Will Bon Iver Be The Arcade Fire Of 2012? And Other Pre-Grammy Nomination Show Questions


Kanye West, "Runaway"

MJ: This morning while I was waking up the possibility of Kanye getting a lot of nominations was floated by the Los Angeles Times' Randall Roberts, via the news-gabber station WCBS. But I don't know. Did Dark come out too long ago? (This might be a good place to note that this year's Grammy eligibility period runs from October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011.) Is Still Pretty Unrepentant Kanye going to be a turnoff for the nominating committee? Will the nominating committee still have "Black And Yellow" stuck in their head and perplexingly vote for Wiz Khalifa? Or will Nicki Minaj be rewarded for being one of the most vibrant things to happen to pop in the past 12 months? Even Taylor Swift's covering her.

NM: Despite the release date and everything outside the music, Kanye will always appeal to the people who decide on awards, particularly album awards (Pazz included, of course) because of his—as Joshua Clover once put it—"I'm-a-genius-and-here's-my-record" style auteurship. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is presumably the pinnacle of that arc (If not, I can't imagine what's next), but its failure to produce "Gold Digger"-type single hurts its chances here, I think. I'd love see Nicki win Rap Album or pick up and even pick up Album of the Year nomination. Pink Friday is better than Dark Twisted Fantasy anyway, and here its supposed weakness, not enough "spitting," might play to its advantage.

But I want to take this moment to call attention to a very distressing rumor, one that has picked up steam as "critical" year-end lists have begun to be unveiled, namely, that Bon Iver's self-titled LP has a shot at a Grammy nomination for album of the year. Maura—here's where I tee it up for you—what do you think of Bon Iver's chances? Would it be deserving?

MJ: Ha. Well, "deserving" to me might mean a very different thing than "deserving" to the people deciding the nominations, who if they were going to pick one indie-leaning type might lean toward Justin Vernon's pillowy, produced, saxophone-rich second record. (Remember when Eminem went up against Steely Dan a decade ago?) And yesterday Paste crowned Bon Iver its record of the year, which is as good a sign as appealing to a particular "rock is important but it can't rock too hard" aesthetic.

Plus dude has a great story. From heartbreak in a cabin to singing with Kanye? I could see it getting the Second Annual Arcade Fire Nomination For An Important Independent Release In Yet Another Year Defined By Fragmentation.

I don't like the record very much, though. I listened to it yesterday and I understand the appeal of it on some level—Jess Harvell outlined it for us a few months ago, and called it "probably the only album around that will have you thinking of Neil Young's Harvest, Sting's Fields of Gold, early Kranky albums, and the KLF's Chill Out all at once"—but I was... well, I just kept thinking, "And?" (I also heard snatches of other adult-contemporary touchstones of yore. Like Breathe.) What do you think?

NM: Well since you asked, I think it's a boring record with little shot at receiving any serious Grammy recognition. "Pillowy" is good way to describe it, both for its airy production and for capturing the bedroom feel (I imagine it's also a good sleeping aid, which I don't mean as a back-handed compliment; that's a fine thing for a record to be). But I can't picture this record anything other than mood music, kind of like a beared, flannel-wearing Buddha Box, the sound of applying a coat of tan paint to your living room.

Even Justin Vernon's story, once you remove the proper nouns, isn't particularly special: the man going off to a cabin the woods to Get Away From It All and write deep shit is one of the founding myths of our country, right up there with lone warrior who stands up to the corrupt establishment and the five dollar, all-you-can-eat pizza buffet.

Which is all just to say that it I can't imagine dude being nominated for any major Grammys, and that For Emma, Forever Ago was a better record anyways. Arcade Fire was indie in the sense that Pitchfork reviewed it before Entertainment Weekly, but sonically it was a huge record with strings, crescendos, melodies, etc. It's been awhile, but I can't remember if Bon Iver has any of those things.

MJ: Neither can I. And I listened to it yesterday! But something tells me that I'm not exactly the demo.

Check out Maura's and Nick's picks for the big four categories after the jump.


