#Bon Iver

Travis 1y
Bon Iver's Cryptic 22

Bon Iver Finally Released a New Album, But Why Was it Released on September 30th?

After a 4-year long hiatus, presumably living up the hipster lifestyle, Bon Iver has released their newest Album 22, A Million to instant critical acclaim. The album marks a stylistic change for the group from their folk roots to experimental/electronic alternative rock. The 35 minuet long LP is a beautiful collection of a refreshing new sound; Singer/Songwriter Justin Vernon leads in 10 equally interesting tracks which he describes is about “finding yourself.” The whole album is an interesting work to digest and interpret. From the often vauge lyrics, down to the way the tracks are stylized ( 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄), the whole album feels like something we haven’t fully decoded yet. Needless to say, 4 or 5 listens in, I’m still discovering what Bon Iver is trying to portray in this short, but expansive work. What is most curious to me is the timing of 22, A Million’s release.

The Western music world revolves on a calendar year of 10/01-09/30. This time frame is the eligibility period for the Grammy Awards (aka the which white musician came out with the “edgiest” album this year awards). For example, if an album came out this year on 10/01/2016, it wouldn’t be eligible for the Grammy Awards until they are presented in 2018. Yesterday was the final day than an album would be considered for the 2017 Award show. Yesterday was also the day that 22, A Million was released.

If this was brought up to Justin Vernon, it would be immediately dismissed. During his past acceptance of Grammy Awards, Vernon has said he “felt out of place, and overwhelmed” while accepting awards for his two previous Albums Bon Iver, Bon Iver, and For Emma, Forever Ago (I just realized right now that all their albums have commas in them. That’s weird. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?). But the timing just seems too strategic. If it were intentional, Bon Iver has some stiff competition to go up against: Radiohead, Beyonce, Kanye West, James Blake, Adele, Frank Ocean. All of these artists have challenged the status quo in terms of what to expect of music in 2016 (all in very different ways), and Bon Iver has done this as well. It seems that in a year where the unexpected is to be expected in the music industry, Bon Iver can rush in and own that narrative; it’s been theirs for a long time.

If the ultimate prize was the goal, a better release date would have literally been the day after. Q4 in the music industry is looking bleak (Rick Astley is releasing an album for Christ’s sake). Releases from Lady Gaga, The Weekend, and Beck might keep music listeners satisfied for a time, but it’s nothing like the behemoth of Q2 and Q3 2016. The sheer amount of good music that has been released this year is going to make for an interesting Grammy Awards in 2017. Bon Iver would have held the high bar for the 2018 awards, but instead they will go head to head with their peers in a match that they can definitely compete in, but probably not win.
Perhaps I’m reading into this a little too much. Like I said before, Vernon would be lecturing about the satisfaction and merits of songwriting over winning a lousy Grammy award. For now, I’m excited to continue to listen to this great album, and continue to speculate about the potential Grammy drama.
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