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The Brit Awards: A Confused and Strange Affair

The 32nd Annual Brit Award Ceremony is soon to be upon us, and the general reaction of most seems somewhat muted. The Brit’s always seem to confuse and often bewilder me; a horrifically pompous and grandiose ceremony celebrating, essentially, the most commercially successful artists of the year. It’s more or less the antithesis to the Mercury Prize; the sound of the hollow sprawling, echoing nothingness of it all is almost deafening.

However of recent years, the Brit’s have become something a whole lot stranger, and it’s added another level of confusion to it all. Now, you may shout me down from my elitist rooftop, proceed to cry ‘insults’ like a ‘pitchfork reader’, or end up wanting to decapitate me with my own vinyl copy of ‘Loveless’, but the awards have moved away from simply celebrating the most commercially successful, and attempted to cater for more interesting and the more artistically satisfying. Now this may sound rewarding, having spent many years wondering how Robbie Williams has won 17 of the things, but it’s almost worse.

The ceremony has now become a mesh of the commercially successful and then the occasional nomination for say an artist who perhaps actually deserves the title ‘Best Female Artist’. It looks confused. The fact that the Brit’s committee have incorporated these nominations seems almost akin to a fast food outlet manager reluctantly bowing to health and safety regulations.

Last years ceremony was a case in point. Held at London’s massive O2 Arena, the show was supposed to be an example of the institution focusing on the music. Unlike the standard awards show, the layout was that the stage was based around the music. In the middle of the baying crowd was a small platform, extending from the stage via a long runway. There was no podium for presenters to hide behind. The compere, comedian James Corden, wondered around the crowd and tables of celebrities whilst the performances kept to the stage.

They almost pulled it off. It was by far the best ceremony of recent years with the surprise double win for Arcade Fire, as well as Laura Marling winning Best Female. It all seemed strange still, almost like there had been a mix up. In between Rihanna’s over the top (and off key) medley of her most famous singles, Plan B and Tinie Tempah’s performances we saw the understandably shocked and timid Laura Marling being awarded Best Female by Boy George in front of a massive stadium, who, were noticeably muted in their acknowledgement of her win. It was surreal. If you ever want to know what the phrase ‘a fish out of water’ looks like, watch Laura Marling’s acceptance speech.

Perhaps it seems wrong because of the audience. Perhaps the Brit’s aren’t for us musical snobs. Adding to the noticeably quiet audience reaction to Laura Marling’s win, as if everyone was turning to each other asking, ‘who?’, was the reaction on facebook to Arcade Fire’s win. Much akin to the reaction of many after their Grammy win, where people who hadn’t heard of the band before thought that that was reason enough that they didn’t deserve the award, one Facebook user commented ‘Who the fuck are the Suburbs’, whilst many others claimed that Eminem had been robbed of Best International Album, despite the fact it wasn’t very good.

The 2012 Nominations were announced yesterday, with the very punchable face of cliched acoustic troubadouring, Ed Sheeran, the disappointing after initial promise Jessie J, and somewhat deserving Adele receiving the most nominations. It’s unsurprising, and obvious. Worst of all is that in categories like Best British Group, those nominated include Arctic Monkeys, Chase and Status, Elbow, Kasabian and Coldplay. Some may argue that in the face of other groups of nominations, this shows a different and advanced side of the Brits, but in reality none of the bands deserve the title of the award, and they’re the most obvious and mainstream choice of bands you could probably imagine. Each of the artist’s work in the last year has been perhaps received well, but nothing that would indicate anything near universal acclaim. It’s like the list of bands you don’t want to win, because none of them deserve it, and picking a winner would make you feel like you were falsely rewarding them.

The problem the Brit’s have is that it’s an institution that is steadily growing obsolete. With declining viewing numbers over the last few ceremonies, the awards show is something of an archaic representation of pop music. Perhaps the reason the viewing numbers have declined is because you could probably guess who’s going to win in each category and not even care if you end up being wrong. Arcade Fire’s win last year was pleasing in an almost stick it to the man kind of way, but the problem is the man doesn’t know who he is anymore. The Brit’s are confused. Although trying to commit to the idea of awarding artists for their work over perhaps their sales figures and celebrity pomp, the Brit’s are too afraid. They lack the ability to balance out the nominations with genuine artists over those who achieved good sales figures despite not receiving particularly much critical acclaim, so that people like Laura Marling or Arcade Fire look like they’ve wondered into the wrong room.

The Brit’s will go on, but they will continue to confuse and perplex, perhaps simply for their inability to commit to what they’re actually going to nominate and even award people on the basis of.