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32 comments
Pell Mel
Pell Mel

Will Bon Iver Be The Arcade Fire Of 2012? Christ, I hope not.  I want to get on psychotropics drugs for depression every time I hear a song.

Old Man
Old Man

I'm probably significantly older and less hep than you. I don't enjoy Pink Friday's or Kayne West's music persee but I did see a performance live at Black Hawks arena in 1972. The first set was great, they're songs from umagumma, meddle and other albums. The second set was new, I never heard it before and never heard it again until the late spring of 1973. It was different for them. It was jazz, It was blues, It was space rock. It was jazz, blues, space rock. When the concert was over all I sensed was, wow. I went to plenty of concerts and listened to a lot of music since. Nothing struck me the same until I listened to Bon Iver / Bon Iver. My first question was, could this ever be recreated live? I went to the opening concert of the current 2011 tour and listened to Justin Vernon and his band. When the concert was over all I sensed was, wow.

James
James

Though I'm familiar with the Village Voice, I hadn't (as far as I remember) read any blog entries...credit to Maura for actually responding and to the commenters for being surprisingly, well, unoffensive, a rarity in internet comments these days.

As for my points...not just to echo the earlier conversation thread, but I too nearly gave up on the article after the "Pink Friday is better than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" comment.  I'm glad I didn't, but still.  Sure, Pink Friday album opens brilliantly, with "I'm the Best" and "Roman's Revenge", and I had high expectations after those two.  However, I can barely remember anything else on the album doing anything except either annoying me (Right Thru Me) or going in one ear and out the other.  "Super Bass", easily the best track from those sessions, wasn't even on the edition I bought and so I heard it far later.  Granted, I'd take Pink Friday any day over Rihanna's Loud, but I guess that continues the trend of the last few years (The Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D, Katy Perry's Teenage Dream) of nominating three or four standout singles surrounded by forgettable-at-best filler for Album of the Year.

I'm against lionizing any particular album as much as anyone...to risk indie wrath, I thought Arcade Fire's The Suburbs was rather overrated and, though I like them as a whole, didn't think they merited the top award in 2011; it's the one time out of her now three nominations I would've given it to Gaga.  However, this is one of the rare cases it seems entirely deserved.  MBDTF reminds me of Outkast's Stankonia (which was nominated for Album of the Year) in it's scope and bold nature; it does more, better, than most albums I can think of in the past few years, and for my money "Runaway" deserves the same accolades as "Rolling in the Deep".  If anything, Nicki Minaj's verse on "Monster" (which even the most negative review of MBDTF, in The Guardian, called "stunning") was the musical equivalent of Melissa McCarthy's appearance in Bridesmaids; it was so amazing and all-out that I don't mind her getting nominated elsewhere, but the source shouldn't have been snubbed, and certainly not in favor of Minaj's solo effort.  She's a talented rapper, but sadly the vast majority of her album reminds me of Loud...pop-rap/hip-hop that failed to harness her fierce skills.

And lastly, Kanye's misogyny is nothing to ignore, true, but the earlier poster had a good point in stating that Minaj is no less guilty of sexism in her lyrics.  Yes, two wrongs don't make a right, but it seems harder to argue against Kanye when using Minaj as the good example.

Ultimately...Nicki Minaj did deserve to be up for Album of the Year over the Foos or Rihanna, but she deserved it more as a guest on MBDTF.  Her and Bon Iver could've gotten another chance to have been a part of Grammy gold.  No album is perfect, but MBDTF has a hell of a lot fewer flaws than Pink Friday IMO, while taking far more risks, and is damn near the only album on the Grammy's radar I would've had no problem seeing win over Adele's 21. Minaj's real snub case is "Super Bass" in either/both Record and Song of the Year.

maura
maura

It is probably not surprising that a lot of male commenters don't realize that a lengthy string of nihilistic misogyny can be kind of wearying for a female listener, but I guess Artistry wins out when you're not the one whose gender is constantly being put down.

