"I reckon I’ve got as much chance of winning as I have of seeing the Queen’s tits," said Richard Hawley, rather brilliantly, this week, proving that the Nearly Man of every award ceremony ever has a clear knowledge of how The Brits really work.
Before we begin our run-down of who'll be picking up the most Willy Wonka of awards on Wednesday night we need to share Hawley's insight with you, in case you're some kind of deluded Paloma Faith superfan who still thinks your hero is in with a chance, listen very carefully: The Brits are NOT ABOUT WHO'S ACTUALLY THE BEST. They're about WHO HAS SOLD THE MOST. You should picture the Brit Awards very much like the Wizard Of Oz – it might all be smoke and mirrors and pizzazz and fireworks and nonentities invading the stage during speeches and James Corden trying to sexually assault Olly Murs out front, but peek behind the curtain to get a glimpse of this mysterious 'Brits Academy' and you'll find one bloke sat there with a calculator.
That said, this very truth is set to make this year's Brits more interesting. Why? Because their awards-for-sales ethos has created a set of circumstances in which the whole shameless back-slappery of the thing will inevitably be exposed for the whole world to see. And the dilemma can be summed up in two words. One, and Direction. Let us explain…
- One Direction
- Mumford & Sons
- The xx
Deserves to win: Alt-J – although Muse have the canon and clout to deserve this, it's been Alt-J's year in terms of creativity and credibility.
Prediction: Mumford & Sons. Here's the rub. One Direction have become the biggest boyband on the planet – they're the NEW BEATLES if all you care about is money and haircuts. So the Brits, according to their own rules, are forced to give them at least one award this year. Unfortunately, One Direction suck such monumental mastodon balls they've had to have all their teeth removed. And The Brits also have a duty to try to protect the gauze-thin artifice that they're giving their awards to artists because they're good, so even they couldn't give Best British Group to OD. Dilemma! Their solution this year is to create the never-before-heard-of-or-wanted one-off award called the BRITS Global Success award specifically so they can give it to One Direction and weasel around their self-imposed rules so they don't look like the glorified sales conference they are. So it'll go to those other massive-sellers Mumford & Sons, even though were you to actually meet someone who thought Mumford & Sons were the best British band in 2012, you'd be morally and legally justified in getting them forcibly neutered.
Bookies' favourite: Mumford & Sons 1/3
- Bat For Lashes
- Amy Winehouse
- Emile Sande
- Paloma Faith
- Jessie Ware
Deserves to win: By dint of a) not being tedious cod-soul warbling and b) being alive, Jessie Ware deserves to walk – okay, totter – this category.
Prediction: Emeli Sande. So basically, this year's Brits will be carved up between Emeli Sande and Mumford & Sons since, like duh, they've sold the most. Add in the fact that Sande was presented the Brits Critics Choice Award in 2012 – although Christ knows which critics voted for her, presumably critics from Same Predictable Shite As Last Year magazine – and then went on to flog a million albums, and basically anyone else in this category might as well watch the ceremony from the pub. With Richard Hawley.
Favourite: Emeli Sande 1/8
- Emeli Sande – 'Our Version Of Events'
- Mumford & Sons – 'Babel'
- Alt-J – 'An Awesome Wave'
- Plan B – 'iLL Manors'
- Paloma Faith – 'Fall To Grace'
Deserves to win: Alt-J – an incredible, forward thinking, cutting edge and accessible debut; basically everything about British music that our biggest award ceremony should be honouring, right?
Prediction: Emeli Sande/Mumford. Think back to the end of year magazine lists you glanced at for 2012. How many of them – all voted for by hundreds of critics who'd listened to most albums that year – prominently featured either 'Our Version Of Events' or 'Babel'? None of them, right? Yet the British Album Brit will go to one of them in the year's biggest and most pointless battle of the big guns, despite no-one – not even Emeli Sande's accountant, deep in his heart – thinking either of them are the best album of 2012.
