Like many people, I spent last night watching The Brits and slowly getting inebriated whilst doing so. All in all, a mixed bag. I hesitate to be too critical lest I am automatically banned from ever winning a Brit myself, so would like to stress that my opinions on last night’s awards are completely that – opinions. That said, let’s crack on with a mini review of the night’s proceedings.
First, let’s mention the positives; Hawaiian pop powerhouse Bruno Mars demonstrated his undeniable prowess as a vocalist and as a dancer during an 80’s pastiche style set, whilst skeletal mannequins resembling Theresa May and Donald Trump were parading around the set during Katy Perry’s strangely dancehall-esque performance. Anohni was nominated for Best British Female, touching tributes to George Michael and David Bowie from those who knew them best, and a brilliant (yet largely muted) performance from Skepta, representing a win (symbolical of course) for grime were highlights of the evening. Another highlight was Drake’s acceptance video for International Male Solo Artist, in which he wagwanned his way through a convincing impression of a London roadman.
With so many grime nominees including Skepta, Stormzy, and Kano, it’s surprising that not one grime artist actually took home an award, with Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (a white artist wielding traditionally black styles) taking the breakthrough act award. At least it wasn’t a repeat of last year in which not one black artist was nominated in any major category, with Emeli Sandé, Beyoncé, Drake, and A Tribe Called Quest all winning awards. It seems that whilst the Brits are clearly making efforts to appease those who criticise their habit of whitewashing, they are yet to actually recognise one of the biggest black British music scenes with an award.
So onto The 1975, whose performance of ‘The Sound’ was punctuated by criticisms of the band being flashed up onto the screen, leading many to believe that ITV had been hacked. Not so. Some have praised the band for their daring, but I don’t buy it – to me, the whole thing came off as really self indulgent, especially as I thought every piece of criticism they displayed was true of the performance they were giving. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s brave to own your criticisms, but the performance smacked of ‘we’re saying it so the the critics can’t’, which is a bit of a cop-out in my opinion. To their credit, they certainly provoked a reaction, and if that was their goal, they succeeded in that respect. On the other hand their album title is hack. So you know, form your own opinion there.
Overall, the ceremony was surprisingly politically apathetic, considering the turmoil we find ourselves in as a country at the moment. Save for a plea from The 1975’s Matt Healy for artists not to ‘stay in [their] lane when it comes to social issues’ (interestingly without making any kind of political statement himself), the night was pretty tame.
Winner of The Brits Icon Award was long lived cheeky chappy Robbie Williams, who ignored convention by eschewing hits like ‘Angels’, and ‘Let Me Entertain You’ for a bland medley of tracks from his latest album, surrounded on stage by a troupe of scantily dressed female dancers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dancers wearing skimpy costumes if the routine/ mise-en-scène calls for it, but something about the image of Robbie stood in the middle of a writhing mass of nearly-nude women had a bit of a misogynistic overtone to it. Much like the staging, the tracks themselves sounded pretty dated, despite being taken from an album released just last year.
My favourite moment of the night by far, was the weird behaviour of be-denimed alien overlord Simon Cowell as he presented the award for Best Music Video to One Direction, represented by lost little lamb Liam Payne, (who i’m sure kicked off a plethora of memes based on his solo venture to collect the award). Not content with having a strange spat with Nicole Scherzinger over who would read out the winner, he also made a short acceptance speech, as if being on his label entitles him to take ownership of an award won by one of his acts. To be fair, Simon Cowell is trying his absolute best to be a convincing human.
All in all, there were some real successes of the night, with the institution going some way to shake off past accusations of racism, but they are far from where they need to be in terms of representation and diversity. If you didn’t last night, I highly recommend taking a look at Ghostpoet’s hilarious live tweets of the event – a true Brits icon.