Gonna make a record how I felt then

Considering that I have probably never watched a single ceremony, I have some pretty strong feelings about the Grammy Awards. Most of those feelings range from strained frustration to outright resentment. What’s funny is that my disdain for the Grammys (and the music industry from which it crawls) is based almost entirely out of my love for music. You might think that to be contradictory, but when you combine the self-congratulatory nature of any media awards with the increasing irrelevance of the ‘traditional’ music industry, you’re left with a lot of annual fuss and fervor over less than nothing.


One of the most contentious results of this year’s ceremony was the taking of Album Of The Year by the Arcade Fire for The Suburbs. On its most basic level, this was an impressive feat for the group, as they were the only band of the five nominees whose album was not released on a major label. Finally, a victory for the indie underdogs, right? Not exactly. Though awards also went to The Black Keys, La Roux and Cee Lo Green, the winners list was (as usual) dominated by mainstream sensations. Thing is, that’s perfectly fine by Grammy standards. By now, the Grammys have become the default indicator of how out of touch the music industry is. Bands signed to majors get glad-handed, and the rest of us give a good chuckle as each year’s flavor of the week gives a tear-soaked speech. Sales spike for a few weeks, and the cosmos eventually return to order. Does the Arcade Fire’s win change any of this? Do you really have to ask?

In short, yes, the Arcade Fire deserve to have the kind of acclaim that comes with winning a Grammy. But the Arcade Fire or award-snubbed groups like Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend and Broken Bells don’t need what the Grammys supposedly offer. As I joked shortly after the announcement, in giving the Arcade Fire a Grammy, the music industry had finally caught up with what the rest of us have known about since 2003. You and I have loved (or hated) the Arcade Fire long before their Grammy, and we’ll feel the same way long after. And if we don’t feel the same way, it’ll be because of how the music affect us, not because someone told you an album of theirs was ‘the best.’ If I listen to The Suburbs right now, I’ll still hear the same paranoid, slightly-overlong record that I first heard back in August. It’s not any worse for having won a Grammy, but it’s certainly not any better.

If there’s something to be taken away from all this it’s that, if NARAS insists on continuing the Grammys, they should stay away from indie bands entirely. For one, no one on any of the networks who did a recap of the awards knew who this band was. Similarly, indie bands aren’t in it for the awards, and are probably laughing along in mocking surprise with the rest of us if and when they win one. And finally, declaring something “The Best” goes against everything that musical expression is built upon. Music isn’t about competition; it’s about connecting to the listener via sounds and ideas. If you’re listening to someone’s music simply because they won an award for it, you may as well trot yourself right up to the slaughter.

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~ by E. on February 15, 2011.

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