Monday, February 13, 2012

Bon Iver and the Grammy of Someone-Thinks-You're-the-Best-Maybe

Apparently, Bon Iver is pretty awesome. The band won two Grammys yesterday: best new artist and best alternative music album.

The best new artist one has me a bit confused. They released their second album last year, not their first. And Justin Bieber was recently in Grammy contention as well (for some reason), and we all know he's been around for freakin' ever. They must have some unusual criteria for defining "new artist" over at the Grammy hub.

But the award that impresses me is the best alt album one: Bon Iver beat out Death Cab for Cutie and Radiohead, two of my favorite bands. I've found that while the individual win for a Grammy doesn't necessarily mark it as the best (at least, in my mind), the bands in contention for the win are usually all solid.

(This only works for me in regard to music categories I already enjoy. For example, record of the year, which is more about the Popular Kid in class than the best student, went to Adele. I can't stand Someone Like You; it was never a good song. It's cheesy, cliche, and overplayed, and those usually seem to be the qualities of the pop categories.)

According to my hometown paper, The Leader-Telegram (for which I once worked), Justin Vernon had some pretty sharp barbs for the Grammys. "I want to say thank you to all the nominees, all the non-nominees that have never been here and never will be here," he said in his acceptance speech. Point being, the Grammys are a flawed rating system, often based more on questionable popularity than on quality. Artists who have never won a Grammy include Led Zeppelin, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, and Diana Ross.

On first glance, you might think they're doing better lately, at least in the alt rock category. Outside of Wisconsin, not many know who Bon Iver is. Many had a similar reaction to Arcade Fire's win last year. (Typing in "Arcade Fire Grammy" on Google brought up an interesting article: This Year's "Who is Arcade Fire?" Grammy Goes to: "Who is Bon Iver?" The tweets are hilarious.)

The lack of knowledge about these bands only seems like an improvement until you consider how few people listen, really listen, to alt/indie rock. The bands come out of nowhere to those who don't give the genre lots of attention. I wouldn't even include myself in the category of hardcore listener, at least compared to friends who are really into it.

Regardless of whether the Grammys are actually worth anything, it does take some kind of... something... to be nominated, let alone win. So congrats to Bon Iver, whose name will now go down in history beside the Baha Men and Hilary Clinton, who also won Grammys for their delightful recordings.

(I kind of wish I was kidding, but I'm not.)

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