There's a long history of politics intertwining itself with the NME Awards.
Some people say music and politics shouldn’t mix, but you only have to look at some of the history of the Vo5 NME Awards to know that’s not the case. From sticking it to politicians with the Villain Of The Year award, to triumphant performances with the very best intentions at heart, the awards have always reacted strongly to the political situation in the UK and beyond.
Villain Of The Year
There are only ever a couple of types of people who win the dubious honour of Villain Of The Year – politicians and pop stars our readers’ deem unworthy of celebration. Among the elected officials who’ve picked up the prize are Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, and David Cameron. King villain, though, must be George W. Bush, who was given the award six times. Talk about being unpopular.
Milk snatcher Margaret Thatcher was left under illusions about the NME-reading public felt about her in the ’80s. She was given the Creep Of The Year award a whopping nine times in that decade, with a run of eight consecutive wins. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.
Belle & Sebastian address Scottish independence
The 2014 NME Awards came just three months after the Scottish independence referendum had been announced, and several months before the vote took place. A week before our bash, David Bowie had passed on a message to those north of the border at the BRITs, urging Scotland to “stay with us”. Glaswegians Belle & Sebastian referenced that communiqué while collecting their award for Outstanding Contribution To Music, with frontman Stuart Murdoch saying: “England, stay with us – at least just for a night. And if we do leave you, I hope we’ll always be friends.”
Arthur Scargill’s leadership is recognised
Trade unionist Arthur Scargill was the President of the National Union Of Mineworkers for 20 years, including the miners’ strike of the mid-80s. In 1984, just after the start of the strike, his leadership was recognised in the NME Awards list, with Scargill being bestowed with the title of Most Wonderful Human Being.
Sadiq Khan goes grime
There aren’t many politicians who would be welcomed with open arms if they showed up at the awards, but the stars at the 2017 ceremony couldn’t have been happier to see Sadiq Khan. The Mayor Of London presented the award for Best British Male and had his photo taken backstage with winner Skepta, Wiley, Goldie and more. He also told us that grime is “here to stay” proving that, as well as being a politician with good intentions, he’s also very clued up.
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Barack Obama gets his dues
Only one politician has ever won the Hero Of The Year award (so far, anyway), and it’s no surprise it was 44th US President and all-round force for good Barack Obama. Meanwhile, we’d bet everything we own his successor will never be able to achieve the same.
Johnny Marr challenges the Government
A Smiths reunion could have happened, if only the then-Government had risen to Johnny Marr‘s challenge in 2012. “Maybe if this Government step down, I’ll reform the band,” the legendary guitarist told NME, referring to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. “I think that’s a fair trade. I think the country would be better off, don’t you?” On more than one front we’d say, Johnny.
Bands4Refugees unite for a good cause
In February 2017, members of Peace, Black Honey, Slaves, Circa Waves, Years & Years, Swim Deep, plus solo stars Charli XCX and Pixie Geldof joined forces to form a supergroup with two aims: raise awareness of the refugee crisis, and raise funds for Help Refugees, a charity dedicated to helping those in need. During the show, they performed a rousing cover of The Rolling Stones‘ ‘Gimme Shelter’ while the number to text donations to was displayed behind and around them. Entertaining and charitable, it reminded us all to do our bit.
M.I.A. calls out the UK arms industry
Last year’s Best British Female winner M.I.A. had a busy night at the 2017 ceremony. She also introduced the Bands4Refugees performance, taking the opportunity to call out the UK and US arms industries in the process. “It really sucks to be talking about people that need help, even though we have to,” she told the room. “But it should also be a time that everyone starts looking at the huge weapons arms industry, led by Britain and America. If we address that and talk about them more freely, then we could solve some of this shit. It should go hand in hand.” Quite right.
Event Of The Year marks the big political moments
The now-retired Event Of The Year category was another award that was often infiltrated by politics. Such landmark moments it honoured include Thatcher’s resignation in 1990, revolution in Eastern European in 1989, and the release of hostages in Lebanon in 1991.
The Vo5 NME Awards takes place at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on February 14.