So this is the best of British music, is it? Two awards for a bunch of back-flipping boyband berks (what are they called again, JJB Sports?); a performance from an artist so lacking in natural talent she can’t even mime convincingly, let alone sing live; and a lifetime achievement gong for a UFO-obsessed has-been who thinks tugging the corners of his mouth down and hectoring the crowd to “bounce” constitutes entertainment.
It’s a stinging irony that, on a night that was supposed to celebrate British talent, the best performance by a mile was by two yanks, Jay Z and Alicia Keys, singing a song about New York; and the biggest winner, with three awards, was Lady Gaga, whose charisma, weirdness, and sheer megawatt star power generally made Cheryl Cole look like a Butlins Redcoat in comparison.
But let’s not get carried away singing Gaga’s praises, either. It’s become the consensus view, trotted out by serious rock hacks and broadsheet types, that the ‘Poker Face’ singer has blazed a comet-trail of excitement through pop culture. “She’s revivified the charts”, they say, steepling their fingers solemnly, “and injected a note of alien, Bowie-esque glamour”.
Meh. Personally, I don’t care if she’s come dressed as a Sherbert Dib-Dab/Somali pirate/upside-down exclamation mark – she still makes the kind of heartlessly clinical modern R&B you’d switch off Flava TV to avoid. Who gives a toss what kind of dress she’s wearing? What are you, Gok Wan? Ooh, she’s styled her hair in the shape of a triangle, what a daring and important artist she is.
Let’s be honest – last night’s show was dismal. The Brits have become a dreary eulogy for a bygone age, the last hurrah of the old music industry, a nostalgic overhang from a time, pre-downloading, when Annie Lennox and Chris Rea sold millions, and Des’Ree won awards with impunity. Hence, the after-show parties last night offered a blessed opportunity for the music biz to party like it was 1999, glug Veuve Clicquot by the jeroboam, and pretend that EMI didn’t just post a £1.75 billion loss.
People love to bang on about the shambolic Brits shows of the 1980s, when Mick Fleetwood got drunk and waggled his cock at The Four Tops (or something). But the truth is, it was the random element that made it worth watching. I’d rather sit through two hours of excruciating, knuckle-chewing incompetence than what we get these days, which is a slick, well-oiled ITV conveyor belt, with carefully scheduled windows for ‘controversy’ (step forward, Liam).
Anyway, based on last night’s events, here are the awards I’d give out.
The ‘Shilling In The Name’ Award For Services To The Finance Industry
The Pet Shop Boys made some much-needed cash (they must be strapped, poor lambs, they’ve only sold 50 million albums) by advertising Mastercard in the ad breaks – prompting Ed Simons from The Chemical Brothers to Tweet his outrage: “Not for all the money in the world would we play in someone’s kitchen to sell credit cards.”
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Numpty Of The Night
Never mind, Tom Meighan from Kasabian, so you tripped over and looked a bit silly – it’s not like millions of people were watching or anything.
Outstanding Achievement In The Field Of Auto-Tune
Well done, Cheryl Cole. Even though you present a TV show in which the ability to sing live is the only criteria for success, you couldn’t be arsed to do so yourself, instead turning in a mimed performance so badly dubbed it resembled a ‘70s kung-fu movie.
Let’s hear it for Robbie Williams, emitting industrial levels of oily self-regard, moist-eyed phoniness and needy desperation since 1994. Wow, he can hold a microphone out and tell the audience to ‘sing it’ – what a showman.
The ‘Phone It In’ Award For Presentational Mediocrity
Could Peter Kay have looked less arsed about the whole thing? He slagged off past winners, mocked current winners, compared Lady Gaga to Sue Pollard. OK, we don’t want Grammys-style reverence, but if even the compere doesn’t take this shit seriously, why should we?