After the latest edition of the Grammys, a list was circulated on Twitter of artists who have never won the music industry’s most prestigious (for all that that’s worth) award. It’s an impressive group – Hendrix, Queen, Joplin, The Who, Buddy Holly and Diana Ross (that one shocked me) were all there. But the purpose of the list seemed to be more about pointing out that Kanye West has 22 of the little gramophones, and that their lack and his surfeit was a travesty. And that’s just some first-rate bullshit.
Let’s start with the premise that awards shows are aimed at honouring the “best” of a given year. Taking a glance at any list of critics’ favourites in any year and then comparing it to the major award winners for that year will quickly reveal the folly of such a belief. Sometimes, it takes time for a work of art to be appreciated properly: people were so incensed by what they heard that there was a riot after Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” debuted in 1913 (no Grammy for Igor that year, though he already had a pair for “The Firebird” and, in a controversial win at the time, “Petrushka”).
Awards are also a form of committee decision, and thus reflect a consensus, and sometimes a capitulation, and such a process tends to squeeze out greatness in favour of something pretty good that everyone can live with. It’s how A Taste of Honey beat out Elvis Costello and The Cars for the Best New Artist Grammy in 1979 (though good old commerce played a big part there, too). And, of course, that isn’t limited to music. It’s also how “Dances with Wolves” beat “Goodfellas “for best picture at the Oscars, and how Jim Parsons won four Emmys for “The Big Bang Theory” while it took Jon Hamm’s eighth and final try to get just one for “Mad Men”. Weird shit happens at award shows.
Another problem is that the list of unrewarded worthies included Journey. Look, I have screamed along with “Don’t Stop Believin'” just like everyone else. But if there was ever a year when something from Journey was the very best those 365 days had to offer in any category of endeavour, then that was one weak-ass year. (There is no such year.)
And Kanye is the guy they go after? If you don’t get that he’s a musical genius, one of the true masters of our era, then I can’t help you, but I also probably can’t take anything you say all that seriously unless your reason is that he just isn’t your thing, which I totally get: I don’t get all the love for Ariana Grande, and probably never will. Taste is personal. Any other rationale, though, is very much an old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn scenario. You can dislike Kanye – and I get that, his music isn’t always user friendly – but don’t try to turn that into him being overrated. And if you don’t like him, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
And, with that, I present my favourite “new” music of April 2022. There are 21 albums instead of my usual 20 because I just couldn’t make that last cut without re-listening to about half of these, and we’re already halfway to the next list, so screw it, I can change the rules whenever I want, right?
- Dave Mason – Alone Together (1970)
- The dB’s – Stands for Decibels (1981)
- Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden (1988) (Probably best to listen to in a dark room with really good headphones.)
- The Records – Smashes, Crashes and Near Misses (1988)
- John Hiatt – Perfectly Good Guitar (1993) (This crowded out a really good record from Little Village, a supergroup that Hiatt was a part of.)
- Lyle Lovett – The Road to Ensenada (1996)
- Failure – Fantastic Planet (1996)
- Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out (1997)
- The Juliana Theory – Understand This Is A Dream (1999) (In retrospect, this should have permanently been in my CD player for most of the 2000s.)
- Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001 (This one, too.)
- Depeche Mode – Delta Machine (2013)
- Kelsy Karter – Missing Person (2020)
- Mr Twin Sister – Al Munro Azul (2021)
- Natalie Gelman – Moth to the Flame (2021)
- Maren Morris – Humble Quest (2022)
- Letting Up Despite Great Faults – IV (2022)
- Wet Leg – Wet Leg (2022)
- Guerilla Toss – Famously Alive (2022)
- Mom Jeans. – Sweet Tooth (2022)
- Tanika Charles – Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly (2022)
- Girlpool – Forgiveness (2022)