My conversation with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon


Well, I have eight words for you, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon: “My my my, my my my, my my.” How about that speech you gave when you won the Grammy for Best New Artist! How about that?

Also, actually, three more words: Dude. Dude. Duuuuude! Did you realize you were at Music’s Biggest Night? That right before you stood on the stage, your name was announced by professional attractive blonde person Carrie Underwood and the legendary (LEGENDARY!) Tony Bennett? Maybe that’s who you were referring to when you said, “There’s so much talent out here, like, on this stage.”



Most people at these kinds of things who garble their acceptance speeches do it because they’re so overwhelmed by the honor and shock of winning (here’s looking at you, Melissa Leo). And yet you (yes, you, Mr. Vernon), in a hilarious feat of blasé dismissal, somehow managed to seem, well, vaguely bummed to win a prize recognizing your achievement as a musical artist. Or a…hold on…yes, as you put it, a “sweet hookup.” You called a Grammy a sweet hookup! Do you remember that, or did you black out on the fumes from your own beard?

To be fair, you did say you were grateful — so grateful, in fact, that you apparently found it appropriate to thank almost everyone you could think of: your parents, other bands, Wisconsin, the nominees, the non-nominees … hominies?

Oh. My. God.

Did you forget to thank the hominy grits that gave you the creative energy on that fateful morning to go out and record “For Emma, Forever Ago”? I mean —

What’s that?

You actually won for the self-titled album you released earlier this year?


Wait a minute…

Best New Artist? In what sense are YOU a “New Artist”? “Bon Iver” is your SECOND album! And while we’re on the subject, the elapsed time between your latest and “For Emma” was like, three years (or, to use industry lingo, “Forever Ago”).

Who votes for these things? Are they in a capsule orbiting Mars, receiving news from Earth but, due to the transmission delay, only retrieving new messages every three years? And if they see Bon Iver, a band that formed in 2007, as “new,” why don’t they just give the award to singing legend (LEGEND!) Tony Bennett? After all, he’s only been singing for what, sixty years?

Forget all the other stuff I said, Justin. You were probably just distracted during your speech because, for a few minutes, you must have thought you’d been thrust back in time to the 2009 Grammys to save the world from some impending catastrophe and you were looking for clues like Denzel Washington in “Deja Vu.”

So keep it up, bud. Maybe your next album could be some kind of spoken word/free jazz fusion.

You know, just to fuck with us.




So, you might have never thought about Skylar Grey beyond her chilling little cameo in “Coming Home.” And that’s fine – I’m not judging you for being close-minded or generally silly. But please, please just go look at what she wore on that star-studded night and tell me you don’t want her to be your Goth bestie/nanny/nemesis. What Skylar’s brought back is the kind of look that says “I’m going to look like I’m about to go to a funeral and WIN it” (yes, that’s a thing you can do at funerals; no, if you weren’t aware of that already, you will never be capable of doing it). Her long, straight-cut dress, with its unconventional mid-calf hemline, was accentuated by fantastically raven hair and red heels wisely selected in a shade that didn’t clash with the carpet. She also jives well with this last fashion week’s theme, a sort of return to the Old World, in ways both Amish and amazing. Way to be fashion-forward and as creepy as the ninth-floor of stacks, Ms. Grey.


Robyn let us down at the Grammys. To those of us bitter souls who’ve spent months creepin’ along to “Dancing on My Own” and considering how shitty our lives are as we listen to “Call Your Girlfriend,” the diminutive blonde Scandinavian was the crucial voice of reason that told us to ditch the third magic bar and just go dance irresistibly somewhere. Her sound is perfect for this campus: it’s Adele with a dash more biting wit; it’s alternative but has a beat, uniting High and Howe for one big chant of “I’m not the girl you’re taking home.”

But then she decided to show up wearing a platform-heeled pair of those dodgy Timberlands much-beloved of the crew that does 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. runs to Payne-Whitney. Just gotta say it, dear reader: I could literally feel my heart sink and my brain go, “Hmmm, maybe it’s time to reconsider Yelle as my source of Europop.” Granted, more inches of Timberland heel meant more Robyn. But sometimes, reader, less is more – and shoes that were less clown-meets-climber would have made a significant difference.

Wisconsin Teardrops or whatever


You know how at Miya’s they have that thing on the menu that’s like “good food isn’t classist?” Because, seriously, for the love of all that is good and true and surrounded by rice and okra, good music isn’t/shouldn’t be classist, either. I get that it’s cool and trendy to distance yourself from the capital-E Establishment, but capital-E Elitism isn’t cute, either, especially when it’s nationally televised and awkward. We get it, Bon Iver—or Justin Vernon or Dances With Wisconsin Teardrops or whatever your name actually is—winning two Grammys made you uncomfortable. Because Bon Iver isn’t an artist, it’s an idea or a feeling or something. But honestly, being nominated for four of the most prestigious awards in the music industry shouldn’t make you uncomfortable on some sort of normative level, the way you’d be if after getting stung by a bee or eating some bad fish or realizing that your Chinese character tattoo actually says “fish sticks.”

