Who Is [Very Popular Band]? | Bleader

Who Is [Very Popular Band]?

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The Arcade Fire
  • The Arcade Fire
This year's Grammys were the Twitteriest yet, providing grist for much of the service's traffic throughout Sunday night and a good chunk of Monday. A lot of bloggers have been covering the Twitter coverage of the Grammys, which has resulted in a lot of LOLs, but Nitsuh Abebe also provides some compelling ideas about the state of American pop culture in a new essay for the New York magazine blog, "Arcade Fire, and the 'Never Heard of It' Grammys."

As Abebe points out, a lot of people imagine that somehow (LOLcats? Viral videos?) the Internet has evened out American pop culture. The thinking goes that since these days you can find out about, say, a rock band from Montreal with weird haircuts and a slightly orchestral bent signed to an independent label without having to show a cool pass at the right record store, therefore everyone has found out about them. I have a hunch that this has to do with the assumption that because some people who might once have been hardcore indie snobs now appreciate popular artists like Lady Gaga and Jay-Z, the road must run the other way too. It probably helps that slumping record sales have skewed the Billboard charts to the point that the Arcade Fire can hit number one, which creates the appearance of popular consensus but really just shows that they can sell more than 50,000 copies.

We're all just in our own boxes, hooked up to little networks nested within bigger networks whose total size makes us think we know everything. So we have not only the wildly popular* Who Is Arcade Fire Tumblr, where non-indie rockers flip out over the relative unknowns' Album of the Year award, but the corresponding Who Is Lady Antebellum, where people act perplexed to discover a band that has sold several million records.

After the jump, an illuminating excerpt from Abebe's essay. You should read the whole thing:

This, I think, is part of the beauty of Who Is Arcade Fire. The blog doesn't actually make its motives clear. I'm sure some of the band's fans look at it as an opportunity to laugh at the alleged cluelessness of the featured tweets. Others might just be fascinated by the heated reactions people can have to the revelation that there are successful young musicians they've never heard of. (I say "young" because the Grammys routinely give big awards to records by older artists who aren't exactly dominating the top 40.) But of course there's also the fact that, for a whole lot of listeners, Arcade Fire is the kind of band that's too ubiquitous—the band backed by a huge, boring critical consensus, the middlebrow-crossover NPR darlings, the bland and tiresome more-of-the-same act that already plays Madison Square Garden and shows up on Saturday Night Live. Given that Who Is Arcade Fire appears on Tumblr, you assume that whoever put it together comes from something like that world, the online post-collegiate indie sphere where Arcade Fire might be one of the least interesting bands you could know about.

*Of course by this I mean "wildly popular among those people I pay attention to on the computer." Not "actually popular."

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