After snagging the Best New Artist Award at the Grammys last night, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon seemed just as confused as the thousands of viewers who had no idea who he was. His uneasiness was evident as he thanked both voters and viewers. It's really hard to accept this award, he said. There's so much talent here on this stage and there's so much talent that's not here tonight.
But modesty aside, Bon Iver did not win without good reason. Their music is a far stretch from the country-pop-catchiness of the Band Perry or the audacious rapping of Nicki Minaj- both of whom were nominated for the award as well. But under the current state of pop-culture music, different can be refreshing.
Washington Post Music Critic Chris Richards describes Bon Iver's music as amorphous and triumphant--a haze of acoustic guitars, airy synthesizers and tumbling drums floating beneath Vernon's hallucinogenic yowl, like two stratus clouds overlapping in a dream.
But regardless of the raving reviews, you might still be wondering what's a Bon Iver? The french phrase, pronounced Bone Eh Ver, actually means good winter and was used as a greeting in the 1990s television series Northern Exposure. Apparently Vernon, who is originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had nabbed the phrase after watching so many episodes.
After the breakup of his former band, the end of a serious relationship and a bout of mono, Vernon famously locked himself in his father's northwest Wisconsin cabin. The result? The self-released debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago. The album was received very well by critics and secured spots on a number of Best Albums Charts. Bon Iver eventually began performing at indie-music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Sasquatch, where they gained a substantial following.
Aside from last night's Grammy success, where the band also won Best Alternative Album, Vernon generally shies away from the public eye. His success has clearly intrigued many viewers, but in a way he would probably rather keep people asking Who is Bon Iver? In an interview with Pitchfork, Vernon said, A quiet place to be. I think that's all I want in life, just like peace and be able to make music and like have happiness when it's time off.