Here’s another writing assignment I did for my Nonfiction class. The assignment was…
Pick an emerging celebrity on whom to focus. Depict the present cultural moment by describing this person’s rise.
Four years ago, in 2008, some guy named Justin Vernon, along with his band called Bon Iver, secluded themselves in a cabin in Wisconsin and independently recorded, produced, and released their first full-length album titled For Emma, Forever Ago. With help from the Internet, the album was circulated slowly until a small, independent record company called Jagjaguwar Records signed the band and rereleased the album as a more complete physical copy. It got some nice reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and Spin Magazine, but many of the reviews said that the recording quality was poor and the words were too difficult to understand.
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“I would get up there and be like, ‘This is for my parents, because they supported me,’ because I know they would think it would be stupid for me not to get up there,” Justin Vernon told the New York Times in 2011 upon finding out that Bon Iver was in line to be nominated for four Grammies, including “Best New Artist”, for their 2011 release of their second album, Bon Iver. “But I kinda feel like going up there and being like: ‘Everyone should go home, this is ridiculous. You should not be doing this. We should not be gathering in a big room and looking at each other and pretending this is important.
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Meanwhile, a man somewhere in the Midwest turned to his friend while browsing the Internet on his laptop.
“Who are the Baha Men?” he asked.
“Not sure,” his friend replied.
“Must be worth checking out. They won a Grammy.”
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“We wanted to play our music,” Vernon told Billboard after Bon Iver was offered to perform at the 2012 Grammies. “But we were told that we couldn’t play. We had to do a collaboration with someone else…Rock n’ Roll should not be decided by people who have that job. Rock n’ Roll should be the fucking people with a guitar around their backs. And their friends. And their managers.”
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Thousands of other independent artists quietly cheered Vernon on as he accepted the award for “Best New Artist” on National Television during the 2012 Grammies. However, they did not applaud the award itself, or him even being there, though it was certainly an encouragement to many. It was more his reaction that found their respect and admiration.
“It’s really hard to accept this award,” Justin Vernon said in his acceptance speech. “There’s so much talent out here, on this stage, and a lot of talent that’s not here tonight. It’s also hard to accept because when I started to make songs I did it for the inherent reward of making songs. I’m a little bit uncomfortable up here, but with that discomfort I also have a sense of gratitude to all the nominees, all the non-nominees, that have never been here and never will be here…”
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“Bon Iver? Really? Over J Cole? Who are u? Wait, I know, a 25 year old wit a comb over…FOH!” someone posted on twitter.
“Who is the bon iver guy?” another post read, not unlike countless others. “He looks like a homeless guy.”
“Who the hell just won Best New Artist..bonnie blue, bonnie bear, scooby doo , yogi bear like who is this baldin white man w a combover.”
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Months later, Bon Iver once again disappeared into the shadows of popular culture, perhaps to cabin in Wisconsin, or maybe to quietly go about touring the U.S. Perhaps both. One can only speculate at this time.