I had a random stream of consciousness conversation on Twitter the other day that ended with me mentioning Grammy stupidities. My friend Ryan Brymer was curious what my top 5 were, and here we are. (Ryan has more knowledge about music in his thumbnail than I have in my whole body, so I’m expecting him to reciprocate when we’re done here.)
The Grammy’s have a long history of stupidity, but this list is limited to what I consider to be the most egregious in the timeframe that I have been paying attention to music, which goes back to around the invention of the treble clef.
Starland Vocal Band over Boston
This is the one that actually prompted this post. Tom Scholz lived the life every kid who’s ever picked up a guitar has dreamed of. He had a day job as a certifiable genius at Polaroid and a long line of demo tapes that bounced around for years before one landed on a desk at CBS’ Epic Records. A few short months later, Boston’s eponymous debut album was the fastest million-seller in history (at that time), and every single song on the album received heavy airplay. (Quick, name another album that is true of, I’ll wait.) One of SVB’s members has blamed their lack of subsequent success on the New Artist curse, but that’s a gigantic load of … nonsense. Much like their music.
A Taste of Honey over The Cars/Elvis Costello
Two years later, despite ignoring rock-and-roll for fifteen years, the Grammy’s decided to embrace the relatively new disco. Disco! Conventional wisdom has this one going to the punk generation’s Elvis, but my vote would have been for the Cars. Their debut album was a true album; side two (that’s right, it predates CD’s, much less MP3 streams) has some my favorite song transitions. Elvis has had a better career, certainly a better critical career, but based on their first album, I still would have gone with the Cars.
Christopher Cross over The Pretenders
Yes, you’re correct, there is a distinct New Artist theme to this list, mostly because it took the Grammy voters about thirty years to realize rock-and-roll was a viable musical style. How someone could stay awake during an entire Cross song, much less vote for him over Chrissie Hynde and company is one of life’s great mysteries. Thirty-plus years later, they don’t even play Cross on Muzak (too boring), but you can find the Pretender’s all over the classic rock dial.
Milli Vanilli over … does it matter?
This wasn’t a misjudgment based on no one actually ever hearing them sing, this was a misjudgment based on really bad music even if they had sung it. They should have been disqualified based on their name alone.
Celine Dion over … anyone
Celin Dion has a Grammy. She has more than one, actually. It does not matter what category, it does not matter who the other nominees were (even if they were on this list), that is a travesty of the highest order. Every person who voted for her should have to listen to Starland Vocal Band until their brains spontaneously combust.
All right, Ryan, your turn.