Rock Bands and the Grammys: Where Were They?

anonymous guitar player

Editor’s Note: This post was inspired by a discussion about what seems to be less of a presence by new or upcoming rock bands. The recent Grammys seemed to emphasize that point. Has the media landscape that once turned them into stars (like MTV) fractured? Or are we missing something? Read on and comment.


The 66th Annual Grammy Awards were recently broadcast and throughout the over-three-hour show hosted by Trevor Noah, the categories that appeared during the telecast seemed to ignore a certain genre of music. There were the standard awards such as “Record of the Year”, “Album of the Year”, “Song of the Year”, and “Best New Artist” but when it came to particular styles of music that were on display, the list tended to be “Traditional R&B”, “Best Rap Album”, “Best Latin Album”, “African Music Performance” (new category) and a few Country awards.  There was of course the “In Memoriam” and a decent tribute to Joni Mitchell who won “Best Folk Album.”  But no metal categories, rock and roll, even pop music.

So, I went in search of why this was the case, thinking it had to do with fewer Rock bands or some change in the Grammy categories but neither was the case.  In truth, if you head over to https://www.grammy.com/awards/66th-annual-grammy-awards-2023 you’ll see there were a large number of categories that didn’t make the telecast.  This was probably related to both the popularity of certain genres these days and that historically black and urban music categories (e.g. Rap) had been pretty much ignored. So, the pendulum is swinging the other way, maybe farther than some would prefer.

Nonetheless, if you walk through the list of categories that were not covered in the telecast you’ll find some really good stuff. Let’s skip down to the “Best Rock Performance”.  boygenius won this category with “Not Strong Enough”, a decent, well-engineered tune.

But in that same category, “Rescued” by Foo Fighters was nominated, and it’s a banger. Chock full of “Foo Fighter chords”, the chorus soars, and the song just rocks.  Also nominated was “Sculptures of Anything Goes” by Arctic Monkeys, a great track from their latest album The Car although there are better songs on that album, which was nominated for “Best Alternative Music Album.” Check out the song “Body Paint” from that album and you’ll see the Arctic Monkeys still deliver well-written, if not complicated melodies and swirling musical movements.

And yes, there’s still the category “Best Metal Performance”, and you might be shocked to find that nominated songs were from familiar bands like Metallica, Slipknot, and Disturbed.  Metallica took the award with “72 Seasons”, a fantastically driving and distorted song.

The “Best Rock Song” category included nominated artists such as Queens of the Stone Age, relative newcomer Olivia Rodrigo, Foo Fighters, and septuagenarians The Rolling Stones with “Angry.”  The winner though was “Not Strong Enough” by boygenius, which is fine enough but not what I’d consider a rock song. Then again in 1992, “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance.

Paramore won for “Best Rock Album” with This is Why.  But Metallica, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and “Zeppelin-lite” Greta Van Fleet were nominated.  Paramore’s album is a solid LP with Hayley Williams’ crisp vocals and lyrics that offer great observations on the human condition.  Paramore was also nominated for “Best Alternative Music Performance” and Gorillaz was nominated for “Best Alternative Music Album.”

Under “Best Traditional Pop Album,” Bewitched by Laufey took the win, but there’s a great nominated LP Only the Strong Survive which is full of covers by Bruce Springsteen. Add to that Pieces of Treasure by Rickie Lee Jones, sounding as Rickie Lee as ever.

So, The Grammys did recognize and award rock music categories and the bands and songs nominated were generally very good.   In years past when there were fewer R&B and Rap categories, rock categories included individual categories for male and female vocalists, which have been merged into a single category.  Changing tastes, additional awards categories, and the need to attract a certain viewership have driven most of the rock and pop music out of the telecast.  But you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t bring up your music app and listen to some of the other nominations and winners from the Grammy website. I took a listen to all of the nominees and winners in all of the categories and found these are some that you might enjoy that didn’t make it to the telecast:

“Best Contemporary Blues Album” – Blood Harmony by Larkin Poe.  Just wonderful modern blues with songs like “Deep Stays Down” and “Blood Harmony.”  It’s great that people are still cranking out tasty new blues music.

“Best Music Video” – “I’m Only Sleeping”  by Em Cooper.  Yes, an updated music video for John Lennon’s classic Beatles song about wanting to be left alone to catch some Z’s won this category.   You can find it on YouTube, which includes some eye-catching and swirly images.

“Best Music Film” – Moonage Daydream about David Bowie.  And check out Bowie’s album of the same name, remastered in 2012.

“Best Remixed Recording” – Depeche Mode’s “Wagging Tongue (Wet Leg Remix)”, classic Depeche Mode styling remixed with crisp percussion.

It’s good to see there is still a great deal of solid new music being released in a variety of genres and categories, even beyond what The Grammys chooses to recognize.

-Will Wills

Photo: Guitar player (public domain)

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1 comment on “Rock Bands and the Grammys: Where Were They?

  1. Dave Livingston

    Thanks for the Grammys review. The reason for the lack of rock music coverage is fairly obvious to me. I define Pop as what the majority are listening to and now that’s R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap, and Country. Just check out the Billboard Hot 100 to verify this. Pop is where the money is, so that’s what’s emphasized on the Grammys telecast.

    Music is much like Punctuated Evolution; it continually evolves but on occasion changes radically. Traditional R&B and Blues->Rock and Roll-> Psychedelic, Motown, Funk, Disco, Power Pop, New Wave… All made up the Pop category in one sense or another. There were/are deviations such as Progressive, Punk, Alternative which I would usually not consider Pop–exceptions made for things like Pop Punk. Remember, Grammys are awarded for Classical Music renditions! 😉

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