It’s pretty much been decided that nobody doesn’t like Bon Iver. It isn’t to say that everybody likes Bon Iver, but it’s certain that nobody doesn’t like them. The music is simply likeable and universally relatable. Each riff is placed with gracious intent, and its content is so solemn and gorgeous that nearly every fan of music has become partial to its wonder. It helps to know that the man behind the music is Justin Vernon, a native of the Midwest who recorded his CD in the backwoods of Wisconsin near his home. A humble man from a comparable past put together the sweet sounds we take comfort in as listeners. How can anybody argue with that?
The hard work Justin Vernon and his team put into their second album Bon Iver along with the widespread embrace of Bon Iver’s records earned him not one but four Grammy nominations this year. Such a large acknowledgment came as a surprise to the musician, who stated in an interview “I don’t think the Bon Iver record is the kind of record that would get nominated for a Grammy” with unsuspecting confusion. He later went on to explain that the Grammy awards aren’t important to either him or the music community: “I kinda felt like going up there and being like: ‘Everyone should go home, this is ridiculous. You should not be doing this. We should not be gathering in a big room and looking at each other and pretending that this is important.'”
Most news sources only cited that very quote as part of the story, which would leave out the humbling factor that even though it would be difficult to face an audience in that situation, Justin Vernon would still give thanks. He explained “I would get up there and be like, ‘This is for my parents, because they supported me.'”
Every so often, a musician’s public life casts a veil over their music, making it difficult for fans to see past the personality of the artist (especially the one cast upon us by media outlets). We not only suggest that you take every piece of information with a grain of salt, but remember to consider the music before anything else when we hear news like this. So before you label Bon Iver as an ungrateful prick, we’ve outlined for pros and cons for the artist as he makes this bold statement in such interviews.
Pro: It makes Vernon seem independent, strong and dedicated. Which he is. This man had a vision for the music he created and there’s nothing that can get in the way of his message. He was not afraid to speak his mind and stand up for his art, placing that first before anything else in his life. Stating things like these in an interview is sure to generate some attention, and it must’ve taken a lot of guts to say what he honestly felt at that moment.
Con: It also makes him seem egotistical, pretentious and unappreciative. Receiving a Grammy award is a huge deal in the music community. To cross that is a bold move, and it doesn’t reflect well on his personality. Though the man is kind at heart, a quote like this one is not flattering on his personality. He’s a young musician and this might be the first thing people hear about his personal life. Not a good eye into Justin Vernon’s mind.
Pro: It reminds us that Bon Iver does it strictly for the music. Whether he does or doesn’t earn an award won’t affect his musicianship whatsoever. He might attend the ceremony. He might perform. He might pick up an award. But at the end of the night, he’s still going to be the same man, unaffected by the spotlight shone upon him or by the big names he’ll be surrounded by. They may have inspired him but it seems likely that they won’t get in the way of his music.
Con: His words were likely taken out of context time and time again. Anyone in the public eye must remember that every sentence can be spun in any direction, so they must be careful that what they say is strategically worded. People could make him out to be either a saint or a sinner, so it’s best that he keeps to himself most anything that could upset his audience. Even the most harmless of statements can sound awful if they’re messed with.
Pro: He brings us back to the meaning of it all. The Grammy awards might just be a large promotional event, helping artists contribute to their resumés and pump their images in front of millions of people. Viewers tune in to see if their favorites strike gold, but in the end, how will that help the industry? This man has a point in reminding us that a bronze statue won’t help make good music and change lives like people may think they do.
Con: This could lose him a decent number of votes. Vernon spit out these words before the Grammy voting deadline. There are people out there voting for him because they think he deserves recognition for his work, and his words are shooting down each of their hopes for his success as he places doubt in the significance of their votes. This interview could’ve costed Justin Vernon a valuable asset to his career.
Pro: Plenty of people will back up his cause. Movements like this have been done before, as he stated in the interview. Much of the Grammy voting has to do with propaganda, and artists in the past have remained unflattered by their recognition. He’s not fighting for this alone, that’s for certain.
Con: Vernon takes a dig at a long-honored tradition. He slams fifty years of achievements in the music industry that every great musician in the book has been a part of. So many have been involved in the ceremonies that he can’t pull off this feat without pissing someone off. The Grammys will always stand for a measure of success in the business and there’s nothing Vernon can do to change that. The event is a pretty huge deal in the eyes of Americans, and it has been since 1959. To question that is definitely going to involve some damage control.
Pro: All publicity is good publicity. Vernon acts as his own publicist when he releases statements like this, generating steam as he brings attention to himself and his music. No matter what the message, people hear his name and are drawn to the subject of his music. This is not a time to worry about whether people people are saying good things or not, because with every mention of Bon Iver, there’s a plug for his self-titled album. “Holocene” (below) has been nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Ultimately, maybe it’s smartest for Justin Vernon to watch his mouth as he emerges into the music community and embrace all the delights and deceptions that come with it. Fame doesn’t always last, no matter how great of music you produce. It’s understandable that he might not be prepared for the limelight, but if he deserves all the recognition for the work he’s produced, we feel it’s best that he doesn’t take any of it for granted.