SameDiff BNL

We Really Want to Win That Grammy

By STEVEN PAGE, New York Times, February 21st 1999.

THIS Wednesday, Los Angeles will play host to the Grammy Awards, and for the first time ever, my band, Barenaked Ladies, will be sitting in the audience, nails bitten to the quick, awaiting our loss. Yes, I've already resigned myself to the fact that we won't win, but it won't stop me from fretting about what I'm going to wear, what celebrities we're going to gawk at or what our acceptance speech might have been like.

After 10 years of wallowing in relative obscurity, this Grammy nomination marks a big, tangible plunge into the mainstream for us. Especially considering the category in which we've been nominated: Longest Title for a Grammy Category, otherwise known as Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Although it's not as prestigious as, say, Record of the Year, it does hold more cachet than Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group, Instrumental.

Our category is a good one to be nominated in, as it celebrates the band's actual performance, rather than songwriting, which often credits only one or two band members, or engineering or album artwork, which usually excludes the entire band. The phrase ''we won a Grammy for best album artwork'' tends to lose some of its excitement in the translation. The unfortunate thing is that we're up against Aerosmith, and although our band features members named Steven and Tyler, we don't have Steven Tyler. The other nominees are the Goo Goo Dolls, the Dave Matthews Band and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

It would be very polite of us to say, "We're just happy to be here," and it would be partly true, as it is nice to be invited to the same event as Madonna and the Beastie Boys. However, the other common quip of potential Grammy losers, "They don't really matter anyway," is complete bunk. Come on, it's not your high school attendance awards; it's the Grammys! It doesn't get any bigger than this, really, unless we were nominated for the Nobel Prize. So, when it comes down to it, we want to win. We'd be really excited if we won. And we'd be good winners; we'd represent the category with grace and honor. We promise not to get caught doing a Penthouse magazine pictorial. It does feel a bit like being nominated for Miss America, and for five guys from Toronto known for our observations and satires of popular culture, this gives us great, perverse pleasure.

Last year, while we were recording our latest album, "Stunt," we watched the Grammy Awards from the studio and jokingly said, "That'll be us next year." Now, after what has been the most incredible year in our band's history, our nomination comes as the icing on the cake. Alas, we are still up against some mighty competition, particularly from Aerosmith and the Goo Goo Dolls, both of whom had huge hits this year from movie soundtracks, that perplexing record-business phenomenon. We probably have an edge over the Dave Matthews Band, which shares our history of having cult status and a word-of-mouth fan base but which didn't have the giant pop hit we did this year with "One Week." Brian Setzer will have to win something this year, being the best of the swing fad, and also for his years of service. I just hope that he wins in some other category.

WE won't win for several reasons: We're an unproven entity without any previous hits and possibly no future hits, either, a distinction usually reserved for the Best New Artist category. However, we got scooped for that award by two-time Grammy winner Lauryn Hill (who won with her group the Fugees) and Andrea Bocelli (destined to bring in the over-50 viewership). Aerosmith, Goo Goo Dolls and Brian Setzer (formerly of the Stray Cats) all have a history of hit songs. We don't look like rock stars and have yet to hire a stylist for the awards, so again, Aerosmith has the upper hand. We wouldn't thank God in our acceptance speech. We have no movie tie-in, which means no studio money is behind our Grammy campaign. This is also our only nomination, and Grammy voters tend to like multiple nominees, which again gives the lead to several of our competitors.

It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to be thrust into competition with other musicians for anything: sales, awards, radio play. I always try to leave the competition up to the record companies. I avoided sports in school because I couldn't handle the competition. But, now that I have been forced to stand in line with the other beauty pageant contestants, I'm ready to fight. Gracious losers at awards shows have always rubbed me the wrong way, so proud of the winners, so humble in defeat. I propose that all losers at this year's Grammys storm out in a huff just as the winners names are announced. We need more looks of disgust, like Burt Reynolds's at last year's Oscars. We need more people crashing the stage as Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan did at last year's Grammys. Maybe we'll start shouting obscenities from the crowd. Or throw eggs. Then again, we could fall back on the old lines: these things don't really matter anyway, and we're just happy to be invited.