particular industry accolade, as have younger nominees like Killswitch Engage, Halestorm, and Volbeat. Winning a Grammy is the equivalent to getting an A for your high school research paper about Countess Bathory; you know the teacher thinks you're a weirdo, but you still have something nice to stick on the fridge.
The Grammys' utter cluelessness when it comes to music with heavy riffs is fun to bitch about, but when you think about it, it is also pretty fucked up. The fact that Tenacious D actually won this thing speaks to the greater attitude society holds towards heavy metal. To have chosen Jack Black and Kyle Gass as a representation of what the music industry considers the pinnacle of the genre’s achievement for the year is to say that the most they expect from heavy metal (and the people who love it) is a dumb, crude, laughable piece of shit. At least Jethro Tull could wail on that flute.
Listen. No one’s expecting Yob or Pig Destroyer to win a Grammy (though how dope would that be?). It’s a mainstream award, and mainstream metal bands are nominated. It’d be stupid to expect otherwise. That’s not the problem here. In fact, they actually did alright for once— this year’s nominees also included Anthrax, Mastodon, Motorhead, and Slipknot, bands who have cracked the mainstream, but hold far, far greater significance to heavy metal than the “band” that won. Again, it’s worth nothing that two of the five nominations were taken from the same tribute album, a posthumous compilation dedicated to dearly departed metal god Ronnie James Dio. It’s nice to see Dio honored (sort of), but imagine the outcry if the same thing happened in the Rap or Pop category? Right, it wouldn’t. Even if the gates of Hell itself open up and award Iggy Azalea an award for Best Anything, there will be a whiff of legitimacy about it, because she makes real music (as in, earnest music that's not intentionally funny).
So, when faced with a handful of relevant, popular, respectable bands, the Grammy officials whipped out their thinking caps and passed judgement. They were given the choice between Motorhead—incredibly influential, universally beloved LEGENDS who released a killer new record FORTY YEARS after they first formed—and a vanity project from two Hollywood funnymen who have written such genre-defining hits as “They Fucked Our Asses.”
Guess who they chose.
Tenacious D hasn't been relevant for over a decade. Meanwhile, in Norway, an incredibly promising, progressive death metal band called Execration whose star has just begun to rise won their highest musical honor, the Spellemanprisen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same?
Kim Kelly is done talking about the Grammys now, promise (though she is on Twitter).