At Sunday's Grammy Awards, Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for The Suburbs, beating out pop powerhouses Katy Perry Lady Gaga, Eminem and Lady Antebellum. This is great. I am happy for them.
But I have a question, how does Album of the Year not also win Best Alternative Music Album? If The Suburbs is the best album in 2010, shouldn't it also be the best alternative album, too? One would think so.
The last time that something such as this happened was at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards where Coldplay won Record of the Year for "Clocks" but did not win Best Alternative. Otherwise, it is rather rare that a band that wins one of the top four awards also does not win its genre.
That leads me to believe a couple of things.
Categories not only pigeonhole an album, they also pigeonhole an audience. A possible explanation for The Suburbs winning Album of the Year but not Best Alternative might be that the audiences are different. To an alternative audience, Arcade Fire just doesn't stand up to The Black Keys, but to a mainstream audience, Arcade Fire obviously wins out over Gaga, Perry, Eminem and Lady Antebellum.
I think that is mostly to be expected. It's kind of like when your parents decide that they want to listen to "your" music, and then they find the one song in your collection that could almost be played on a light rock station.
Mostly, though, the whole thing makes me think that genres are dangerous. And they are dangerous because they trivialize the genres and strengthen the "mainstream." So the "Album of the Year" is passed off as the best album, but really it is the best album for a set mainstream audience just as Best Alternative Music Album is the best album for a set alternative audience.
The worst part of it is the question that arises when you begin to try to figure out who the "mainstream" audience is. I can identify country, alternative, rap and pop audiences. But who is this supposedly bland, overarching audience? Who are these people that listen to "all" genres of music and are able to judge them objectively? It just doesn't make sense to me.
I do not know anyone who enjoys all of the albums nominated for Best Album this year. I know people who can tolerate listening to all of them, maybe. But a playlist that includes Eminem's "Not Afraid," Lady Gaga's "Telephone," Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" is a rather foreign idea to me.
That's why I think there shouldn't be a Album of the Year category. It's misleading and idealistic. It involves comparing Gaga's apples to Arcade Fire's oranges. It just doesn't make sense.
Spencer Smith is a sophomore studying philosophy and English, and a columnist for The Post. Are you a Little Monster? E-mail Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.