On The Record: The Baddest Dudes On The Planet
Right off the bat, please refrain from ever doubting me again.
See, in last week's column, I presented a list of 10 ways to fix the Grammy Awards, and among the jabs at Britney Spears and Kanye West, I included the following gem, which turned out to be prophetically true:
"6. Three words: More Vince Gill."
And lo and behold, during Sunday night's Grammy telecast, Vince won the award for Best Country Album, swaggered up to the podium, and basically put Kanye West on blast in his acceptance speech. It was pretty much the highlight of the night, right up there with Amy Winehouse dedicating her Record of the Year award to her incarcerated husband,, and Kid Rock duetting with one of the Golden Girls. And it proved, once and for all, that I am a genius.
Anyway, much later on Grammy night, Gill sauntered into MTV News' one-on-one room,, looking very much like a youth soccer coach or a guy you'd see receiving the Northern Virginia Realtor of the Year award, which only made him even cooler in my book. But what really put him in rarefied air was the fact that he staunchly refused to back down from his dig at West, saying:
"He had said something about how he was gonna win Album of the Year later, and if not him, then Amy Winehouse was most deserving and not me or the Foo Fighters. So I decided to have a little fun. ... I just saw him out of the corner of my eye when I was up there, and I decided I had to do it. He took a shot at Gretchen Wilson when he lost Best New Artist to her a few years ago, and so us rednecks stick together."
And as the words left his bizarrely tanned lips, it occurred to me that Vince Gill might be one of the baddest dudes on the planet. Seriously. He dresses like he just left a church bake sale. He talks sh-- to Kanye West and doesn't apologize. He is loyal to his friends. He is in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. He is a Nashville Predators season-ticket holder. He was once in the Pure Prairie League. He turned down an invitation to join Dire Straits. And in 2006, he released a quadruple album of original songs, just because he could.
You could probably say all the same things about Chuck Norris, which means that, A) Vince Gill's tears can cure cancer; and B) Vince Gill is a totally bad dude. And that makes him a rarity in today's music industry. Back in the day, bad dudes were a dime a dozen: James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Bob Dylan — they were all bad in their own way. These days, lots of people like to proclaim their badness, yet very few actually are, because being bad isn't really something you can claim to be. You either are or you ain't.
Yet this tends to work on a case-by-case basis: R. Kelly recorded a song called "Bad Man," which under most circumstances would disqualify him from any badness. But given his ongoing legal troubles and the fact that he recorded a song called "Sex Weed, "he's totally, unquestionably a bad dude. Wrestler/rapper John Cena recorded a song called "Bad, Bad Man," but he used to pretend to be a robot while coming down to the ring, so that sort of disqualifies him. Plus, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is totally more of a bad dude than him anyway.
Jack White is a bad dude, basically because he does whatever he feels like, and because he makes his entire road crew dress up in black suits, bowler hats and red ties, even in 90-degree heat. (Also, he once beat up a guy from the Von Bondies with one hand, since his other one got broken in a car accident he was in with then-girlfriend Renée Zellweger. That's bad.) Wayne Coyne is a bad dude too, because he makes magic with next to nothing, and because he once appeared on "Beverly Hills 90210" (bonus points because he continues to tour with the Flaming Lips despite losing the ability to sing sometime around 2002). Dave Grohl is one because he used to be in Nirvana, and you get the feeling that he realizes being a rock star is, like, 80 percent a complete and total dream job. Josh Homme, ZZ Top, Lemmy, Thom Yorke, Isaac Brock, Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Mark E. Smith, Pete Shelley, Shaun Ryder, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker, Mike Watt, Iggy Pop and Paul Simonon are all bad dudes, for reasons that probably don't need to be explained at all.
Kanye is a bad dude, not just because he has the stones to say whatever he wants, but also because, like Vince, he doesn't apologize for being that way. Common is bad, because you get the feeling that beneath all that corduroy/spirituality stuff, he could probably whip some ass if need be. 50 Cent is a bad dude, because if I didn't say he was, he'd probably finally kill me. Gucci Mane (if only for this necklace), Lil Wayne, LL, Nas ... they're bad dudes too.
You don't even really have to be a dude to be a bad dude. Kim Deal is a bad dude, because she spent almost two years touring with the re-formed Pixies, then decided she didn't want to make a new record with them, instead recording another Breeders record (April 8's Mountain Battles) that sounds like it was recorded in a closet and features a pair of songs in German and Spanish. Lil' Kim is a bad dude because she totally served time for perjury and had beef with 50. Foxy Brown is a bad dude because of her ongoing war with beauty technicians the world over. Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Kim Gordon — all bad dudes in their own right.
And the future looks bright. Vampire Weekend are all bad dudes, even though they don't dress like bad dudes, because they totally proved why the Internet is both the best (and worst) thing ever with the release of one album. The Plastic Constellations are bad, because they sing about dragons and brotherhood and stuff, and because their new album (We Appreciate You, due April 15) also doubles as their farewell from the music industry, and they're not even gonna tour in support of it. Bradford Cox is a totally bad dude because he is brilliant and insane and links to stuff like this on his blog.
And I know you're probably thinking, "What the heck does this have to do with, well, anything?" Um, not much. It's just the only thing I took from a soul-numbing, three-and-a-half-hour Grammy telecast — one where we saw a quiet, unassuming dude from Oklahoma take a swipe at the biggest rap star in the world and then not apologize for it. And one where we saw a self-proclaimed "American Badass" perform a cruise-ship-worthy duet with Louis Prima's ex-wife.
Being a bad dude is a lot tougher than it looks, but it's a pretty safe bet that if you're belting out tunes with a septuagenarian, well, you're violating some sort of rule. For shame, Kid. What would Charlie Daniels say?
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Questions? Concerns? Bad dudes I missed? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.