by Daisy Cutter
Criticising the credentials of the BRITs has always been like shooting fish in a barrel but this year in particular the water was drained and you could clearly hear the dull scraping of wood.
That scraping came from James Corden – a man as funny as a dead child – who immediately trumpeted the presence in the O2 arena of a boy band who are essentially Tweenies in skinny jeans. Whereas in the past the award ceremony had hosted stellar performances by Blur, Weller, Bowie and their ilk now the biggest draw was One Direction. Wan Direction. No Direction. Call them what you will but they’re five young lads who jump around pointing at things with plenty of enthusiasm despite a notable absence of actual talent. They are instead merely the latest in a fine line of children’s entertainers to be festooned across prepubescent girl’s bedroom walls.
I have no problem with either the cheeky scamps themselves or the larger notion of a manufactured act hoovering up number ones. For one thing such plastic pop has been a fundamental staple of music for years going right back to the very best there was, The Monkees. For another my little niece loves One Direction and always tells me what Harry is up to or what Niall has said on Twitter and for her – like millions of other little girls – they are a positive gateway ‘band’ that introduces her to the habit of listening to music and to be excited by sound.
I do however have a huge problem with the BRITs being so desperate to entice these scallywag preen-stars to its formerly virtuous industry shindig – and in doing so pull in the X-Factor youth demographic who wouldn’t recognise an angry guitar twang if it vibrated from their IPad – that they manufactured a new award especially for the occasion.
As their evil creator Simon Cowell looked on smugly – shirt open and looking ever more like a shady nightclub owner in a Wham video – his posse of sugar-free boys leapt onto the stage to collect a made-up, meaningless gong for selling the most records worldwide, a celebration of quantity over quality that is completely incongruous to a lifetime of dishing out awards for best ofs or outstanding contributions to. Previous winners incidentally would include Michael Crawford and Michael Flatley and you have to feel some sympathy for whoever was entrusted to invent such a number-crunching accolade. Whether the decision was voluntary or imparted from Cowell’s record label Syco that something had to be given to One Direction in order for them to grace the night with their hairstyles it could hardly be something based on actual artistic merit. Best Larking About In A Video at a push. Best Collective Smiles. So it was that the BRITs cheaply sold out what little credibility they previously held (let’s see if a similar award is handed over next year. I doubt it very much) but also, much more worryingly, it revealed the disturbing one direction in which they wish to take their showcase event.
The whole evening had the distinct gleam and sheen of an X-Factor final with Corden playing the role of Dermot O’Leary (apropos of nothing but the unfunniest man alive really should tell his face that the rest of his body has been on a crash diet) surrounded by the squeals akin to a Smash Hits Poll Winner’s Party. Everything was packaged and safe, polite and saccharine, with each winner dutifully thanking their management and ‘amazing’ fans. All that was missing was the mimed urge to call in and vote.
Where was the drenching of politicans or Jarvis hijacking an alleged paedo pretending to be Christ? Where was the rock star offering out a pop star or the DJ shambling drunkenly shambling into the stage believing he’d won an award that he wasn’t even nominated for? Where, for the love of all that is holy, were KLF when we needed them most, spraying blank bullets into the audience from a vintage machine gun? Would it be wrong to suggest live ammunition was required here to get rid of the whole boring, bland lot and start again?
The BRITs has always been an awkward juxtaposition of corporate bow ties and whatever passes for cool and we should remember it was only in 1993 that Suede blew the circuits of all those present by merely exposing bare chests and posing androgynously. Those that griped at Emeli Sande’s triumph should also recall that for seemingly twenty years or more Annie Lennox routinely pipped Tracy Chapman to the best female gong not for their yearly output but by virtue of them both simply possessing lady bumps and being alive.
So its not as if the ceremony has always been a paragon for relevant music that courses through the veins rather than wistfully whistled along to in a lift.
But even when a tuxedoed audience respectfully clapped as Noel Edmonds read out Phil Collins’ name for the umpteenth time the ceremony was always about rewarding excellence; rewarding songs and albums laboured over by the eventual recipient. Real music written, performed and recorded by real musicians.
Now it seems another corner of music has been annexed by Cowell’s bid for complete cultural domination. It’s Harry Styles over substance – pap masquerading as pop – and we can expect next year’s Outstanding Contribution recipient to be voted via an accumulation of Facebook likes.
Caitlin Moran called last Wednesday evening a ‘cultural lull’. Let’s hope it’s a lull before a storm but I doubt that too.