Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who the hell is Arcade Fire?

Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year at the Grammys has been an unexpected source of amazing entertainment.

I've always thought the Grammys were a joke that were more about popularity than quality of music. I'm not some total elitist who thinks popular music is inherently bad, I just think that the correlation between quality and popularity is fairly weak, at best. On the night of the Grammys, Cara and I watched a little of the show while eating dinner, then decided to watch a movie. The only thing still coming up that I was interested in was Arcade Fire, and I certainly didn't expect them to win.

(The movie was Winter's Bone, which Cara had had recommended to her by some friends, but unfortunately we both found it terribly boring.)

After the movie, we went back on the Internet and saw, to our great surprise, Arcade Fire had won Album of the Year! The best part of this was how shocking it was to everyone. The video is great, because you can hear the confusion in Barbara Streisand's voice when she announces the winner, and then see how completely dumbfounded with shock and giddiness the band members are. The first words out of Win Butler's mouth in the acceptance speech are, "What the hell?"

I loved seeing the disdainful reactions of some people on the Internet like "Who the hell is Arcade Fire?" and "I've never heard of them!" It seems so funny coming from my perspective where, among my favorite bands, Arcade Fire is easily one of the most popular. Plus, a band that played a sold out Madison Square Garden can't really be called obscure.

The whole thing is both awesome and hilarious. The Grammy for Album of the Year went to the album that was, in fact, my favorite album of the year? I looked up a complete list of Grammy winners and the only other time that's ever been true was when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band won.

It will be interesting to see whether this has any broader effects on popular music. I could envision the airwaves being filled with crappy Arcade Fire knockoffs, but somehow I don't think that's likely to happen. It would be nice, though, if this did help bring more attention to all the great music coming out of Canada these days. (Especially if Woodpigeon could gain enough popularity in the States that they would tour here!) Something about the Great White North really seems to inspire musical artistry - or at least music that appeals to my personal tastes! I just checked my stats for the last year, and a remarkable six of the top eleven artists are from Canada (along with three U.S. and two U.K. artists). For a nation of thirty million odd people, that's certainly more than would ever happen by chance.

As I think about it more, my worldview as a whole is more in line with a typical Canadian than a typical American point of view, and I wonder if there's any connection. Obviously, my taste in music and my opinions on any other subject all arise from the same brain. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some sort of relationship there -both involving the internal processes of my brain and how those processes have been shaped by my life experiences. It's really quite interesting to ponder.

Oh, by the way, I'm a neurobiologist, and clearly a huge nerd!

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