The most derided of the major award shows came and went last night in a flash of epileptic strobe lights, fake fire effects and surprise winners. We're referring, of course, to The Black Keys' win for Best Package. Oh, and some Canadian band on an indie label won Album of the Year. This was widely referred to as an "inspiring shock," but should it have been?
If this is a win for underdogs, then the template to follow for future "underdogs" is: 1) Release an album that every college kid in the country refers to as life-changing 2) Wait six years for those kids to graduate and get disposable incomes and/or become Grammy voters 3) Debut an album at #1 on the Billboard 200 4) Sell out Madison Square Garden on consecutive nights. Do that, and you, too, could win the marquee award in a meaningless awards show!
Don't get us wrong; this isn't to diminish the band or its independent label, Merge, in any way. At issue here is not whether The Suburbs was really the best album of 2010, but whether it's hypocritical to get excited about this for any reason. After all, if Lady Antebellum had won, we'd all have yawned and gone back to talking about whether or not Cee-Lo slipped an F-bomb. So it seems sort of like a double-standard to call this a win for La Resistance.
The counter-argument is that the exact reason no one cares about the Grammys is because it is so divorced from any standard of quality, and that maybe The Arcade Fire win is a step toward an actual meritocracy. If it is, it's a pretty small step -- no one's really arguing that The Suburbs was truly the best album of 2010.
The other headline-grabber was Esperanza Spalding coming home with the Best New Artist award. That one was truly surprising -- let's just say it's a good morning to be a big jazz fan with a gambling problem. And Spalding's win might actually affect her career in some tangible way, unlike The Arcade Fire, because lots and lots of people are figuring out who she is as a result of this: She is presently the number one search on Google. A lot of that is rip-pissed Bieber devotees, but still. And, incidentally, don't feel too bad for Justin Bieber today. His 3D movie opened with just over $30 million in box office revenue.
We are actually of the opinion that Esperanza Spalding won't see especially lasting benefits here. No one views the Grammys as tastemakers, so it seems like a stretch that the show has the power to whet America's appetite for jazz bass.
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The real winners last night? The Grammys itself. The voting process involves too many people to imagine a fix by the Academy, but they couldn't have asked for better results. After all, we are devoting time to actual award winners, something we haven't done in years. And the people who find The Arcade Fire's win inspiring are likely feeling at least a little softened to the event.
Now go bask in the glow of the sextet's definitely not pre-planned encore performance of "Ready To Start." You can definitely just pick up instruments and start jamming away on a nationally-televised broadcast, right? Ahem.