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Please, Grammys, Eliminate The Metal Category

Jeremy Fuster |
February 9, 2015 | 11:34 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Tenacious D, shown here at the 2008 Spike Video Game Awards, is apparently worthy of the Grammy for Best Metal Performance (Getty Images)
Tenacious D, shown here at the 2008 Spike Video Game Awards, is apparently worthy of the Grammy for Best Metal Performance (Getty Images)
Metalheads have never had a good relationship with the Grammys. On an annual basis, pretty much every metal website writes a throwaway post about the Best Metal Performance nominees with such dismissiveness you can practically see the bloggers' eyes roll. The story of Jethro Tull winning over Metallica in 1989 has become so infamous it's been carved in history as the Grammys' biggest mistake ever.

But since then, the Grammys have proven to be out of touch with metal with breathtaking consistency. Megadeth has been nominated 11 times but never won. Yeah, Dave Mustaine's a nutbar who's burned bridges with everyone who's ever been in his band, but 'Countdown To Extinction' is one of the most important and socially conscious metal albums of all-time. Yet in 1993, it was decided decided that Nine Inch Nails was a better "Metal Performance" than Megadeth's magnum opus.

The nominee list is littered with covers and live performances of songs written decades ago. The only Grammy Motorhead has ever won is for a rendition of Metallica's "Whiplash." Judas Priest's only Grammy win was for a live performance. Ozzy Osbourne's first two Grammys were for live versions of "I Don't Want To Change The World" in 1994 and "Iron Man" with Black Sabbath in 2000. IRON. MAN. Things were terrible for metal back in 2000, but surely they could have done better than a live version of the song that started the genre?!

The rest of the winners list in this category reads like the voters just picked a winner off of name recognition. A couple of wins for Slayer here, a win for Iron Maiden there. Metallica, of course, has won six out of the seven years they have been nominated. The only award wins that actually seem interesting and indicative of the advancement of metal were for "Before I Forget," the song that signaled Slipknot's rise to prominence in 2005, and "Ænema," a song by Tool that is all about how pretentious L.A. showbiz types (e.g.: Grammy voters) need to die in a massive flood straight out of the Book of Genesis.

READ MORE: Best Grammy Performances of Years Past

But nowhere in the winners list will you see bands that actually push the envelope. No Behemoth, no Carcass, no Revocation, no Septicflesh. Honestly, the reason why is simple: metal almost never gets released by major American record labels. The Grammys aren't going to go out of their way to pick nominees that aren't backed by Hollywood execs. Metal fans have come to accept this truth, and it's been agreed upon that the Grammys just shouldn't be taken seriously.

But after Sunday night, when Tenacious D was named the "Best Metal Performance," it's become clear that this category doesn't just need to be ignored...it needs to be eliminated.

Make no mistake, Tenacious D is an hilarious duo that straddles the line between parody and honest-to-goodness badass hard rock. They've made some excellent songs in 'The Pick of Destiny' and 'Rize of the Fenix,' but they weren't given a Grammy for that work. They were awarded for a cover song off of a tribute album to the late Ronnie James Dio.

Even within the Grammy's narrow idea of what constitutes award-winning metal, this decision is baffling. The other nominees included Mastodon, one of the current flagbearers of American metal; Slipknot, who invite controversy among metalheads wherever they go but managed to release a #1 album; Motorhead, the British stalwarts; and Anthrax, a band also nominated this year for a Dio cover but who have contributed more to metal in the last five years than Metallica, Megadeth, or Slayer could ever hope to.

Yet it is Tenacious D, the comedy act, that is deemed to have been the best example of metal in 2014, and not even for their own original work. Was their cover of "The Last In Line" any good? Well, yeah, it was very good. But even putting the Grammys aside, can anyone say with a straight face that Jack Black and Kyle Gass did a better job honoring Dio's memory on that album than any of his actual musical peers? It's highly doubtful that these voters really think Tenacious D wrote the best song. It's far more likely that the aforementioned name recognition voting method reached a new low last night, leading to awards being handed out based on which nominee has a Hollywood star in its lineup.

READ MORE: Complete List Of Grammy Winners

Maybe it's just ridiculous to be angry at the Grammys about this anymore, but enough is enough. The metal Grammy does nothing to affect sales, metal fans don't care about it, and it's quite clear that the voters don't care about it either. The Grammys' respect for current metal began and ended with Metallica's live performance of "One" the same year Jethro won over them. Since then, the genre has been punted almost wholesale to the pre-telecast award ceremony. Only on occasion does metal get deemed worthy for airtime on CBS, and when it does, it's always a band over the age of 50 like AC/DC, which no one would ever mistake for an innovative metal band. Meanwhile, the passing of Jeff Hanneman, who's written pretty much ever hit Slayer song including two Grammy-winning ones, was completely ignored during the "In Memoriam" montage last year.

In the world of the Grammys, metal is stuck in eternal limbo, with awards given to legends for subpar works, yet never receiving any gestures that would show that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has any actual respect for metal's contributions to music. Metal doesn't need or want such validation from Hollywood execs, but we'd probably all appreciate it if they ended this half-baked lip service and just flat out admitted that metal has no place at the Grammys. Eliminating the metal category wouldn't be a sign of disrespect. It would just put this sad farce out of its misery. The Grammys have had 25 years to get this fixed, but now it's time for a clean break.

Reach Jeremy Fuster here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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