The Grammy Awards: Your Uncool Uncle

“The Grammys is the one award that doesn’t matter to anyone until they win one.”

For 15-20 years, I dismissed the Grammys as utter crap. It all started back in 1989, when they decided to branch out and recognize heavy metal and hard rock with its own category/award. And in a year when Metallica’s …And Justice For All ruled the rock/metal world (and, in my opinion, were still good and relevant), who was awarded the Grammy? Jethro Tull.

I repeat: Jethro Freaking Tull. A band with a flautist. How metal.

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It was an insult, a joke, and the moment I quit caring about the Grammys. And why should I? The music that mattered to me wasn’t even getting radio airplay most of the time, let alone being recognized by the industry. If a band I liked would’ve won a Grammy back then, I would’ve expected them to either not show up to receive it or give a vulgar and disparaging acceptance speech, detailing the ways the award was a joke and meant nothing to them. Breaking it on the stage would have been a plus.

In the early 2000’s I started watching the Grammys again, mostly out of morbid curiosity. There were some interesting wins here and there, some I agreed with and a lot I didn’t. There were interesting performances, some memorable and some miserable. But what became more and more clear is that for every tragic misfire there would usually also be a step in the right direction.

A prime example: in 2007 and 2008, Slayer won back-to-back Grammys. Slayer, one of the least commercial bands in the history of rock music, and one of my favorite bands. And all I could think to myself was, “It’s about damn time.” Suddenly the Grammys mattered, because a band I liked won one. And they humbly and graciously accepted the award, despite my wishes a decade earlier that any band I liked that won demolish the award immediately.

Now, I don’t always agree so wholeheartedly with who wins the Grammys (although I really don’t lose any sleep over any of it), but over the last few years I’ve come to view the Grammys as an uncool uncle you only see once a year—he isn’t as cool as he tries to be; he can sometimes be downright embarrassing; but, above all else he’s trying, and that counts for something.

Looking at this year’s rock nominees is a pretty good example: a handful of newer, and in my opinion more relevant artists mixed in with the likes of Black Sabbath, Neil Young, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin, for God’s sake. It seems to me more young acts should be nominated to keep interest in the awards, or else each new generation is going to write the Grammys off  as a bunch of geezers giving each other awards—although hopefully we never see another Jethro Tull-style goof up.

I had thought about doing a write up of the Grammys fully expecting it to be a snarky, sarcastic, excessively negative piece about the worthlessness of the awards. And while I still don’t think any band should care that much about winning one, it would be naive to say they don’t matter at all. The truth is, the Grammy is the biggest music award on the planet, and who wouldn’t like to be told their work is good enough to get one? The fact that they also give them to some of the worst songs/performers every year in the pop categories is another matter, and I’ll leave that issue to someone else.

I also have to admit that I’ve quite enjoyed the actual Grammy telecast the last few years; they really appear to be pulling out all the stops to make the show itself memorable, even if you don’t care about the actual awards. And with that, I’ll be the first to admit I’ll be watching Sunday night anxious to see who/what people are going to be talking about on Monday. Will you be watching?

Years Gone By – Getting Older Feels Weird

OK, right off the bat: I’m not an old person. Not even close. But I see the signs of age beginning to show, and it feels…weird.

Part of me looks forward to getting older. Once you reach a certain age, it seems like you’re practically given a free pass, and you can do or say just about anything you want. That’s pretty cool.

Still, there’s also a reluctance to aging. Like you’re past your prime somehow. Physically, it’s an inevitable truth. My wife pointed out that I made a host of involuntary grunts getting up from my chair the other night. That’s right, I wasn’t doing anything particularly strenuous, I was simply getting into a standing position.

Now that it’s been brought to my attention, I notice I do it almost all the time. I really have no idea how long I’ve been doing it. It doesn’t bother me that much, it’s just one of those things.

What really makes me feel old are the random things that just hit me out of nowhere. Pop culture references, and recalling things from my past. I was talking to someone at work about seeing Metallica in concert. He asked me when it was, and I had to think for a minute.

“19…88? Maybe?” I asked/answered.

“Wow,” he replied.

“Wow what?”

“In 1988 I was three.”

“Shut the hell up.”

I started thinking, and realized I was right. It was 1988. 25 years ago. How can that be? It seems like it was a few years ago, but 25?

During my music-loving, concert-going peak (from 1986-2000), I devoured music. I was constantly finding new bands I liked, going to shows to see both local and national acts. I would hear older guys complain that the music my friends and I liked was nothing compared to the classic rock of the sixties and seventies. I thought that was so closed-minded.

I’ll never be like that, I thought.

Guess what? I’m almost like that. I know there are all kinds of new acts out there that are fantastic, and I try to seek it out (I really like what I’ve heard from Jake Bugg, if anyone’s interested), but it’s so easy to just call upon my vast iTunes library and have a plethora songs I already know I like. Then I watch the Grammys and I hear the nominees for a category and just stare blankly at my wife – who are these people?

Then there’s all the actors and actresses who you see age before your eyes. Seeing someone getting older means you are, too. It’s just something we have to accept – except Kevin Bacon…is he really turning 55 this summer?

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All I know is, getting older is a part of life. Some of us aren’t ready for it when it comes, but I am. I think some of my best years are still ahead of me. I’ll turn gray (grayer, I should say), I’ll groan when I get out of bed or pick something up off the floor, but by and large, I’m looking forward to what is still out there for me. And whether I like his work or not, Kevin Bacon can just stick it. Stupid unaging space alien.