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Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters, and the complacency of the Grammys


The Foo Fighters have officially become America’s safest rock band. That’s not entirely their fault, and it’s not entirely an insult either. Dave Grohl and his merry band of hard rockers keep pumping out quality material at a pace of about one album every two or three years, and when they do they provide an easy choice for awards season voters who don’t want to listen to any new rock music.

The Foos have twelve Grammys so far, and plenty of them are well deserved. Their first award came from 2000’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose, which took home some well earned Grammy gold in the categories of Best Rock Album and Best Short Form Music Video with ‘Learn to Fly’ (that video remains a classic, so good on them). From this point, with Grohl’s amicable presence and the Foo’s consistently medium-to-high quality work getting churned out, Grammy voters found their easy answer for rock music: just give the award to the Foo Fighters.

And they did. The Foos have won Best Rock Album four times, more than any other band. Did Wasting Light deserve the honour over the sorry list of nominees that the Grammys assembled that year? Absolutely, because that’s still one of the band’s best albums. In fact, the Foos did a complete sweep of the Rock category in 2012, partially thanks to the fact that the Grammys loaded the categories in their favour by putting them up against weak sauce competition. But did albums like One by One and Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace deserve their honours? I would argue no, but once again they were the best of the sorry bunch (although Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky should have beat them in 2008).

Herein lies the issue: there’s nothing wrong with the Foo Fighters, but they keep getting massive Grammy wins because they really never have any competition in their categories. This year, the band are up against some lame Weezer songs, the same AC/DC song that the band has been playing for 30 years, and a live Black Pumas album that I had never heard of before today and doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page. Even their real competition, like Paul McCartney’s average McCartney III and a Chris Cornell covers LP, No One Sings Like You Anymore, are footnotes in their respective artists’ long and cherished histories.

So the Foos get to appear like the best of the rest, when in actuality most of the great music that would have put up serious competition didn’t even get nominated. What’s keeping IDLES’ Ultra Mono from getting a Best Rock Album nomination? Was Royal Blood’s Typhoons not “rock” enough? What about Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend, or The War on Drugs’ I Don’t Live Here Anymore?

In a strange inverse of the rock category, the competition for Best Alternative Music Album is stacked: Fleet Foxes’ Shore, Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee, Arlo Parks’ Collapsed Into Sunbeams, and St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home. That’s four great albums (Daddy’s Home is… fine, I guess) and a pretty strong showing of representation across styles and artistry. In comparison, the Best Rock Album category looks tepid and incredibly old, with only Black Pumas being a true upstart act.

I would say there’s a 75 per cent chance that the Foo Fighters once again walk away with a clean sweep, with the other 25 per cent coming from some Cornell post-mortem sympathy votes. But knowing how the Grammys have operated over the past 20 years, I’m fairly confident that the safe choice is what their voters will go with, and right now there’s no safer band than the Foo Fighters.