Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste took to Twitter yesterday to express his disappointment that the band’s album “Shields” was overlooked in the Grammy nominations this year. He tweeted at Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who won big last year, “Don’t know how you managed to infiltrate @blobtower, what’s the secret?” “or maybe we gotta make better music :/ point is a year ago I was so excited you were nominated, and nobody from “our world” ”
Vernon fired back messages of support—he was famously anti-Grammy before winning last year, and he reaffirmed he thinks the whole thing is bullshit despite having entered the winners’ circle. “This is why i hate the grammies,” he said. “FUCK those morons for not knowing enough about GB.”
The whole thing raises a few questions about the value of awards and how we rank music. On the one hand, Vernon is right—awards shows are dumb because art is subjective. I had a film professor in college who said labeling a “best movie” or “best album” of the year was like awarding a “best boyfriend” or “best girlfriend” of the year. Best to who?
But if they’re so valueless, why does a guy like Ed Droste, whose band has enjoyed huge success, who has toured opening for Radiohead and done all kinds of great things, still want the validation of a Grammy? Even Justin Vernon, accepting his award last year, said “I feel a little uncomfortable up here”—an acknowledgement that awards ceremonies, whether or not we even accept them as valid, do have a way of branding the winners with a kind of cultural apotheosis.
And Vernon and Droste are right that the Grammys tend to ignore impressionistic music without big pop hooks. But still, Sigur Ros managed to get nominated for “( )” in 2004 (I mean, you want obscure—most of the record is sung in a made-up language called Hopelandic) and Radiohead drew a nomination last year for “King of Limbs,” which may be the last hook-heavy record they’ve ever released.
People legitimately freaked out over Bon Iver’s first two records. “Bon Iver, Bon Iver”—which won for Vernon last year—is stunningly gorgeous to warrant all its cred, but I still hear it played constantly everywhere from yoga class to the bar at happy hour. The record broke through—it was a legitimate “thing.” To be fair, I don’t remember anyone talking about Grizzly Bear’s “Shields” that way this year. It was a totally quality record, moody and heartfelt, and “pure as fuck,” as Justin Vernon calls it. But even I didn’t find it particularly memorable, and I’m a Grizzly Bear fan.
What I think Droste should be pissed about is that “Two Weeks” from “Veckatimest” didn’t get nominated for song of the year in 2009. That was a hell of a tune. Listen below.