My Thoughts on the 2017 Grammys

(original post was February 19th – re-launched with website)

My Thoughts on the 2017 Grammys

This year was certainly interesting during “The Biggest Night in Music”. Grammy night is never short of electrifying performances, on-stage failures, and controversy. For me, Grammys don’t carry the weight that they used to. There’s a reason that many accomplished artists continue to skip out on attending the big night. I must admit, as an avid fan of rock n roll, the diminished acknowledgement of the genre – as well as prominent rock artists noting the Grammys lack of credibility – plays into my bias.

Chance The Rapper – Big Win for Independent Musicians

I just recently started listening to Chance the Rapper. Lyrically and musically, he’s great. Delivery is where I have my issues. His vocal style is hard for me to digest, yet I couldn’t be more appreciative of the way he runs his business:

  • Refuses to sign to labels
  • Built a strong brand, knows how to differentiate himself (his delivery/voice)
  • Garnered mainstream success and collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip-hop
  • Became the first artist to chart, with streaming only (all his music is available for free)

Chance single-handedly won the night for independent musicians across the globe, taking home 3 Grammys (Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album, and Best New Artist). The 23 year old rapper is a true disrupter in the world of music. I think it is safe to say that this man is just getting started.

As far as his Grammy performance, it was a little off for me. His hype man was a bit overwhelming at times and the excessive shouting of the other performers drowned out Chance’s lyrics. Part of this could be on the sound engineers mixing the live performance. My knit-picky qualms aside, I am now very excited to see him at Sasquatch in May.


Gary Clark Jr. Is Brilliant (William Bell sounded phenomenal, too)

“Born Under a Bad Sign” was my first time hearing Gary Clark Jr. perform, and he blew me away. There’s a sense of soul that’s been missing from mainstream rock, and it feels like it’s been even longer since modern blues artists have had the opportunity to step into the limelight. Vocally, he reminds me a lot of local blues-rock act Ayron Jones and the Way (whom you definitely need to check out). It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the two share the stage at some point. If they need an opening act, I’ll be over here frantically jumping around and waving my arms.

Bee Gees Tribute (Medley: “Stayin Alive”, “Tragedy”, “How Deep is Your Love”, “Night Fever”)

More specifically, MY GOODNESS DEMI LOVATO! The past few years I’ve been intrigued by Demi’s transformation into a vocal powerhouse. She gave one of the most impressive performances of the night, in my opinion, with the “Stayin Alive” portions of the Bee Gees Tri by the Bee Gees. Tori Kelly brought a fresh take on “Tragedy”, but didn’t own the stage like Demi did.

Little Big Town was underwhelming. Part of this had to do with the arrangement. After two energetic performances from Demi and Tori, slowing down the tempo and going with a crooner arrangement felt out of place and didn’t set them up for success. Overall, the tribute would have been much stronger without this section.

Andra Day quickly brought the energy back up and owned the stage with “Night Fever”. I understand adding some dynamics into the performance and not having the arrangement turned up to 10 the whole time, but I feel a shorter arrangement with the Demi, Tori, and Andra would have been more enjoyable (or one with just Demi and Andra).

Bruno Mars

It’s no surprise to me that the Recording Academy called on Bruno Mars for two performances. His performance of his song “That’s What I Like” was good. The breakdown “for the ladies” was cheesy and a bit over-the-top for me. Nonetheless, he and his crew were perfectly in-tune.

What stood out to me was the execution of his Prince tribute (The Time was good, but Bruno is the one who made it what it was). I didn’t know that he could play guitar, let alone well enough to put on a flawless Prince medley. Now I know better. An audacious feat, no doubt, and he owned it. Not only is Bruno Mars insanely talented, but you can tell that he’s having the time of his life when he’s performing. His charisma draws you in and makes you feel like you’re just as much a part of the fun. That is what will fuel his career for years to come.


The Grammys Diminish Rock n Roll

This starts with a majority of the rock awards making the live coverage. When Halestorm won Best Rock/Metal Performance in 2013, they took the stage and gave an acceptance speech to a nearly empty theatre hours before the live event started. In similar (non-televised) fashion, earlier in the night, Megadeth won “Best Metal Performance” for their song “Dystopia”. As they were taking the stage, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” was played. Typically, winners’ songs are played as they take the stage. It may seem like a small slight, but this instance is a little more offensive than a simple flub. For those of you who don’t know, Dave Mustaine founded Megadeth after he was kicked out of Metallica in 1983. Ouch.


