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While detractors will cry foul over the relatively low-profile Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) beating out more mainstream acts The Band Perry, Nicki Minaj, J. Cole or even Skrillex for best new artist at the Grammys, the real controversy is his apparently cool relationship with the Recording Academy.
Just 10 days shy of his big night, which saw the dreamy folk band’s self-titled sophomore outing nominated for four awards, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter had some heated words for the show.
“We wanted to play our music, but were told that we couldn’t play,” Vernon told Billboard. “We had to do a collaboration with someone else. … And we just felt like it was such a large stage — we’re getting nominated for this record that we made. Me and [bandmate] Brian [Joseph] and a bunch of our f—ing friends, and we were given accolades for it, and all of a sudden we were being asked to play music that had nothing to do with that.”
This may be Bon Iver’s first time at the Grammy rodeo, but the act is hardly “new.” They released their acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago in February 2008. And Vernon gained lots of attention for collaborating with Kanye West on 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
For his part, Vernon was in awe of the collaborators he was offered for his unrealized Grammy performance. “You know what? F—in’ rock ‘n’ roll should not be decided by people that have that job. Rock ‘n’ roll should be the f—ing people with guitars around their backs.”
And those aren’t even the most controversial remarks to come from Vernon this month. After Bon Iver’s Feb. 4 Saturday Night Live performance prompted popular blogger Hipster Runoff to describe the band’s sound as “dying indie rock,” Vernon lit up Twitter.
“You f—ing totally suck,” he wrote, adding that he doesn’t enjoy the blogger’s “situation.”
Bon Iver’s best new artist win, however deserved, likely will draw backlash from Grammy fans. Jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding‘s 2011 victory over consumer-friendly Justin Bieber prompted rolled eyes, vicious editorials and even death threats.
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