Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Post: 3 Things I Learned About Mormons on the Grammys




Last Sunday on the Grammys, we saw Mormon rock band Imagine Dragons make the big time, winning a Grammy and performing on the awards show. In fact, many people have said that their performance was the best one that night, topping some very experienced entertainers. I could tell that from just by looking at the faces in the Grammys' audience—it probably sounded even better in person.

Here's a link to the video of the performance.

Some of you many have noticed that there were a few silent moments in their performance with Kendrick Lamar. These moments weren't because the signal went out—the silences were most likely because Lamar was swearing up a storm, and it was being edited out during the time delay. (These edits are probably why the Deseret news article on Imagine Dragons didn't mention expletives.) "What?" you say, "Mormons agreed to be in an act laced with expletives? On a Sunday? Shouldn't they have walked off stage?"

Well, first of all, chances are Imagine Dragons didn't even know the expletives were coming. This was network television, after all—the choice words were probably unplanned and unexpected, thrown in by Lamar on the fly. But even if the group knew that the impending swearing, I think they had good reasons to go forward. Here's three things I learned about Mormons from Imagine Dragons yesterday at the Grammys:
  1. A willingness to work with people different than themselves - Imagine Dragons did arguably the best job of anyone collaborating with their seemingly random pairing to make something new. Rock and rap don't usually go together, and Mormons and blacks have a history, too. But both Imagine Dragons and Lamar threw themselves into the performance and came up with something greater than what was there before.

  2. Dedication to quality - As we saw throughout the Grammys, many artists were more concerned with aerial gymnastics, horse puppets, and neon cacti than making good music. Although Imagine Dragon's performance was certainly not devoid of spectacle, it was first and foremost a musical performance. The choreographed drumming was not just there for show, it added to the music. I'm not sure years of listening to Music and the Spoken Word was their influence; perhaps it was more the ability strip away the excess and find the most important things. And the group is not ready to just cash in on their newfound fame with a slipshod second album—they stated in an after-interview that they want to take time to do it right.

  3. Humility - Imagine Dragons feel kinda bad they beat the other "legendary" bands that were nominated. No fist pumping here, not about their award or their performance. Their humility showed in their teamwork with Lamar, too. They had no trouble sharing the stage and the spotlight, something some Grammy performers and presenters seemed to have trouble with.
Personally, I'm happy to have Imagine Dragons represent Mormonism. Even if their next album probably won't contain a version of I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus, they're still modeling Christ-like attributes for the rest of the world.

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Peter Shirts has directed ward and stake choirs and has mastered the art of suggestion when he's not directing the church choir he's currently in. While at BYU, he co-founded an ensemble that played Klezmer (Eastern European Jewish music) and enjoyed teaching Mormons how to dance at Jewish weddings. After receiving 2.5 degrees in music, he's currently pursing a librarian science degree so he has more employable skills. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, and he blogs about musical things at signifyingsoundandfury.com. Read his previous guest post here.
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