Credit: Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Metallica remained at the center of rock turmoil later in the show, as well. As the band took the stage for their performance of “Month into Flame” with Lady Gaga, Metallica’s name was not mentioned. LaVerne Cox announced “Ladies and gentleman, all my gender non-binary people watching tonight, eight-time Grammy award winners and six-time Grammy winner, Lady Gaga”. To make matters worse for the band, James Hetfield’s microphone was not turned on until halfway through the song. Like the rock stars they are, they powered through the technical difficulties and put on one of the most energizing performances of the night.


The Grammys have consistently consolidated the rock awards, further taking away from the genre’s influence on the awards. This year “Best Rock Performance” encapsulated what used to be Best Rock Vocal Performance for Duo or Group, Female Performance, and Male Performance, Best Rock Instrumental Performance, Best Hard Rock Performance, and Best Metal Performance.

Nominations (and awards) for the “Best Rock Performance” award demonstrate the disconnect between the rock community and The Recording Academy (formerly the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). Of the songs nominated, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” by Beyonce and Jack White was the most rock n roll.

21 Pilots is more pop/hip-hop than rock. 90 percent of the song is rapped over an electronic beat and an automated voice that sounds like a possessed kid (I say it like it’s a bad thing, but I freaking love that song. It’s just not rock.). In their song “Lane Boy” the lyrics address their roots in rap:

“Scared you a bit like a hazmat, in a gas mask if you ask Zack He’s my brother, he likes when I rap fast” 

David Draiman of Disturbed live on Conan

Not to mention, they won a Grammy this year for Best POP DUO/GROUP Performance. I’ll let that speak for itself.

David Bowie, while certainly a rock n roll artist and icon, released an album that was more experimental jazz than rock.

Disturbed, while undoubtedly a hard rock group, were nominated for their performance of Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Sound of Silence”. The arrangement is more like that of a musical than a rock track. That said, it should have won, as it was TRULY the best performance out of all the songs/performances nominated. Don’t believe me? Go watch their performance on Conan. I dare you not to get chills. I’d argue that their performance of “The Sound of Silence” with Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge in Houston is just as compelling, if not more so.

As for “Best Rock Song”, my complaints are repetitive, but I’m still a little upset so I’ll repeat them. “Heathens” is a POP SONG with heavy rap influence, and “Blackstar” by David Bowie falls more into Jazz than Rock. All songs nominated are great pieces of music, so I’ll leave it be. I think “Hello, My Name is Human” by Highly Suspect was the best song in the list.

Rock is not the only genre that is experiencing exclusion/lack of recognition by The Recording Academy.

Beyonce’s Grammy performance (via Billboard)

By this point, you’ve probably heard enough about how Beyonce should have won album of the year. Adele and news outlets around the country, big and small, have talked about how she should have taken home the award. This trend isn’t new. I could write an entire paper on this subject, but I do want to touch on it briefly, as I’ve given enough attention to my frustration with the state of rock with the Grammys.  Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly both should have taken home Rap Album of the Year AND Album of the Year in 2013 and 2016. M.A.A.D City lost to Macklemore’s The Heist and Daft Punk in 2013, and To Pimp a Butterfly lost Album of the Year to Taylor Swift’s 1989 (although it did win Rap Album of the Year) in 2016.

Kendrick Lamar, with both works, brought to light the conditions of the African American community that mainstream music and media weren’t acknowledging. The reason the albums found so much success is that the songs connected with people; their story was being told. On top of that, the story-telling gave people outside of those communities raw insight into what was going on. The songs are honest and the story-telling is unbelievable. Kendrick’s ability to write from multiple perspectives to round out his message is second-to-none. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Macklemore’s The Heist and I danced to “Shake it Off” throughout my last two years of college, but neither album – in full – did what Kendrick was able to do with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of Beyonce’s music. She is an extremely talented singer and performer. I just don’t like the music, but I can recognize talent when I see it. It’s important to note the profound impact this work of art had on women. Lemonade highlighted Beyonce’s vulnerability as an individual, and as an artist.  She created a work of art that gave the world insight directly into her personal life and struggles – most notably, her husband’s infidelity. Her honesty, amid her struggle, connected with millions around the globe who have struggled with the very same challenges of marriage and motherhood. She empowered them by showing them that they’re not alone, and that the best is yet to come. That’s what music is about. That’s why she should have won.