Don’t get me wrong, I listen to Bon Iver, too, but I’m pretty sure Justin Vernon is an actual artist and not like an existential concept or philosophical aura or intangible thought. I’m pretty sure he’s a real dude. And artists can’t afford to look gift a Grammy in the mouth.

Least Likely to Aid Your Ailing Body on the Side of a Road: Roman Zolanksi aka Nicki Minaj aka WHAT THE WHAT???


Nicki Minaj was undoubtedly a tour de force in 2011. Whereas Adele enraptured all woebegone twentysomethings carrying heavy hearts and iTunes purchasing power, Nicki attracted the attention of everybody else. And that included renowned rappers, parental groups, dorm parties and that little fat British girl in the tutu. So what the fuck was that performance at the Grammys on Sunday? Inexcusable! Who’s Roman Zolanski? I don’t care!! For those of you who do, apparently HE is a secondary identity, some kind of angry demon possessing Nicki à la Regan MacNeil. But I, for one, don’t want to listen to Roman, or bust a move with Roman or even let my daughter swap lyrics with him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Alter egos seldom work — do you remember Sasha Fierce, or that moronic Love Symbol? Neither do Beyoncé nor Prince. And Nicki Minaj has about five zany personalities under her belt! I just want to go back to simpler times when it was Pink Friday or when I could rap you her verses in Kanye West’s “Monster” on command (for realsies, try me). Someone stop her from walking down the red carpet while locking arms with fake Popes before the Illuminati takes her away from us, citing unholy gigs or, you know, general blasphemy.

It follows naturally


Six Grammys for Adele? Come on! That woman is a one-trick pony; she sings loudly and makes people cry. I did the same thing the first day of freshman year; one dropped octave into a butchered harmony and the tears were trickling down my high school director’s face. You know who else sings loudly? Florence Welch! A scarlet-haired goddess, who, like any good mythological figure, loves harps. You know who else loved harps? The Marx Brothers (especially Harpo, for some reason). They made black-and-white comedies. You know what comedy will likely win Best Picture this year? The Artist. Black and white. Now, are you really telling me the Grammys made a better decision than the Oscars will?

And you know who else was thinking in black and white this year? Lil Wayne, who told us this year on “Six Foot Seven Foot” to purchase “black and white diamonds – fuck segregation!” Do you support segregation, Adele fans? Wayne also informed us that he talks to himself “because [he is his] own consultant”. So why don’t we listen to the man who penned the year’s cleverest song and nominate an artist who works alone, instead of using ten different producers like that Adele chick? Like James Blake, who went from dubstep to shivery singer-songwriting and made lots of people cry. Partly because the songs are sad, and partially because his dubstep was much better. So to honor Blake, let us reward the man who left punk rock behind to take up dubstep in the master’s place. Skrillex for Album of the Year! Or Florence or M83 or Radiohead or something. Just not Adele.

Fascination with ritual


Nicki Minaj’s over-the-top performance at the Grammy Award left some puzzled — and others very deeply offended. The Catholic League issued a statement criticizing the Recording Academy for allowing Minaj to stage her show. But the 29-year-old rapper is not the first to borrow religious motifs for entertainment or art’s sake. From Marquis de Sade to Madonna, provocateurs have been fascinated by the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps, artists are intrigued by Catholic rituals because those rites are like performances. As a low-church Episcopalian, I used to look at Catholic-style liturgy with indifference. Last summer, I reluctantly dragged myself to a high-church mass. I struggled through the four-part Latin harmonies and the incense that made me sneeze uncontrollably. I forgot most of that service, but I vividly recall the sermon, in which the priest compared himself to an actor and the Eucharist to a play.

Since then, I have learned to appreciate ritualism. It’s strange to imagine people regularly staging a play that existed since the Middle Ages. We don’t go around speaking Shakespeare’s English, yet in some of New Haven’s churches, parishioners perform rituals passed down from the days of Sir Thomas More and Philip II. Catholic rituals are historical, yet they seem to transcend time; perhaps, that is their appeal — whether you’re a St. Mary’s regular or Nicki Minaj.

Bad children


So, Chris Brown is a giant douchey shit show. We all knew this (or did we forget?). Whatever, that’s not the point. The point is that some biddies on Twitter tweeted something like, “OMG Chris Brown is so hottttttt, I would totally let him beat me.” I think as a hopeful future parent of America, my first instinct would be: A) delete their Twitter. I wouldn’t want anyone else in the world to know that my child is a fucking idiot; B) make them send a hand written note–written in blood, of course–to Rihanna, apologizing for being such an insensitive, immature idiot; C) (and I think my favorite one) go on a tour of a high security prison, where people are in jail for life for beating people up with their bare hands. I’d make my child stare into their cold, feelingless eyes and then have him do a boxing circuit with pictures of my fucking idiot child on the punching bag. The desired effect is hopefully a good and healthy fear/anger towards all offenders of violent crime. Also, Chris Brown. You are disgusting. I hope someone knocks your ass out.