From the banality of Adele to the class of Sam Fender, here's a look at the awful and the good from Tuesday night's music ceremony (8 February).
When I was a kid, the BRIT Awards were always an early year highlight worth staying up for. Like the Eurovision Song Contest, it would be one of the rare times I'd be able to stay up 'til after 10, and it was usually pretty darn entertaining. In recent years it's completely fallen off my radar. That was until tonight.
To my surprise, the BRIT Awards are still the highlight of the British mainstream music scene and people still get excited about it. With little else on TV, I reluctantly decided to give it a watch. Here are my hot takes from it.
Where's the scandal?
I just about remember the BRIT Awards 1996. Being the biggest band in the country, Oasis won three awards and gave us several talking points. Each time they went up on stage to collect, the wilder they became, definitely taking advantage of the free bar and we can only speculate on what others substances they were consuming that evening. They drunkenly mocked Britpop rivals Blur (changing the lyrics of 'Parklife' to 'Sh***life'), goaded INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and called host Chris Evans "ginger bollocks".
Showing his contempt for the event, Liam Gallagher would later pretend to shove one of the awards up his rear end, whilst Noel Gallagher finished up by demanding people go up to and shake future Prime Minister Tony Blair's hand. It was all rather bizarre, yet also so enthralling. In the same year, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker was arrested for disrupting Michael Jackson's performance of 'The Earth Song' with false claims circulating that he'd assaulted three children in doing so (he hadn't). It was drama and scandal that we now look back on with warm nostalgia.
This year things are a lot staler and sanitised, and even worse is the annoying, over the top hosting of Mo Gilligan who definitely goes too big and obvious in his "comedy". Jack Whitehall has hosted it for the past four years and you (almost) wish he was doing it for a fifth. The most scandalous moment is when Mo needs to apologise for swearing before 9pm, so we'll give him some rock 'n' roll props for that. The event runs smoothly otherwise, the speeches are on time, the artists thank the right people and its all rather forgettable.
In 2014, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner gave a rousing and defiant speech in support of guitar music before dropping his mic into the audience. Sadly there's no one tonight willing to rock the boat and provide us with an iconic moment like the Sheffield singer did eight years ago. More scandal next year, please.
Banality wins the day through Ed Sheeran
I'm not going to lie, I did sigh when it was announced Ed Sheeran was to perform twice tonight, the first of which is a performance of his massive summer hit 'Bad Habits' with Bring Me The Horizon. Speaking of which, isn't performing with one of the world's biggest pop stars not akin to selling out these for a rock band or have times gotten more forgiving? Anyway, I digress.
In all honesty, it could've been far worse and the Yorkshire band improve the song tenfold. It's pretty easy to hate on Ed Sheeran these days I suppose, he equally deserves it and doesn't; he's a harmless and banal pop act. Though, judging by tonight's event, this is a perfectly acceptable thing to be in the British pop world. That he's later awarded Songwriter of the Year just seemed odd. That it's presented by Succession's Brian Cox is even more baffling.
Justice prevails within a strange Best Rock/Alternative Artist selection
When Coldplay, Glass Animals and Tom Grennan are appearing as nominations in the Best Rock/Alternative Artist category, you know those deciding the list simply don't have a clue. Thankfully justice prevails and Sam Fender takes home the award. With the year he's had, you really couldn't award it to anyone else, really.
Later in the show, he absolutely smashes his performance of 'Seventeen Going Under'. The audience appear to be singing along word for word and loudly sing along to the "woaaaah ohh ohh ohh" bit and my faith in the evening has been saved. It really has felt like years since a guitar-based artist who began in the underground was THIS popular and it's hard to begrudge the Geordie-singer's recent popularity.
On a side note, Liam Gallagher performs his latest single 'Everything's Electric' and, honestly, as much as I was rooting for him, it falls a little flat. Still, the event is better for his appearance, even if the biggest talking point of his performance is the fact he's wearing a Stone Island hat.
Wolf Alice provide the biggest shock of the evening
The most surprising moment is definitely the excellent Wolf Alice beating the likes of Coldplay and Little Mix to take home the British Group award. The London band seem as perplexed as everyone else, and it's genuinely thrilling to see an artist I've been championing since long before their 2015 debut be recognised tonight.
This acclaim is all the better as they've gotten to this stage, of course, without compromising their integrity. Blue Weekend was one of my favourite records from last year so I'm delighted they've been recognised this evening.
I don't care what anyone says, I really can't stand Adele's music. I also can't stand how, for the past decade, she's been regarded as a British cultural icon that the masses find relatable. Her music is dreary, repetitive and banal as anything. There I said it. Tonight she takes home Best British Song for 'Easy On Me', British Artist of the Year and British Album of the Year. That she beats Dave, Little Simz and Sam Fender in the latter category just seems criminal to me. I. Just. Don't. Get. It. Oh and apparently no one else makes personal albums these days but Adele...
A mishmash of winners
Little Simz and Dave winning awards for Best New Artist and Best Hip Hop/Grime/Rap Act respectively brings some added class and integrity to proceedings and provides some evidence that the future of British hip hop is looking bright. Though how Little Simz qualifies for Best New Artist when her debut GREY Area was released three years ago is another baffling decision.
Dua Lipa picks up Best Pop/R&B and it's hard to argue considering her success over the past couple of years (did she do much in 2021, though?). Becky Hill winning Best Dance Act, hmmm ok then, I was rooting for Fred Again so I'm naturally disappointed....though it was good to see Billie Eilish recognised as Best International Female. I would've loved to have seen The War On Drugs pick up International Group of the Year after I Don't Live Here Anymore was one of the records of 2021, but I'm reliably informed that Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) put out a brilliant r&b album last year so I can (just about) accept that one!
Overall, I didn't find myself as outraged as I thought I would, though where was The Weeknd in all this? Isn't he the biggest pop star in the world at the moment?
I suppose there was something for everyone tonight, though it won't be an evening looked back as fondly as other BRIT Awards. Aside from Sam Fender, many of the performances fall a little flat. Still, I went in expecting to find myself frustrated at the winning selections. That Adele will be the main talking point and headline grabber is frustrating, but the night really out to belong to Sam Fender, Wolf Alice, Dave and Little Simz.
As music award ceremony goes, it was pretty forgettable, albeit not a complete waste of time.