The "Who is Arcade Fire" tumblr is not just an amusing diversion for those hipsters who still enjoy sneering at people who haven't heard of their favorite bands (yes, I realize Arcade Fire is pretty damn popular in one genre but until last night they didn't cross over into the radar of people living in areas without vibrant indie scenes).
But the one I nabbed before makes an interesting claim: how can the "best album of the year" not have been "known by everyone"?
POINT 1: QUALITY AND THE MAIN STREAM
There is an underlying assumption that persists in our culture that if you make something of very high quality, it will enter the main stream. With the internet, it certainly increases the idea that "If it's so good, why haven't I heard of it?" because we assume that someone would have linked it to us before.
The post I wrote earlier today, about Kevin Drum's objections to arts funding, touched on a similar point. Considering as we have no lack of distribution media for music, and Arcade Fire is considered a quality band (not just by the Grammy's, but by a lot of people and people inside the music industry), how could people not have heard of them?
Whereas, on the flip side, I don't like Lady Gaga's music all that much (although I do respect what she's done, and I think the performative aspect of it all is fascinating). But try as hard as I could (I did actively avoid finding out who Lady Gaga was), I found out about her. The same bridge was finally crossed for me when Justin Beiber got to do a quick little segment on The Daily Show. Justin's shrewd distributors had gotten someone from circles I don't inhabit in front of my face.
I'm curious why it took so long for Arcade Fire to do the same?
POINT 2: AWARDS, BEFORE OR AFTER?
When Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize before really making any significant worldwide peace contributions (yeah, he did some work on nuclear non-proliferation, but the treaty wasn't ratified until this past December, which was quite a while after his award).
However, the Grammy's I think did a good thing by choosing to honor artists who still have audiences to conquer (both Arcade Fire and Esparanza Spalding).
Should an award greet you after the finish line, or should it boost those who have proven their mettle, to help boost their ability to fulfill their potential?