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23rd Feb 2017

The BRIT Awards keep making it harder to give a shit about the BRIT Awards

Emeli Sandé again? David Bowie over Kano? What is the point of this show?

Rich Cooper

The BRIT Awards have a history of being the tamest, lamest, most boring awards ceremony of them all.

Safe, predictable, and Very White Indeed, the BRITs tend to plump for artists that your nan can bop along to, that won’t swear on prime-time ITV, that basically won’t cause a fuss. They love vanilla, not because vanilla is everyone’s favourite flavour, but because most people have no trouble swallowing it.

Look at the British Album of the Year winners of the last few years: Adele’s 25, Ed Sheeran’s X, Arctic Monkey’s AM, Emeli Sandé’s Our Version of Events. They’re not bad, but no one thinks these are the best albums of any year; they were just the most ubiquitous. Look in your mum’s glovebox and you’ll find at least two of these albums. No disrespect to your mum – I love your mum like your stepdad should – but there’s better shit out there.

To their credit, the 2017 BRITs nominees were an improvement on last year. After the #BRITsSoWhite controversy in 2016, organisers took steps to make the list of nominees more diverse and representative of what’s actually making waves in music right now. The awards finally recognised that grime is the driving force in British music today, with Skepta, Kano and Stormzy all getting nods in major categories.

Of course, none of them won anything.

In fact, it was by and large the same old faces picking up the gongs. David Bowie won British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year, while Emeli Sandé won British Female Solo Artist. Now, Bowie, he’s great, Blackstar is great, being a weirdo is great, but let’s be real: if he wasn’t dead he wouldn’t be winning. As Michael C. Hall said at the ceremony: “If David Bowie could be here tonight, he wouldn’t be here tonight.” And can anyone name anything Emeli Sandé has done since singing at the Olympics?

The only real surprise of the evening came when A Tribe Called Quest won International Group, who didn’t show up or even put in a video appearance. Nor did Beyoncé, who picked up International Female Solo Artist. Well-deserved, but Beyoncé needs a BRIT award like Bill Gates needs a payday loan. There is zero chance she was tuned into ITV, pacing around the bedroom, asking Jay-Z to flick the kettle on as it’s getting to be a bit much and she could really use a cuppa right now.

The lengths that the BRITs went to to not cause a fuss were extraordinary. Skepta was muted for large chunks of his performance of breakout track Shutdown. Despite being encouraged to go “batshit crazy” by an unbleeped Dermot O’Leary, ITV evidently thought that the nice viewers at home might be upset by a black man saying “pussy”. Chris Martin, the sexless flannel that fronts Coldplay, sang a tribute to George Michael, which was very nice but not especially representative of what the self-professed “dirty fucker” Michael was about.

All in all, it was another year of damp squibs, no surprises and why-do-we-bother-watching-this. Ed Sheeran bringing out Stormzy for a remix of ‘Shape of You’ was a nice touch, and Katy Perry’s backup dancer falling off the stage was amusing, if it weren’t the next in a suspiciously long line of awards show cock-ups. Robbie Williams closed out the show, which says it all really.

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, if they were still alive, would tell you that Kano’s album was better.