From #BRITssowhite to Big Mike's triumph
The BRIT Awards actually made us take notice this year.
This time last year Rich Cooper, esteemed writer, producer of the JOE Unfiltered podcast with James O’Brien (plug, plug, plug), and owner of a sensational trench coat, summed up the BRIT Awards perfectly:
"The BRIT Awards have a history of being the tamest, lamest, most boring awards ceremony of them all."
No one thinks that the BRITs actually matter. Right now the BRIT Awards are a bit like if the Oscars gave Best Picture to Captain America: Civil War on the basis that it was fairly entertaining and loads of people went to see it.
As it stands, the BRITs are just another victory lap for the already victorious, but could actually have some substance if they could stand to take a risk, instead of giving awards to famous dead people who last year, if they were still alive, would have told you that "Kano's album was better."
Hands up, who can argue with this? Anyone? Goddamnit Grandma, put your hand down please!
Exactly. The BRITs, as your friend and mine, Mr. Cooper so correctly pointed out, have been a bit of a joke over the last couple of years, especially considering it’s supposed to be the biggest night in British music. Oh, and by “joke” I mean the sort that Michael McIntyre would come up with. Ergo: NOT. FUNNY.
In 2016 it came to a head with the #BRITsSoWhite controversy; not a single BAME artist was nominated in any major category, this in a year where grime had returned to the forefront of British music and winners Sam Smith, Adele and Justin Bieber, while all supremely talented in their own right, dominated, despite having the likes of Etta James and James Brown (in the case of Sam Smith and Adele’s soul-flavoured pop) or Usher (in every possible way in the case of Justin Bieber) to thank for the basis of their music. Soul singer Kwabs? Not even getting a look in, and his album, Love & War, was stunning.
Fast forward to 2017 – and this is where the BRITs should and easily could have bounced back. There were nominations for Wiley, Skepta and Kano, with Skepta allowed to perform his hit “Shutdown” - mad right? Even Stormzy squeezed in, at the behest of Ed Sheeran's performance, with a remix of “Shape of You”, a year after rightly accusing the BRITs of “taking the piss.” Time for diversity in the nominations then, because it’s not just white people that make music, right? Shocking, I know.
Did any of them win anything? Did they fuck.
Put it like this. A man who’d passed away (legendary though David Bowie is) beat Craig David, Kano, Skepta and Michael Kiwanuka to the award for Best British Male Artist. Michael C. Hall said it best when he collected the award on David Bowie's behalf:
“If David Bowie could’ve been here tonight, he probably wouldn’t be here tonight.”
The only surprise award? A Tribe Called Quest winning “Best International Group”.
Roll on 2018 then, amight?!... Hello? Wake up you… seriously: last night's awards show was actually far more impressive in both Jack Whitehall's near-the-knuckle presenting, and its winners.
Brit-Albanian Dua Lipa, and South London's Stormzy (of Ghanaian descent) were the big winners, Stormzy in-particular holding off Ed Sheeran to win Best British Male and Album of the Year is a statement that the BRITs are actually listening to expressive art, as well as safe pop music about Irish girls that your mum can bop along to after a glass of Sherry.
Kendrick Lamars performance saw him perform alongside Rich The Kid, who destroyed a Lamborghini with a baseball bat, because why not? Although it was bafflingly muted for those watching from the comfort of their own homes… at nearly 10pm. Why book a rapper like Kendrick Lamar, play him after the 9pm watershed and mute him?!
Even the Foo Fighters performing added a rock-edge after the sugary sweet pop stylings of the incredibly talented Dua Lipa.
These are big steps, but by no means was the event perfect; there was still a severe misrepresentation of women in the mixed categories, and Dua Lipa was the only solo female performer (Rita Ora choosing to duet with the black hole of charisma: Liam Payne). This seemed a little at odds with the BRITs inviting guests to wear white roses to show support for the #TimesUp campaign.
However, glass half full guy that this writer is; this is the first time in years that I personally feel we can take the BRIT awards seriously, in what had recently become a glorified piss-up, without any of the risks taken, last night's show, from the Big Shaq intro to the Big Mike outro, Jack Whitehall's piss-taking to the choice in winners, has begun to show British music for what it actually is, diverse, real and not going anywhere anytime soon.
Bring on 2019.