Arcade Fire's Grammy Upset: Indie Kids Win the Big Award
For music nerds everywhere, the backstory is well-known: Arcade Fire spread quickly from unheard-of into dormrooms everywhere via a near-perfect 9.7 Pitchfork review for 2004 debut Funeral. Eventually, the band's ornate Springsteen/Byrne anthems proliferated further through the Internet and into the mainstream, but even today listeners pilfer cuts for mixtape-based recommendations. Arcade Fire's success points to how the fluidity of information positively impacts musicians' careers, despite the obvious royalty issues posed by illegal downloading. With their choice Sunday, the Academy acknowledged an Internet Age counterculture that, while dangerous to their bottom line, can unearth new sonic spectra. Only this time around, our Gen-Y counterculture isn't all "turn on, tune in, drop out," but rather "tune in, tune in, tune in."
Can more indie acts plow their way onstage to accept future unexpected Grammys? Maybe, but the Academy already provides for most up-and-comers with Alternative and New Artist awards. For what the Grammys are worth these days (to many: not much), the award culminates Arcade Fire's Information Age conquest, reaching this particular milestone as a band that launched and maintained its fame via Internet word-of-mouth and the hipster panache of its evangelists. Kudos to Merge Records, the still-indie label that the the band has stayed with since the beginning, and kudos to the Arcade Fire for being a great group of people making world-beating music of an independent spirit.
In true rock 'n' roll fashion, after winnings its award, the band got back up on stage for a more solid performance (the arresting "Ready to Start," which they really should have played before they knew they had won) rather than sending us home with a long acceptance speech. As a friend of mine commented, "There's a reason his name is Win."
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