The 2017 Grammy Awards show was an affirmation of the healing power of music in spite of our current dark political climate. Dazzling performances by Beyonce, Adele, and Lady Gaga reminded us female artists are continuing to energize and revolutionize the music world. A funky tribute to Prince by a purple-robed Bruno Mars brought the celebrity crowd to their feet. The show was an inspiring celebration of the cultural diversity in music, but I knew there were many talented musicians who would not be recognized this year and may never be awarded Grammy gold.
I am lucky enough to live in Austin Texas where on any given night there are a hundred different bands playing in local clubs and bars. The annual Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival held in Zilker Park brings together over 100 musical groups. In 2012, I was thrilled to learn that the English Indie rock band Gomez would be part of the ACL lineup. Their 2006 album “How We Operate” was in regular rotation on my playlist. Gomez performed on a smaller stage at ACL and I was on my feet singing along with every song, but most people in the crowd were hearing their music for the first time. I love Gomez’s blues-tinged rock and quirky lyrics, but the band has struggled to find radio stations that will play their unusual songs. How many musicians find their unique voice, only to be told that their music is not “radio-friendly” and cannot be marketed to the masses?
Even highly successful musicians who explore a new musical path can find themselves on shaky ground with their record label. I recall an interview with John Mayer where he talked about the resistance he faced from record executives when he previewed the bluesy, soulful songs from his third album “Continuum.” They didn’t hear a hit. Of course, the album sold over 300,000 copies in its first week and eventually won him a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. If he had not been an established artist, could we have missed the song “Waiting on the World to Change?”
I discovered the alternative rock band Blue October’s music last year. When I listened to their brilliant seventh album “Sway,” I thought they must have won a Grammy, maybe two. Nope. This band has been creating groundbreaking music for over twenty years, but their songs are so diverse, they defy categorization in just one genre. How about a new Grammy category for diverse voices or previously unrecognized outstanding albums?
Digital music services like Spotify and Pandora are helping artists find a larger audience, but established musicians are probably the most powerful voice for new or alternative artists. If you are a musician with a blog or website, share the love for an unusual voice or a new band that might go unrecognized without your support. Music is for everyone and we need diverse voices. If you follow my blog, share your favorite album that should have won a Grammy on social media. We need quirky, inspiring, soulful music more than ever while we’re waiting on the world to change.