This year’s Grammys gave us all a lot to talk about. From major award snubs, microphone malfunctions, and fiery performances (literally), the award show is never short on celebration or controversy. There are many things to celebrate about this year’s Grammys. Chance is paving the way for independent musicians and serving as a disruptive force in the music business. His approach to music proves that artists don’t have to sacrifice their integrity for recognition. The show serves as a platform of musical discovery (Gary Clark Jr) and gives us the opportunity to see some of our favorite artists get recognized.

On the other hand, I can only hope that rock n roll is able to reestablish its rightful place at the Grammys. Unfortunately, I don’t see things turning around within the next year. There are some phenomenal rock acts out there that deserve to be recognized. Then again, many groups will tell you that it’s all about the fans. As long as we’re at the shows, they’ll be able to keep on turning out great records.

New Rock Albums to Check Out:

  • The Stage – Avenged Sevenfold
  • Touch – July Talk
  • Paradise – White Lung
  • The Last Hero – Alter Bridge
  • Who You Selling For – The Pretty Reckless
  • Wild at Heart – The Wild!
  • State of Mind – Citizen Zero

The Recording Academy has some soul searching to do, but The Grammys will continue to be taken seriously by the music industry…for the most part.


After Thoughts

The Weeknd always sounds great, but he’s not a very good performer. Putting a bunch of lasers around him to make things interesting was the perfect call. For any live-show, he’ll need a lot of extra-curriculars to hold people’s attention.

Ed Sheeran should do a small scale one-man-show club tour. I’d be curious to see what kind of arrangements he’d put together with just a loop pedal. His one-man performance of “I See Fire” is another incredible musical experience.

John Legend’s voice is made of magic.

Adele’s performance of “Hello” was phenomenal. I had chills the entire time. The George Michael Tribute had me cringing for her the whole way through. While a tough go for her, her authenticity and integrity as an artist can’t be questioned.

I don’t know who thought pairing up Kelsea Ballerini and Lukas Graham was a good idea. Each of them are good in their own right, but this was a bad idea. Lukas’s voice is much more powerful than expected. Based on his recordings, I assumed he was more of a falsetto type.

Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood collaborating makes sense, but it felt like an ode to soft-rock, not country. I don’t get it.

Pentatonix. Yikes. Love them, but this performance was boring. They sounded fine, but felt extremely out of place. Having to follow up Bruno’s Prince tribute didn’t do them any favors.


What I’ve Learned Since Between the Lines

Welcome to the new Deify website and thank you for checking out my first blog post. For some time now I’ve been considering how to blog about the evolution of this band, our music, and the music industries as a whole. Deify has a lot in store and the landscape of the music industries are ever changing; all of which will be fascinating to explore. Jared and I are working diligently to prepare our second album for release. Truth be told, we expected this album to be done April of last year (2016).

It’s been nearly 3 years since my brothers and I released our first album, Between the Lines, with our band Deify. The two years leading up to the release of the record provided a steep learning curve as I explored the abyss of recording software that is ProTools (an expedition that continues today). Much of my time was spent trying to bootstrap the project using a set of PA microphones and a four track interface, with mixing and mastering both concepts that were completely foreign at the time. It wasn’t until after the record was “finished” that we discovered how necessary these things were and we shipped off an unbalanced and nearly unedited collection of music.

I wish I could say that the past 3 years taught me everything I needed to know about recorded music process, but I’m far from it. The beauty and the frustration of it all is that there will always be new and more difficult things to tackle in the recorded music life-cycle. Whether you are signed to a label or going the full DIY route, the writing and recording process is a mere fraction of the task at hand. My hope is that as this blog continues I will be able to explore more of the things I’ve learned in-depth. For the sake of not turning this into a novel, I will address what I’ve learned from a bird’s eye view:

Know Your Brand – Independent Artists Must Operate as a Media Company

At the end of the day, music is a product and artists are a brand. Successful brands (bands) give consumers what they want/need. In order for you to attain success, what artists offer can’t just be about them. The question that every artist needs to ask themselves is “what makes me/us different”?

Over the weekend, I attended KEXPs “Mastering the Hustle” (part of Upstream Music Festival’s summits) where multiple artists helped break down how to approach this question. Each of the speakers, while highlighting the message from different angles, all noted that it comes down to the mission of your band. How do you want people to feel? Engage with your audience in a way that appeals to the roots of your mission and the desires of your fans. For example, if you want to be the party-hard band, your messaging to fans (marketing) should reflect it. Your posts on social media should be fun and light-hearted. There’s no space for “business professional”.