Britt Alderfer
Britt Alderfer

Yeah I get you. I wouldn't ever try to brush off the misogyny present in Fantasy or some of its marketing, or know how. However, there was still enough of value there for me to be invested in the album. I listen to music I like that sometimes is unkind to women and try to not let it get me down, I hang out on the blogosphere that likes to make excuses for it, and try not to let that get me down either. Usually I just get really pissed instead. But, uhm, thanks for being one of those people who would call this out, especially with the way these dialogues tend to end up (all the male commenters saying PLZ GET OVER IT BITCH! or something to that extent).

At least this isn't Stereogum-comments level terrible? Yet? (bright side?)

Jay Jones
Jay Jones

Then you must have hated the fact that Nicki would allow someone like Eminem on her album. Nicki is not so innocent herself. Have a male rapper repeat some of Nicki's lyrics and you would accuse them of being misogynistic. 

maura
maura

Sigh. No. I'm talking about the idea that Fantasy is The Greatest Record Ever, Or At Least Better Than 99.9% Of Others, and how it's patently flawed and based in a lot of assumptions.

Jay Jones
Jay Jones

Sorry for misinterpreting your comments. Your right, people blindly stating one album as the best is annoying. As I stated, Kanye's incorporation of other genres and music artist in MBDTF is what separates the album from other hip-hop/rap album imo. I just can't think of another rapper that will add a 2 minute guitar solo to the middle of a song, sample bon iver, and use Justin Vernon the way he did.

Jay Jones
Jay Jones

"Pink Friday is better than Dark Twisted Fantasy anyway"Pink Friday did not bring nothing new and even by rap and hip/hop standards the album was no better than other rap/hip hop release of the past year. On the other hand you will never find a rap/hip-hop album that compares to MBDTF. Kanye had the perfect mix of influences. Hip-Hop/rap, pop, rock (2 songs had rock samples, and 1 had a kickass guitar solo), and indie(the brilliant use of Justin Vernon throughout the album) were all represented in MBDTF. MBDTF completely destroys Pink Friday. To add insult to injury Nicki Minaj's best verse is not on her own record. Her verse on "Monster" was better than anything in her album. How anybody can make such a statement is beyond me?

Britt Alderfer
Britt Alderfer

I kind of WISH Pink Friday was better than Dark Twisted Fantasy. But it's... just not? I want Minaj to just do a rap album, honestly.

So yes, I will be hostile over the fact that the Nicki Minaj album I want doesn't exist instead of your preference for it over MBDTF. Gosh I do enjoy list season but I don't quite understand the hostility towards a critic who doesn't share all of your favorites! Like, I just pity those who don't love the new Bon Iver as much as I do. No need to be so pissed about 'Ye, James A. Callahan.

It's only going to get worse from here on out though let's brace ourselves

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

Bon Iver, Bon Iver is lovely, lovely.  No arguments there.

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

Look guys, I thought your Grammy prognosticating was worthless on page one, but I seriously stopped reading after Nick suggested that "Pink Friday is better than Dark Twisted Fantasy anyway," tossed off as if this inanity were accepted logic anywhere in the known universe.  

But hey, the numbers speak for themselves:Metacritic:My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 94/100Pink Friday: 69/100

Oh, and on the Village Voice's own Pazz and Jop list?

Kanye: #1 Nicki: # ... oh, fuck, 234?

You guys are better off tuning in to your DVRs and shutting the fuck up.

maura
maura

So what you're saying is, every critic has to go along with the opinion of the masses? Also, you do realize that toting out aggregates is an utterly flawed way of sonning Nick and me, since surely there were people in that imperfect average who, I don't know, VOTED FOR PINK FRIDAY or GAVE KANYE A BAD REVIEW in that mix?

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

First of all: nothing illustrated in your Grammy discussion contains any kind of insight into voter decision making, or impresses that either of you have done anything more than scan Billboard charts and Wikipedia for your information, making it - at least in my mind - as worthless as my aggregate reference (and I'll give you that, aggregates mean little next to individual opinion - trust me, I get it).  That's why Page 1 was worthless.  Look, if shit got better on Page 2, well, hey good on that but I didn't make it that far.  Like most Village Voice articles recently, I find myself wondering why I even hit the Twitter links these days.

