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Most successful pop musicians live in a strange world. Several years ago, Bono shocked conservative sensibilities and delighted antiestablishment types by uttering the F-word at the Grammys, but he was not being rebellious. The word slipped out because he was excited about receiving an award from the American recording industry, which is a pretty conservative institution.

Russell Mael of the American pop group Sparks watched “bits and pieces” of the most recent Grammy Awards on TV. “It looked like a parallel universe,” he says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “This whole idea of everybody desperately wanting to win awards for what they’re doing in pop music, it’s just bizarre. It certainly isn’t the world I operate in.”

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