Favourite: Emeli Sande 1/5
- The Rolling Stones
- The Vaccines
- Mumford & Sons
Deserves to win: Coldplay – far and away the most eye-popping and spectacular live show of 2012, Coldplay turned stadiums into oceans of neon and floods of ticker-tape that even managed to out-dazzle Muse and their shape-shifting pyramid. Until this summer's stadium season, anyway.
Prediction: Mumford & Sons. Another major Brits show-up here. Mumford have to get at least two awards and with Sande most likely to take the Best Album they have to win this. Although Muse are performing too, so may still be in the running.
- Adele - 'Skyfall'
- Alex Clare - 'Too Close'
- Coldplay & Rihanna - 'Princess of China'
- DJ Fresh feat. Rita Ora - 'Hot Right Now'
- Emeli Sandé - 'Next To Me'
- James Arthur - 'Impossible'
- Jessie J - 'Domino'
- Labrinth Feat. Emeli Sandé – 'Beneath Your Beautiful'
- Olly Murs feat. Flo Rida 'Troublemaker'
- Rita Ora feat. Tinie Tempah - 'R.I.P.'
- Rizzle Kicks - 'Mama Do The Hump'
- Robbie Williams - 'Candy'
- Rudimental Feat. John Newman - 'Feel The Love'
- Stooshe - 'Black Heart'
Deserves to win: N/A – they're all unmitigated dogshit.
Prediction: Rizzle Kicks. The bookies are favouring Brits Queen Adele but have perhaps forgotten that this one is fan-voted, and only people under thirteen bother voting in bullshit phone polls like this.
Favourite: Adele 1/4
- Jessie Ware
- Jake Bugg
- Rita Ora
- Ben Howard
Deserves to win: Jake Bugg. Alt-J's Mercury win and resultant increased profile kind of make them worthy of this but Bugg, having risen from nowhere to conquering festivals and hitting Number One in the space of 2012, combines the cultural kudos with the requisite sales and chart placings to be in with a serious shot.
Prediction: Rita Ora. Three Number One singles. Enough said.
Favourite: Rita Ora 8/13
- Alabama Shakes
- The Script
- The Killers
- The Black Keys
Deserves to win: Alabama Shakes/Black Keys/Killers. A tough call - both AS and BK are purveyors of restyled retro, but artfully crafted. But The Killers' 'Runaways' is by far the biggest tune to have emerged from this shortlist in 2012.
Prediction: The Black Keys/The Killers. With less of a need to plug British music's best-selling acts, the International categories are the Brits' chance to claw back some cred and since none of the groups or males are performing, it's a reasonably open race. So the popularity and – gulp! – talent of The Black Keys or The Killers might actually count for something.
Favourite: The Black Keys 1/4
- Bruce Springsteen
- Michael Buble
- Frank Ocean
- Jack White
Deserves to win: Frank Ocean. Unarguably one of the artists of 2012 and, as a pioneering innovator in a relevant style, he's essentially the anti-Buble.
Prediction: Frank Ocean. Yes, they might actually get this one right!
Favourite: Frank Ocean 4/9
- Taylor Swift
- Alicia Keys
- Cat Power
- Lana Del Rey
Deserves to win: Lana Del Rey. After Rihanna blew it by holding half of the world' media hostage on a plane full of streakers, you'd think it'd be in the bag for the biggest hype-come-good story of the year.
Prediction: Taylor Swift. She's playing on the night, and that's usually enough.
Favourite: Lana Del Rey 1/2
- Calvin Harris
- Olly Murs
- Ben Howard
- Richard Hawley
- Plan B
Deserves to win: Richard Hawley, obviously, picking up his award before a huge backdrop of the Queen's norks.
Prediction: Ben Howard. I don't know about you but nothing says 'greatest male pop star of his generation' more than an anonymous bloke in a T-shirt from Devon with an acoustic guitar.
Favourite: Ben Howard 3/10
More on the Brit Awards
All bookmakers' odds via Betfair, Ladbrokes and William Hill