North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The Opposite of Their Name

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The Grammys were on Sunday night, an affair where the music industry rewards the acts who move a lot of product or have stuck around long enough to have cache; even Frank Zappa won a Grammy once and it wasn’t because Jazz From Hell was any good.

It’s a night where the middlebrow, that cruelly overlooked group of artists, get their trophies. Just look at the winners: Gotye, who’s racked up YouTube hits in the 100 millions and hasn’t recorded a fun song since 2008; Mumford and Sons, the folk band of choice for people who don’t like folk; The Black Keys, who dress the part of rock stars and look entirely uncomfortable in the role; Skrillex, the token nod to what the Grammy voters assume kids are into these days.

There was even a few defensible choices: Frank Ocean, Drake, Jay-Z and (somewhat) the Keys, who at least have more chops than Mumford or Coldplay. It was actually nice to see Ocean get rewarded for releasing a smart, ambitious album.

If they got that one right, they got a few disastrously wrong. Taking home the Best New Artist and Song of the Year are the upstarts Fun., a band who has to tell you what they are since their music can’t. In an age of manufactured pop stars, reality-TV based talent searches and egregious self-promotion from has-beens who haven’t gotten the memo, Fun. stands out among the filth. They’re music is banal, boring and dripping with trying to appeal to as many people as possible. They look like an A&R rep’s idea of what cool, urban young people dress like. They wallow around on stage, looking overwhelmed by the idea of actually creating rock and their trophies last night should’ve been the biggest sign of all that the Grammys are worthless inside baseball bullshit.

Dave Marsh once called Queen the first fascist rock band. He argued that “We Will Rock You” was less a command than a statement, in that case, one of domination. In that sense, Fun. is the first Big Brother band. Right down to their name, they exist to tell you what you’re going to have when you listen to them. What they want you to think they and their music are. Their name isn’t a name, a statement or a description. It’s a command ending in a full stop. They’re “fun,” period, and there isn’t anything they want you to do about it.

Never mind that their big hit is a half-baked ripoff of K’Naan’s 2010 hit Waving Flags. Never mind that this Best New Band released their debut album in 2008 or that they’re formed out of the remnants of The Format, who released halfway decent indie pop through the last decade. Never mind that this self-styled indie band’s backed by Warner Bros, through their anonymous-sounding labels Fueled By Ramen. But maybe the Grammys definition of new seems to mean only “new on a major label.”

When Fun. won last night, it meant some actually deserving, and actually new, artists were skipped over. Take Cold Specks, who’s ethereal and downright spooky I Predict a Graceful Expulsion was one of 2012’s best releases. Take Japandroids, who actually rock out without looking like mopey Brooklyn-ites on stage and made music people will listen to in sixteen months.  Take Haim, a talented-as-fuck trio still so new they haven’t released a proper album yet, and still released one of 2012’s best singles on Forever. They’re even signed to a major label!

None of that really matters, though. As far as awards go, the Grammys mean slightly more than the Junos and slightly less than the People’s Choice Awards. After all, they hand them out to any flavour of the month: Bobby McFerrin, Milli Vanilli, Shawn Colvin, Norah Jones. Hell, even Homer Simpson got one. It’s a night for the industry to celebrate itself: reward the acts who sell a lot, help keep some bloated industry giants alive for another year and pat themselves on the back. Let Fun. have the awards. They do a better job of representing their music than anything they’ve ever done.


Written by M.

February 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm

One Response

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  1. An interesting read and well written. Although I don’t know half the groups you mentioned you have made me curious. Heck I may even watch the Grammys next year! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


    February 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

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