This evening, Depeche Mode was once again shut out of the Grammys. Every time the band is nominated for an industry award, it comes with mixed feelings for fans. Part joy for the possibility they might actually be getting recognized for their amazing work, and part skepticism for the fact they rarely get the respect they deserve from the music industry. They were part of a formative period in the life of electronic music and have inspired a generation of musicians spanning multiple genres. They’ve sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide. Their recent tours are playing to more people than any time in their career. They’ve built an army of a following that gives The Greatful Dead a run for their money. And yet, only a handful of outlets have recognized their achievements over a 30 year career.
Album after album, Fletch’s assessment that Depeche Mode are “the biggest underground band in the world” still rings true. Fans constantly field comments from friends and family who think of Depeche Mode as “some 80s band” or in most cases, don’t claim to know who they are. Some press outlets buy the cheapest Getty images they can get or have on hand, dating back to the early 80s without a care that those photos are completely irrelevant to an article written 25 years later. It seems like every album since Ultra has been hailed by the press as a come back, though the band never went anywhere. However, the band consistently remains an undercurrent in the timeline of music. Their influence pushes and pulls on the lives and creativity of others, often with little notice. More often than not, I’ve learned if I play Depeche Mode for anyone who thinks they haven’t heard of them, their memories are inevitably refreshed when they hear the songs, and quite a few songs more than they would have expected. People may not remember their faces, they may not remember their names, but the music remains. Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Given the band’s own attitudes and feelings, that may be just fine by them; they’ve always preferred their music hold the spotlight over themselves.
I often feel that Depeche Mode may well be one of those brilliant artists that goes largely unrecognized in their time – stars in the sky, whose beauty goes under appreciated until their lights can no longer be seen. We don’t need brass gramophones, funny spacemen or parades of fools to validate the important role Depeche Mode plays in modern music, but it would be great to see them triumph in spite of it all.