When Arcade Fire won the Album of the Year Grammy for The Suburbs, it felt like the beginning of something. Six years on from Funeral, the record that made the band torchbearers of the critically acclaimed indie rock scene, here they were, finally being recognized on the big stage. The records they beat—pop juggernauts from Katy Perry, Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Lady Antebellum—were all more indicative of what the radio sounded like in 2010. But Arcade Fire’s victory showed that, maybe, the pop world was finally ready to embrace something darker and more nuanced. Maybe they were ready to let a rock band back into the fold.
Looking back now, the Grammy win feels more like the end of something. Future Grammy winners didn’t sound or look much like Arcade Fire. Neither did radio stars. Instead, on 2013’s Reflektor, Arcade Fire started looking (and sounding) a lot like the pop insiders. Just like most of the other marquee acts that released albums that year—Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake (x2), Jay-Z, Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga—Arcade Fire made it clear that they were going for a capital-B Blockbuster. The rollout was excessive and overblown; the album was long and ambitious; the hype stretched on for months. And the songs…well, they didn’t have that much to offer, at the end of the deep, deep rabbit hole that Arcade Fire dug for fans. Writing for Grantland, Steven Hyden called 2013 “The Year Music Failed to Blockbust.” He wasn’t wrong, and Arcade Fire was at the center of it.
Arcade Fire have announced their dress code for their upcoming Brooklyn record release show. You can read the message sent out to attendees below.
I would definitely not be “hip and trendy” enough.
Update: The band have declared there’s no dress code at this show and you can “wear whatever you want.”
The mighty would have fallen by now, but their reputation is propping them up. That’s how it goes when your rock band becomes too big to fail. You grab enough people by the heart when they’re young and impressionable, you get to be a big deal forever, whether your moment of excellence lasted well over a decade (like U2 or the Rolling Stones) or just for an album or two (like Weezer and the Strokes). Call it brand loyalty, wishful thinking, whatever. It’s a fact of the music business. Creative death can’t kill the world’s biggest rock bands — only actual death, and sometimes not even that.
I’ve only heard a couple songs on the new Arcade Fire album, so I can’t comment on that directly, but I do think this is an interesting phenomenon in general. When an artist’s prior work creates an unstoppable gravitational force of fandom.