The Grammys are voted on by music professionals who tend to be older and established in their careers. The VMA's are voted on by fans, who tend to be younger. Green Day's power ballad appealed to both constituencies. It's melodic and poignant, qualities that Grammy voters respond to, but at the same time has crunching power chords, which made it VMA-friendly.
Since the two award shows almost always disagree on their top award, I thought it would be fun to go back and compare their top choices in the 28 years since the VMA's originated. Which show "got it right" more often? Of course, this is just my opinion. I doubt anybody out there would agree with me in all 28 "showdowns." I hope you play along and make your own decisions about which show got it right more often.
When I'm done, I'll tote up the results and tell you which show, in my opinion, got it right more often. You should do the same on your end.
Neither show has a monopoly on getting it right. I'm sure even top executives at the Recording Academy would acknowledge that some of the VMA choices are better than theirs. And I think top executives at MTV would make the same acknowledgment about some of the Grammy choices.
For the record (pun intended), the Grammy for Record of the Year recognizes a recording, while the VMA for Video of the Year acknowledges a video. If the VMA's had a Single of the Year category, the winner in some years would probably be different. In the showdowns, I focused on the recordings, not the videos.
Also the eligibility periods for the two shows are different. In some years, these winners went head-to-head in both competitions. In others, they fell into different eligibility years.
Let's scroll back through the years. In each case, I list the VMA winner first, followed by the Grammy winner. (I list them in that order because the VMA's are awarded first, usually in August, while the Grammys follow about six months later.)
1985: Don Henley's "The Boys Of Summer" vs. USA for Africa's "We Are The World." "We Are The World" is heartfelt, but other humanitarian anthems (such as Michael Jackson's 1988 smash "Man In The Mirror") are better. Still, give Quincy Jones credit for pulling this extraordinary collection of talent together. Henley's song, about lost youth, is brilliant and timeless. It peaked at #5. "We Are The World" spent four weeks at #1. My pick: Don Henley.
1987: Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" vs. Paul Simon's "Graceland." "Sledgehammer" reached #1. The sexy, R&B-influenced song is Gabriel's biggest hit. It's not the last innuendo-laced song in this recap (see "Umbrella"). Simon's song, which featured backup vocals by the Everly Brothers, peaked at #81. It deserved better. My pick: Paul Simon.
1989: Neil Young's "This Note's For You" vs. Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." Midler's song, from the movie Beaches, went to #1. Young's song didn't crack the Hot 100. Midler's hit is schmaltzy, but she gives it warmth and humanity. Young's acerbic song loses a lot without the accompanying video, which skewers celebrities (such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston) who sign endorsement deals. My pick: Bette Midler.
1991: R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" vs. Natalie Cole with Nat "King" Cole's "Unforgettable." These are both first-rate records. R.E.M.'s masterwork peaked at #4, becoming their biggest hit. Cole's silky hit reached #14. Her dad's vocals were dubbed in from a 1961 re-recording of the song, which he had originally cut in 1951. These records have little in common besides quality. My pick: Natalie Cole with Nat "King" Cole.
1993: Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" vs. Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." This is a showdown between a grunge classic and a blockbuster pop hit. "Jeremy" peaked at #79 on the Hot 100 (when it was re-released in 1995). Houston' smash logged 14 weeks at #1. David Foster produced Houston's power ballad remake of Dolly Parton's 1982 country tune. My pick: Whitney Houston.
1994: Aerosmith's "Cryin'" vs. Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do." Aerosmith has had more memorable songs, but this was Crow's peak achievement. Aerosmith's bluesy rock hit reached #12. Crow's witty and engaging song logged six weeks at #2. It was her first top 40 hit and it remains her biggest. "Hit it!" My pick: Sheryl Crow.
1996: Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" vs. Eric Clapton's "Change The World." "Change The World" was featured in the John Travolta movie Phenomenon. Babyface produced the mellow ballad, which reached #5. "Tonight, Tonight" peaked at #36. It loses something without the video, which was inspired by director Georges Melies' 1902 silent movie A Trip To The Moon. My pick: Eric Clapton.
1997: Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" vs. Shawn Colvin's "Sunny Came Home." Jamiroquai's song, which blends elements of pop, jazz and blue-eyed soul, inexplicably didn't crack the Hot 100. Colvin's sing-songy folk song reached #7. (It was her only Hot 100 hit.) My pick: Jamiroquai.
1999: Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" vs. Santana feat. Rob Thomas' "Smooth." This is another showdown of #1 hits. Hill's song, which blended old-school R&B and contemporary hip-hop values, debuted at #1. Santana's propulsive song, which merged Rob Thomas' pop vocal and Carlos Santana's rock guitar solo, racked up 12 weeks on top. My pick: Santana featuring Rob Thomas.
2001: Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink's "Lady Marmalade" vs. U2's "Walk On." "Lady Marmalade," a remake of LaBelle's 1975 classic, logged five weeks at #1. Missy Elliott co-produced the smash, which was recorded for the movie Moulin Rouge. U2's rock ballad "bubbled under" the Hot 100, peaking at #118. It was released before 9/11, but it gained resonance after that awful day. My pick: U2.
2003: Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's "Work It" vs. Coldplay's "Clocks." Just as in 2000, this is a showdown between a rap smash and a pop/rock hit. Timbaland produced "Work It," which logged 10 weeks at #2. The funky, sexy smash is Elliott's biggest hit. The classy, piano-dominated "Clocks" peaked at #29. It was the band's first top 30 hit. My pick: Coldplay.
2005: Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" vs. Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams." This song logged five week at #2. It's the band's biggest hit. My pick: I've got to go with Green Day.
2006: Panic! At the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" vs. Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice." Rick Rubin produced the Chicks' song, which effectively describes their feelings after the firestorm which followed Natalie Maines' harsh comments about President Bush. Panic!'s song is amusing and theatrical. The best line: "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?" Both songs reached the top 10 and are the artists' highest-charting hits. Panic!'s song reached #7. The Chicks' song initially peaked at #23, but re-entered the chart at #4 after it swept the Grammys. My pick: Panic! At The Disco.
2008: Britney Spears' "Piece Of Me" vs. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' "Please Read The Letter." "Piece Of Me," a witty account of Spears' life as a tabloid mainstay, hit #18. The song has a great opening line: "I'm Miss American Dream since I was 17." "Please Read The Letter," which Plant first recorded on a 1998 album with Jimmy Page, "bubbled under" the Hot 100, peaking at #120. T Bone Burnett produced the recording, which proved to be too spare (read: dull) for pop radio. My pick: Britney Spears.
2010: Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" vs. Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now." Both songs reached #2: "Bad Romance" for seven weeks, "Need You Now" for two. It's Lady A's biggest hit. Gaga's song is richly theatrical; Lady A's song is tender and heartfelt. It blends country, pop and soft rock, all genres that Grammy voters have long embraced. No wonder it won. My pick: Lady Antebellum.
The Results: I favored the Grammy winner 18 times; the VMA winner nine times. (I didn't count Green Day, which won both awards.) Which show came out on top for you?
- Arts & Entertainment
- Natalie Cole
- Green Day