Another year, another bland and dull Brit Awards. Alan Corr reckons the pop stars themselves are as much to blame as the actual music industry.
Ben Whoward? We’ve long learned not to expect any surprises from the Brit Awards but the sight of some bloke called Ben Howard scooping not one but two dinky polka dot statuettes last night really did leave me pressing reverse and replay on my remote control.
Howard is clearly loved by people who find Ed Sheeran’s music just a bit too bleeding cutting edge and experimental and good for Ben and his pained acoustic ramblings. His victory last night was one of the precious few surprises in an award ceremony which is easily predicted by a quick scan of the previous year’s sales figures.
A few years ago the British Phonographic Industry decided to clean up what they called the “chaotic” Brits show and with ITV as their partners in zero tolerance pop policing, they've made the days of lairy northern gits effing and blinding or clever northern blokes wiggling their bottoms to Jacko but a distant and happy memory.
OK most pop stars are so now anxious to play the game that they’re largely to blame but these days the Brits is an alternative universe where Howard is prized above Richard Hawley and just a year after winning best breakthrough act, Emeli Sandé won an award for Best British Album. From now on her every career move will have to be anointed by the men in suits at the BPI. They’ll probably invent a special category for her when she goes trash metal dubstep on her third album.
As Noel Gallagher, himself a man who brought some actual rock 'n' roll spirit to the Brits, once sagely noted, when the “straights” start buying your records then you’ve made it. The Brits has long been for the straights. "Best" means best-selling and "breakthrough" means they give it to whoever’s already won the Mercury Prize.
However, with the depressing success of One Direction and Mumford and Sons, the suits and frocks in the London’s o2 last night really did have much to celebrate. Britannica is ruling the airwaves again and leading the way is London girl Adele, the most successful singer of the 21st century. Of course, ITV had a lot of kissing and making up to do with the UK’s biggest music star after they cut her award speech short last year.
Adele, who won a dinky polka dot statuette for Skyfall (far from being the Best British Single), couldn’t attend because she was rehearsing for a slightly more important event this Sunday in Hollywood but she sent a video message in which she said she hoped she hadn’t run over time.
Host James Corden made a joke about that, another in a long series of bad jokes but god bless the young Uncle Monty for walking the tightrope of live TV and not falling foul of some eejit up in the control booth (the Beeb do these kind of live event far better than ITV). He regularly took to the floor and walked among the starz, and industry suits and frocks to conduct silly interviews and oh look! There was Simon Cowell, the most important man in the room, looking so smug he had a kind of sheen covering his entire body.
At this point, I was urging somebody to do or say something. Please!!! Thankfully a very drunk Coldplay – well two of them – stumbled up to the stage dressed in leather S&M gear and called the gathered suits and frocks a bunch of corporate scum suckers. OK, I made that bit up but it would have been nice to see the very band that ushered in our new age of beige do something vaguely interesting.
At least Sharon "does my face look real in this?" Osborne had the good grace to be drunk. She called out for "Harry Potter (Styles) and his little stick. That’s his willy." Mr Mainstream Dermot O’Leary was boringly on hand to keep her in check.
What else? Oh yeah - Old Etonians Mumford and Sons picked some artfully-arranged metaphorical straw from their facial hair and accepted an award for selling records; One Direction were let out of their box and jumped around like a bunch of frogs while performing their Comic Relief single; Taylor Swift wore a table covered in a massive doily; and The Black Keys were a happy choice for Best International Act but they’re probably the BPI’s idea of a "new" band who've broken through and, yup, sold records.
Hopefully Alt-J will sell actually sell a few more records after their well-deserved nomination for An Awesome Wave but the best moment, and the only other real surprise of the night, was Frank "flipping" Ocean winning for best International Male (Chris Brown wasn’t nommed). The "flipping" came courtesy of some anonymous lingerie model who was genuinely surprised that the BPI could actually recognise genuine talent.
Next year somebody badly needs to bring the flipping "chaos" back to this dull event.