Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

“What the hell?” Arcade Fire win Grammy for Album of the Year

There is probably a sizable bustle in your electronic hedgerow this morning thanks to the news that Arcade Fire won the Grammy of Grammies, the gong for Album of the Year, last night. There will be justifiable praise for the …

Mon, Feb 14, 2011, 09:43

   

There is probably a sizable bustle in your electronic hedgerow this morning thanks to the news that Arcade Fire won the Grammy of Grammies, the gong for Album of the Year, last night. There will be justifiable praise for the band and “The Suburbs”, an album which gets better and better with every play. You will be reading lines about how brilliant this is for Merge, the North Carolina-based indie label who released the album in the United States (the album goes through mega-conglomerate Universal over here). There will be high talk about what this means for the independent sector, though it will also inevitably bring in some debate about what the hell “independent” means in 2011, especially for a best-selling, globe-trotting, gong-winning band like Arcade Fire.

It will also cause some chatter about the Grammies themselves. While it may be high season right now for culture awards, with everything from the BAFTAs to the IFTAs, the Grammies continue to exist in a camp of their own. Last night, there were 109 winners, including prizes for Best Engineered Album (Classical), Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Southern, Country, Or Bluegrass Gospel Album. Looking down the list, there seems to have been a Grammy for everyone in the audience who ever said “one, two, one, two” into a microphone.

Yet you can be sure you’ll read someone described as a “Grammy Award-winning artist” or “three times Grammy nominated act” at least once before the week is out. Often, it’s just some hack shoehorning the guts of a glowing press release into a news story but more times, mention of a Grammy is seriously taken to signify something which commands attention. The band won a Grammy, they must be OK. Or at least the folks at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences think they’re OK. Few beyond the Academy actually realise, know or even care how that august body works. We write “Grammy award winning act” and, for all we know, the winner of the prize was decided over a game of gin rummy.

In the case of Arcade Fire, though, last night’s hoopla crowns their ascent. Three albums and hundreds of ecstatic (and occasionally not so ecstatic, like Oxegen 2010) shows later, they really are kings and queens of the new frontier. You can put them up there now with Kings Of Leon and Coldplay as bands who’ve become huge at a time when huge bands are few and far between. The traditional ways and means to create a big band (ie a recording label pimping best-selling albums and the band having big ol’ radio hits) may no longer be in effect, but Arcade Fire have shown there are other ways to skin that cat and make the crossover. There are plenty of other acts who may or may not pull off the same manoeuvre – Mumford & Sons are currently getting a lot of love in the business despatches, though they really need a few more albums under their belts-by-Boden to do it – but Arcade Fire show that it still can be done. Now for the “Grammy Award-winning Arcade Fire” press releases and news stories…

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