Sunday, February 13, 2011

And the winner is... aw shit!

Anyone who knows me knows I love music awards shows. Generally the worse the better (ARIAS, MTV, Grammys etc) because they can't help but pick the lamest or the worst of the bunch and the musical performances are either hopelessly mimed or badly performed with multiple sound problems. I particularly love the Grammys because they notoriously get it wrong. Nirvana lost alternative album of the year twice - Nevermind to Out of Time and In Utero to Zooropa (U2 - how alternative!). They finally won for the posthumous Unplugged album. Too little, too late for Kurt I'm afraid.

Music award shows confound me over and over again by making weird choices and picking either the most diabolically predictable, lame artist over someone genuinely brilliant or going batshit crazy at the last minute and doing the unexpected. Nine times out of ten, you can predict the winner but every once in a while things get a little crazy.

Here's an example: presuppose for a moment that the genre of alternative music had a definable sound. I'm not going to be prescriptive here, just listen to whatever springs to your mind and that's the definition of alternative music. Now, I give you a list of five albums:

* Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
* Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
* The Black Keys - Brothers
* Broken Bells – Broken Bells
* Vampire Weekend – Contra

In your mind, using your definition of alternative music, rank these albums as the most alternative to the least. For me, the exact order is Arcade Fire (alt-rock), Broken Bells (alt-pop), Vampire Weekend (alt-shitty Talking Heads rip off), Band of Horses (alt-country with their worst album to date) and the Black Keys (alt-soul-blues). As such, in my definition of alternative music, the Black Keys are the least alternative of these bands because even though it's a couple of white guys playing blues music (how novel!), it's far from the blues punk of John Spencer and closer to the blues purity of the White Stripes (both in form and band).

So, of course, let's make it a competition. Let's make it the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2011. Who has made the best alternative album? And the winner is... The Black Keys. Aw shit. Again, the Grammys do not fail me by inexplicably picking the Black Keys over the Arcade Fire. I think there is an easy argument to be made that the Arcade Fire are the most obvious choice for best alternative album. Seriously... the Black Keys?

But just to fuck with my head - the Arcade Fire did win today - ALBUM OF THE YEAR! Aw shit.

So, the most prestigious award of the night does not go to Lady Antebellum (who?), Eminem, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga but to Merge Records artist the Arcade Fire. I can't even wrap my head around this because it seems so strange yet so awesome. The popular vote would have been for Eminem which is usually how this goes but the Grammys have confounded my expectations once more. This year they went for batshit crazy over predictable but at least that is kind of cool for a change.

Can anyone explain how these things work? Surely there's a mathematical formula to working this shit out...


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