Did the Grammys Screw Up the Metal Category Again?

They gave the “best metal performance” award to Tenacious D.  For a cover.  Of a song that came out over thirty years ago.

Kyle Gass and Jack Black of Tenacious D
Kyle Gass and Jack Black of Tenacious D

The internet is abuzz with talk about the Grammys, the annual music circus that draws equal parts admiration, excitement, and irrational complaining.  People love to complain and argue about awards shows, and the Grammys are no exception.  Usually its about something trivial like Iggy Azalea’s hairstyle, but sometimes, it’s actually about the music. (Here are some complaints from Loudwire).

Heavy metal fans around the world raised eyebrows, did spit takes all over their TV screens and started hating the minute Tenacious D were announced as winners of the award for “best metal performance”.  For those of you who don’t know, Tenacious D are a satirical comedy rock/metal act featuring the very famous, very funny (and actually very talented) Jack Black.  Here is their cover of Dio’s The Last in Line 

Initially, I was among the skeptics.  How could a comedy act win best performance for a cover version over the mighty Judas Priest, who just released their best album since 90’s this summer (Their album, Redeemer of Souls was released to rave reviews in July)?  Well, then I got thinking.  Tenacious D are an established musical act with a large fan base.  Ok, that makes sense, we all know the Grammys are really just a popularity contest.  But they got the award for a cover!  That’s where it actually starts to make sense to me.  Let me explain.

The song that they covered is called The Last In Line, off the 1984 Dio album of the same name.  Ronnie James Dio, who passed away from stomach cancer in 2010 is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers and frontmen in metal history.  The cover that Tenacious D performed was included on a star-studded tribute album for Dio called ‘This is Your Life’, which was released this past year.  The tribute album was a big deal in the metal community, both because of the quality of the performances and the cancer research that the proceeds went towards.  Tenacious D performed a high quality and interesting take on a stone cold heavy metal classic, that’s why they won.

Album cover for 2014 Dio Tribute album, This is your Life.
Album cover for 2014 Dio Tribute album, This is your Life.

The award was for the “best metal performance”, not the best album, or best band.  So while Tenacious D aren’t technically a metal band (they primarily play acoustic guitars), they performed a metal song.  The fact that they didn’t write it doesn’t really affect the quality of the performance, if anything it improves it.  We have a basis for comparison with The Last in Line, we know what the original sounds like (if you don’t, then listen below).  If the original sounds awesome and fans of it also really enjoy the cover, it means the people performing the cover song did a phenomenal job, especially when the original artist was someone as highly regarded as Ronnie James Dio.  

I know people are still going to complain that their favorite bands didn’t win, or weren’t nominated, but that’s just the nature of the beast.  The fact of the matter is that Tenacious D gave a fantastic performance of a classic song.  The cover was for a good cause, and was in tribute to one Jack Black’s musical idols.  From where I stand, they absolutely deserved the “best metal performance” award.  For once, the Grammys got it right.

Tenacious D with the mighty Ronnie James Dio
Tenacious D with the mighty Ronnie James Dio

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