Did Bon Iver back out of Grammys' Etta James tribute?

Categories: Bon Iver
Nominated for Grammys, forever ago.
The painful Grammy Awards press releases would be reason enough not to take part in the yearly award show, but Bon Iver's Justin Vernon decided to opt his band out of performing at the event because a collaborative effort wouldn't cut it. One of our readers responded by advising Vernon to get  "your nose out of your own butthole," but given what was probably going to unfold, Gimme Noise has more mixed feelings about him choosing not to play.

Although the Grammys are notorious for pairings that make no sense, we're going to assume that Bon Iver was not set to team with Foo Fighters, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne, which is a real thing that will happen. Not only will Dave Grohl share the stage with one of the most disliked singers in showbiz, but unexplainably, it's for a segment dedicated to dance/electronica music. David Guetta and Deadmau5 -- but not Skrillex -- will play some role in this clusterscrew of a spectacle "in a special outdoor tent adjacent to STAPLES Center." Grohl deserves to go all Michael Douglas-in-Falling Down the way he does in the "Walk" video for this placement.

But, Vernon said this pairing would be with "people that I would love to play a song with," so we're doubting that it was this Deadmau5 thing.

It hurts the head to look at some of the other all-star pairings the night will hold. File under slightly less unlikely: Coldplay and Rihanna (and Bon Iver) doing "Princess of China" or Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean (and Bon Iver) working out "Don't You Wanna Stay." In either case, the creamy falsetto of Vernon could certainly add a new dimension to these pre-existing Grammy bait collaborations, but it's still not where he'd be ending up.

Nope, the sure money is on another lineup that was announced today. Until sometime last week when Vernon kinda said "fuck you" to the Grammys, and then mentioned that conversation with Billboard, thing could've been up in the air a bit. And then the band gave an exclamation point of a performance on Saturday Night Live (and a Twitter war with HIPSTER RUNOFF) over the weekend -- which could be seen as mighty close to the national TV bump they would've gotten this coming Sunday anyhow.

So, with that settled, we see that nine-time Grammy winner Bonnie Raitt and 14-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys -- both artists the as-yet-Grammyless Vernon has professed love for in the past -- are teamed for a musical remembrance for the late, great Etta James. This almost has to be what the organizers envisioned would be the best use of the Bon Iver sound -- material that is more familiar to people like Rosie O'Donnell than "Holocene."

It sucks for any artist that the Grammys attempts to gladhand so many artists, managers, publicists, labels, and others with undeniable power, creativity, and influence, but this bloated format is what we get. We agree that "Rock n' roll should be the fucking people with guitars around their backs," and that choosing to take part is definitely giving up a great chunk of artistic identity.

The flipside is getting to say that you performed "All I Could Do Was Cry" with Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys. And this would definitely be a gig that would have nothing to do with the music on Bon Iver, which was chief among Vernon's complaints in the Billboard interview. It's unlikely that Bon Iver will get another opportunity quite like this in front of as many people -- the Grammys have not always had a great memory for bands. But, INTEGRITY! So it remains to be seen if this is a move that helps or haunts them in the long run. Or they were expected to share the stage with Adele, and dudes definitely made the right move to skip out on that.

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Dear Reed,

Please never mention or link to "hipster runoff" again.  Just ignore it and it will die.



Yes Reed Fischer, the only option left is the Etta James tribute. Or maybe he backed out of the Beach Boys/ Foster the People/ Maroon 5 segment? THAT one should be a real winner. And just think if Justin would play a segment like that we'd all yell "sell out!" but he isn't so we're all yelling "douche". He already said he didn't care too much for the Grammy's (and who here can honestly disagree?) so why would he go along with being on stage for it? We'd all yell at him for being a hypocrite. 

He should learn to chose his words more wisely while he's being drunk interviewed, sure. But isn't this whole Grammy's nonsense because of a reporter who was being unprofessional? His original Grammy's comments he made a while back were supposed to have been off the record. 


This is in no way making him look like a dousche bag. He already said in an interview a while back that Grammys don't mean shit and that they just showcase the talent that people already know is great. He has handled this greatly in my opinion, he could've been ungrateful and bashed his own nominations but he went along with it more as a formality than anything. So I don't think this looks bad on him, it's not like he said he doesn't want to play with the artists he was paired with, he just wants to show his music to the world, not the music the Grammys choose.


Bon Iver should have been more gracious instead of giving the Grammys a big FU. While he is certainly entitled to bow out of the performance at the awards show, the way he handled it was totally unprofessional and simply made him look like nothing more than an ungrateful hipster douchebag.

Reed Fischer
Reed Fischer

I don't think I'd necessarily be yelling "sell out." Every savvy artist can use a situation -- or declining a situation -- to their advantage. I suspect that a good chunk of people, who know nothing of the other performers, know that Bon Iver is not playing the Grammys. Vernon set an agenda -- or played into the agenda set for him -- admirably.

Also, what gave you the impression that the Grammys conversation with New York Times was off the record? Even if it didn't figure into the original story, it doesn't mean that it was off-limits.


Justin himself said it was just someone who asked him a few questions at a party, it wasn't a set up interview per se.

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