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Arcade Fire Wins 'Album of the Year' - But Is That A Good Thing?

Arcade Fire Wins 'Album of the Year' - But Is That A Good Thing?
Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire
It's been less than twenty-four hours since Arcade Fire's amazingly good album The Suburbs won 'Album of the Year' at this year's Grammy Awards. Frankly, I'm still a little shocked that the Grammys got it right for once. When I first heard that the band was nominated I thought for sure that they were a long shot at best.

Not that The Suburbs didn't deserve to win -- I listed it as my favorite album of 2010 -- but considering they were going up against mega-stars like Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry I thought that, based on popularity alone, it would go to one of those three.

This is the first time an indie band, like Arcade Fire, has ever won Album of the Year and if I had to guess I'd say that every four out of five people who watched the Grammys last night had never heard of the band before. And judging by this website that popped up shortly after bands win, there were more than a few people who didn't agree with the decision. But my guess is that this is nothing but good news for the band. Their fan base, which is already pretty substantial, will probably double or triple, and they will make their inevitable move towards the mainstream. Which is okay, really, because if there is one band who I am not concerned at all about losing their artistic integrity, no matter how popular they get, it is Arcade Fire.

While Arcade Fire winning 'Album of the Year' is a pretty big deal I think the more interesting thing to come out of last night is the question: What Happens Next? Does this ultimately help or hurt indie rock?

The video for Arcade Fire's song "The Suburbs."

Personally, I'd like to think and hope it's the former. I'd like to think that somewhere in Phoenix right now, someone who owns a radio station is thinking that, given an indie band won a Grammy, maybe an indie rock radio station wouldn't be such a bad idea for this city after all. I'd like to think that somewhere someone has stopped listening to Nickelback and is now listening to Arcade Fire. I'd like to think that someone who is listening to Katy Perry right now is performing a Google search on Arcade Fire and will come across a music blog that will expose them to other extremely talented indie acts like Tennis or Smith Westerns.

And while I hope all of these things happen, my fear is that more mainstream exposure could ultimately hurt the genre. One of the great things about indie rock is that it's music that is produced independently and avoids all the trappings of corporate rock. Historically there have been a number of bands who have gone from good to bad largely in part to their inclusion into the mainstream.

I don't think there is any better example of this than Kings of Leon. Music writers love to make fun of Kings of Leon thanks to the fact that they are the poster children for selling out. But did you know that they use to be a really good band? I mean really good and a personal favorite of mine. The band's first three albums Youth and Young Manhood, Aha Shake Heartbreak, and Because of the Times are some seriously good records. But then came Only By the Night and before you knew it you're pulling your hair out because everywhere you turn they're playing "Use Somebody."

We've already started to see Vampire Weekend start down this slippery slope and The Black Keys seem to be right behind them. It would be a pretty big bummer to see more artists head down this path. I can almost see a meeting right now where some record executive is telling the guys from Animal Collective that, "we all really love your music but we think that if we get you with the right producer you could be the next big thing." Next thing you know they're doing commercial for Poore Brother potato chips switching up the words to the song "Brother Sport" to say "Poore Brothers" instead of "sports brothers."

Of course, I could just be thinking worst case scenario here and in reality people will complain about Eminem not winning 'Album of the Year' for the next few days and things will go back to the status quo. This might be in the end the best case scenario.

What do you guys think? Is Arcade Fire winning 'Album of the Year' a good thing or bad thing for indie rock?


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