I was camping this weekend for a friend’s 30th birthday (and an official Bollocks! welcome to the 30 Club, Chris!) because my friend wanted to and because, in southern California, you can camp in February (just barely. No one who was on this trip will deny that it got fuck-cold at night though I’m sure we all regret nothing). So I kinda missed that the Grammys were happening last night, which means that all I really missed was the opportunity to do a snide Grammy prediction post on this here blog – like, “If Justin Bieber wins, he has to blow Usher.” Bieber didn’t win of course, and I think it has something to do with him being below the legal age of consent, if you know what I mean. And maybe I could’ve taken some cheap shots (we’re a nonprofit organization here – cheap shots are all we can afford) at the self-congratulatory bullshit that makes up every Grammy night.
But then the Arcade Fire won Album of the Year (I mostly stayed up on the awards thanks to my Twitter feed), which is why the Indie Internet Intelligentsia is almost entirely hungover this morning from celebrating that apparently cancer-curing upset. But when the fog lifts, the internet music gurus will sit down at their keyboards to ponder the double-rainbow level meaning of it all. I predicted that the Arcade Fire would not win Album of the Year honors, but I’m not bitter that they did. If they’re happy, I’m happy, so long as they continue to make awesome music.
But, having mostly ignored the Grammys (I watched Thursday’s Archer instead. If you don’t watch Archer, you need to. Right now) last night, I am fully prepared to take a metaphorical dump in your oatmeal by telling you exactly what the Arcade Fire’s Album of the Year victory means. It doesn’t mean shit. The Grammys will not suddenly start paying attention to good music, just like they didn’t when Tom Waits won for Bone Machine, when he won again (seven years later) for Mule Variations, or when Wilco won for A Ghost is Born. I know those records didn’t win Album of the Year, but don’t think for a second that an indie band winning the more prestigious honor (and the Arcade Fire is a true indie band, on Merge, which is a really cool label that exists in a time when really cool record labels are the exception and not the rule) means that the Grammys are suddenly going to stop heaping undue praise upon utter shit. Remember that Train also won a Grammy last night and my guess is that Train will go on to win far more Grammys than the entire Merge roster combined. This is not because Train is better than anyone on Merge (which is not only home to the Arcade Fire but also She & Him and Spoon); it is because the Grammys only recognize quality music by accident. In other words, the Arcade Fire’s win last night really only proves that idiots can get it right sometimes. Will more people buy The Suburbs because it won Album of the Year? Don’t get your hopes up. People don’t watch the Grammys to find new music, they watch to see if their favorite artist (statistically speaking, a shitty artist) wins one of those meaningless fucking awards. And the people sitting in the live audience for the show are all industry types who, yeah, voted for the Arcade Fire but they probably also already own The Suburbs.
Another case in point here, getting away from the Arcade Fire for a second. Esperanza Spalding, who is fucking amazing, won a Grammy for Best New Artist. First off, this proves the stupidity of the Grammys because Spalding is not a new artist. Chamber Music Society is her third album. But according to Grammy Logic, you aren’t an artist until the Grammys decide to pay attention to you. So by Grammy logic, the Hold Steady (a.k.a. the best rock band in America) doesn’t even exist yet. The hilarious thing about Esperanza Spalding’s win was that she beat out Canadian teenager and rehab-case-to-be Justin Bieber. But if you think Bieber fans were going to see Spalding up on that stage and think, “Gee, maybe I will check out this sultry jazz bassist’s music and thus expand my admittedly narrow horizons”, I have to urge you to think again. Bieber’s fans, in a show of ultimate classiness, added comments like “go die in a hole” to her Wikipedia page. And these delusional brats (I call them brats because I refuse to believe that anyone who has passed through puberty listens to and actively likes Justin Bieber) also wrote that Bieber deserved to win! These people don’t care about hearing music they’ve never heard, they’re fucking cultists. The only upside to this is that maybe Bieber fans, in a conflagration of prepubescent outrage, will try to lead some kind of entertaining and ill-advised boycott of the Grammys.
So while the Grammys accidentally awarded real art last night, they also took pains to keep good music off of your television. The Black Keys won two Grammys for Brothers (that’s two more than the Biebs, for those of you keeping score at home. I’m guessing the reason Bieber fans aren’t attacking the Black Keys right now is that they understandably fear Dan Auerbach’s awesome beard) and both award presentations (Rock Performance and Alternative Album, which is presented every year to an album that is an “alternative” to the usual Grammy winners. Meaning it’s frequently “good”) were conveniently left off of the telecast.
So by all means, celebrate the victories of the Arcade Fire, Esperanza Spalding, and the Black Keys, but – for your own sake – don’t go reading anything into it. Next year, more shitty artists than good ones will be nominated for Grammys (Eminem won a hip-hop Grammy last night; as far as I know, Atmosphere wasn’t even nominated. Also, I’m pretty sure that DOOM has never been nominated for a Grammy) and the shitty ones will win seven times out of ten. What last night means, all it means, is that sometimes people’s bad taste overlaps with other people’s good taste (but not by much – the Arcade Fire beat out Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and something called Lady Antebellum, not the National, LCD Soundsystem, the Hold Steady, and the Screaming Females). The Grammy Awards, like your Golden Globes and, yes, your Oscars, are still ultimately meaningless industry masturbation and, the occasional upset notwithstanding, we’d all be better off if they didn’t exist.