This Column Is Ironic: Indie Music Is on (Arcade) Fire

Opinion by Shane Savitsky
Feb. 17, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

This Column Is Ironic: Indie Music Is on (Arcade) FireText from a good friend of mine on Monday afternoon: “So did you wet yourself when Arcade Fire won last night?”

My response: “The Grammys are so mainstream, dude.”

As you may know, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year on Sunday night. The win was a massive coup for the independent music scene, especially since the nomination alone was considered something of a surprise. You could tell it was a big deal when my Twitter feed absolutely exploded in the space of about four and a half minutes. Even Kanye got in on the action, saying, “Arcade fire!!!!!!!!!! There is hope!!! I feel like we all won when something like this happens!”

It goes without saying that I’ve been a huge Arcade Fire fan for the past half-decade. Their three albums stand among my all-time favorites. I finally saw them live in Big Sur in October at a 300 capacity show. It changed my life. They’re that good, so the shocked reaction from the general public kind of took me by surprise. Were they that much of a long shot? Furthermore, did anyone even look at their competition for Album of the Year? To refresh your memory: Lady Gaga, Eminem, Lady Antebellum, and Katy Perry. Just for reference, here’s a bit of the chorus from Katy Perry’s “Peacock”: “Come on, baby, let me see what you’re hiding underneath / I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock / Your peacock, cock.” I’m really not making that up. According to the Grammy Awards, that song was part of one of the five best albums of the year. When you throw in the fact that a documentary about Justin Bieber grossed over $30 million at the box office this weekend, my only response is: “America, you scare me sometimes.”

I know that my feelings about music don’t really correlate with those of the general public. (My obsession with Ke$ha remains a notable exception.) As a fan of indie music, I tend to listen to artists who are lesser known by definition. Yet this Arcade Fire thing continues to confound me. They sold out two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden last summer —  one of which was simulcast on Youtube! They’re kind of a big deal, but because their music isn’t played on Top 40 radio stations, they remain unknown to a huge portion of the general public.

Arcade Fire isn’t the only indie artist making big news these days either. Another of my favorite bands, LCD Soundsystem, announced that they would play their farewell show at Madison Square Garden in early April. Considering I’ll be home for a long pre-Oxford spring break at that point, I figured I would try to get tickets. No dice. Somehow they managed to sell out the Garden in the space of roughly 10 seconds. Once again, my Twitter feed was blown up. Theories abound that ticket brokers somehow rigged the Ticketmaster sale. Whatever the case may be, I didn’t get any tickets. Truly heartbreaking, I know.

I don’t mean any of this as some sort of snobbish hipster critique on mainstream recognition for my favorite bands. I’m not going to stop listening to Arcade Fire because they won a Grammy. (I don’t think I can really talk, considering the Arcade Fire poster on my dorm wall is hanging next to a Taylor Swift one.) Instead, what I’m trying to say is that the rise of the Internet has started to blur the line between “hip” and “mainstream” — and it’s all for the better. Hopefully the initial confusion and backlash by the general public regarding Arcade Fire’s win can translate into a larger appreciation for their music. Some people can start to realize that there is a world of incredible music beyond the Top 40. When it comes down to it, LCD Soundsystem should sell out Madison Square Garden whenever they please, just as Arcade Fire deserves the top prize at the Grammy Awards. Just because an artist gains mass recognition doesn’t diminish the quality of their craft.

Of course, if Arcade Fire decides to name their next album “Peacock,” then I might have to reconsider.

Are you an upset Lady Gaga or Antebellum fan? Are you mad Arcade Fire showed up Eminem or Katy our lady (yeah!)?  Tell Shane so at [email protected]

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