Thinking about the marketing behind your band (brand) isn’t exciting for most, and is often something that we want to push aside. The more authentic your branding is the less effort it will take to establish and maintain your identity.

Technology is Key

Technology enables DIY musicians, now more than ever. The number of media sites and applications to help push your music and create communities for fans are seemingly endless. Most importantly, in my opinion, is the abundance of affordable recording software. Programs such as Logic, Ableton, and ProTools (to name a few) provide artists with the means to record at low cost and on their own schedule. While recording studios are by no means obsolete, they’re no longer a necessity. The next Deify record, like Between the Lines, was recorded in our basement and in my bedroom. Sure, it took much longer to piece together and required a lot of bootstrapping to get the sounds we were looking for, but we didn’t have to spend any money on renting out a studio.

As mentioned before, branding is a necessity. No matter how “old school” you want to be, technology is going to be imperative to finding success. In the age of digital media, you have to have an online presence and an understanding of how the technology plays into the music world. Technological innovation is a driving factor in how music is evolving: production, distribution, marketing, etc. Cell phones are the platform of the future. Mobile applications not only serve as a platform for music consumption, but the generation of data utilized by radio stations, talent agencies, record labels, and booking agents in order to make business decisions.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

It’s certainly most cost effective to do everything yourself, but chances are that you won’t be able to right away. One thing I wish that I’d done with Between the Lines was ask for help. I didn’t know what I was doing with music production and still took it upon myself to create our record. This album cycle, I’ve been attending workshops, meeting producers, and talking to other musicians about their techniques. As a result, I’ve learned more in the past 3 months than I had in the past 8 years. Moreover, these experiences will allow us to bring more of the work in-house for future projects. Thanks to the help of local musicians and sound engineers, the sound production quality of this album is beyond what I had dreamed of when doing it on my own.

The best part about all of this is the relationships you build along the way. Before writing this off as cheesy, there’s a business side to this as well; which leads into my next point.


Creating a community around what you do will help you grow as an artist, and fuel your success. In order to do this, GO TO SHOWS! I mean it! Get out there and meet people! Support your local artists. If you want people to come out for you, you’ve got to do the same for your peers. Moreover, this is where you’re going to meet the people who can take you to the next level. As fantastic as it is to have your ever-loving family’s support (Hi Mom and Dad!), that’s not going to cut it. On a personal note, networking is what has enabled our sound to develop. During the recording, I met the drummer of the Stacy Jones band through a mutual friend. Upon our first meeting he pushed me to network within the Greater Seattle area, specifically with sound engineers. Over and over again he told me how “an outside ear goes a long way”. He couldn’t be more right.

Bringing ‘outsiders’ in to provide feedback often identifies things you never would have picked up on. Sometimes you’ll get opinions that you don’t want to hear. Listen to them. I’ve been working with an engineer at Lovestudios, whom I was introduced to by a fellow musician, who gave some tough love on some of my compositions. The man has over 18 years of experience in recording and audio production. Naturally, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he wanted me to cut 8 bars from my SICK guitar riff. Looking back, cutting those 8 bars from the song may be the best decision we made on the production of the song. Such changes wouldn’t have been made if we refused to let other people into the fold.

The more you get to know the musical community, the smaller it becomes. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. A lot of people were once in your shoes, and they want to help. Your fellow artists are the ones booking shows, working at your local record store (yes, they still exist), DJing for local radio stations, and writing for the weekly publications and blogs. These people are your family – treat them that way.

Follow Up and Follow Through

You are a brand and a business. Even if you’re the next big party act to hit the scene, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Have professional press kits. Get back to promoters. If you offer to help another artist/station/venue employee, don’t bail. Be ready when it’s time for your set and get on/off stage in a timely fashion. And for the love of all that is good, be nice to the sound person (they can ruin your night if they want to).

In order to immerse yourself in the community, your best bet is for people to actually like you. Do the right thing. Be gracious, kind, and thankful. When you show appreciation to others they’re much more inclined to help you. If someone is taking time to invest in you, that’s a pretty wonderful thing, especially in this industry.

You’ll Probably Need a Lawyer


At the end of the day, this is still about doing what you love and creating art. I hope to keep exploring the world of music, including some of the topics I’ve touched on here – but in greater detail. I can’t wait to get these new tunes out to you all, and hope that you’ll engage with us as we embark on our new chapter, and explore different corners of the music industries. Signing off for the night:

-Duncan Byargeon

P.S. If you would like a free copy of Between the Lines, contact us through the website or leave us a message on our Facebook page.