But Nick's suggestion was an irresponsible bait-and-hook tactic thrown into the conversation under some imbecilic notion his is a stance of cultural authority assuming we've all kind of decided, post-release and under reevaluated consensus, that hey, MBDTF was overrated.  Which it wasn't.  And I think most people can make the uncontroversial argument that in 2020, MBDTF will probably be the Kid-Fucking-A of this decade. 

Hey, consider me bait-and-hook'd then, because I'd rather stick sharpened pencils in my ears than ever listen to Pink Friday again. 

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

Remember when it wasn't about sales but instead of about art?  That was when the Grammys MATTERED. 

maura
maura

One important thing to note also when judging Pink Friday and MBDTF against each other for Grammy consideration: Sales, a category in which Pink Friday bettered Kanye's album. And sales are very important to the Grammy calculus! Just look at Teenage Dream last year (sorry, I had to get another KP dig in)

maura
maura

I actually try to use Wikipedia only in emergency cases, and then source it (ideally double-source it) afterward. Ask my students.

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

I encourage footnotes for anything I deem legit, otherwise I assume Wikipedia.  Just saying.

James A. Callahan
James A. Callahan

Uh-oh, okay, look that's been my background for a long time.  I'd been meaning to change it.  For a while.  ALRIGHT LOOK OK.  TRUTH IS I AM KANYE WEST.  I'm cruising the comment sections on all the websites because it's all research for a song I'm working on currently, and of course I frequent Village Voice because yall Pazz and Jop-topped me not once, twice, but THRICE.  And that IS a line from my next jam.

maura
maura

As for your other complaints, I can certainly cite the sources of my opinions, which are not just "Billboard and Wikipedia" (so cute, you are!) and which are based on watching the Grammys for years, and professionally for more than that. But you know, this is a blog, not a final paper, so I figured footnotes would be a bit over the top?

maura
maura

I didn't see him making a wide declaration on behalf of the critical establishment so much as expressing an opinion, although your declaration that MBTDF is the "Kid-Fucking-A of this decade" (and your Twitter background, sorry, I clicked out of curiosity!) seems to indicate that you are particularly prickly about disagreements over Kanye's superiority!

ojk
ojk

nm is an idiot

SoCalMalaise
SoCalMalaise

Anybody who says or agrees that Pink Friday is better than MBDTF is a sacrilegious infidel whose first amendment rights should be revoked

Katherine
Katherine

Considering that you've typed the sentence "Pink Friday is better than MBDTF," which technically qualifies as "saying it," I'd reconsider that statement. #loopholes

rendit
rendit

I, first of all, take issue with your associating Bon Iver and Steely Dan.

Second of all, the greatest Bro Goes Into The Woods To Find Himself And Write A Record Of Deep Shit Maaannn story is Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, duh.

nick
nick

i always assumed 'behind blue eyes' was Durst's ~finding himself~ moment

Lll
Lll

"Pink Friday is better than Dark Twisted Fantasy anyway." Wow.

-_-
-_-

Flippant contrarianism disguised as critique -- VV really in top form as they round into the end of the year, eh?

maura
maura

Pink Friday is certainly more enjoyable than MBDTF. Not every critic agreed with the 10.0s, you know.

Young Scuba
Young Scuba

Pink Friday is only better than MBDTF in the pop sense, thats it. Otherwise, the latter has wider themes, wider sound and MUCH better lyrics.

maura
maura

Okay, that was another case of me using an adjective that could be applied objectively to my subjective opinion! Look, it's the human flesh editing machine (she said with a nervous laugh).

Holla
Holla

Gotta disagree here, Maura. Pink Friday is not "certainly" more enjoyable. Not every critic agrees that Nicki Minaj eschewing her strengths = an enjoyable album.

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