By Stephen Duffy: The ‘biggest night in music’ is back as The BRIT Awards take place in London tonight, but rather than being a celebration of music and the artists in the industry , the event has become one giant rolling PR stunt.
The awards have always a knack of hitting the headlines with the performances on the night, whether they be sensational or controversial, they always get people talking. Last year alone had two talk-worthy performances, from ‘Mr Controversy’ himself, Kanye West, who seemed to bring half the UK grime scene on stage with him for an expletive-ridden rendition of new song All Day, leaving viewers miffed for a variety of reasons. Some were angry that such an ‘intimidating’ display was shown on primetime TV, whilst others were annoyed that the song was spoiled by a number of blanks to cut out the offensive language.
Then there was the, almost, show-stopping Madonna moment as she was tugged off a platform thanks to a malfunctioning cape, before picking herself up like a true professional style and continued with Living With Love. Some questioned if the incident was pre-planned but the shock on the pop veteran’s faced said otherwise, however the song made an impact, debuting in the charts at 26, whilst Kanye’s track went in at 18.
The fact is that these disasters are exactly the kinds of moments that get people talking, posting, making memes and sharing amusing vines on social media. This was evident in the fact that the two music icons were the most talked about acts of the night, taking up over two thirds of social engagement with the BRITs. Rihanna is set to take the stage this time around, and my money would be on her to be the one to get mouths gaping in one way or another, whether it be in awe or disgust. Following the release of two risqué videos earlier this week, a prime time slot for the Bajan diva may have some parents spitting out their dinner and getting Ofcom on speed dial.
Whilst the aforementioned acts are all established musicians, a memorable performance at The Brits can excel the career, and earnings of a younger prospect. Take Adele for example, her emotional rendition of Someone Like You back in 2011 is one of the most iconic BRITs performances ever, and sent her career stratospheric. She is set to perform again this year which can only help her already phenomenal album sales, and she will be keen to make up for her Grammys mishap last week in front of her home crowd. The prospect of witnessing another iconic moment from her could lead to a boost in viewing figures too which will please ITV.
Amongst all the performances, you might forget that there are actually some awards to be won, which themselves have caused controversy, but yet earned more column inches and social media impressions for the BRITs.
Just two months on from arguably the most terrifying night of their lives, Eagles of Death Metal were nominated for Best International Group. The band were playing at the Bataclan in Paris when gunmen opened up on their baying crowd as part of the horror that unfolded in the city back in November. Despite only reaching 53 and 32 in the singles’ and albums’ charts respectively, and being up against Major Lazer, whose song Lean On became the most streamed record of all time, they are arguably the favourites to win the award. Whether it is just a PR stunt or not, I can’t imagine anyone would be upset if the rockers were rewarded on the night.
However, if that is positive coverage for the BRITs they may have got away lightly in other areas. The Oscars, which take place on Sunday, have been embroiled in a debate about the lack of black nominees with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite being branded about since the nominations were announced. In arguably the biggest categories, British Male, Female, Group and Album, there are no black acts and Brit award winner Lily Allen criticised music industry bosses in a recent Twitter rant for ignoring black music in favour of music that ‘Alan Partridge would approve of.’
Some awards however aren’t even won on their quality. Best British Single is awarded to the song with the highest sales, and although it is hard to look past Adele’s ‘Hello’ this year, it isn’t always the case that the ‘best’ song will win. The category, supported by Capital FM, is one of only three sponsored categories, a radio station that some say epitomises everything wrong with the music industry as it has the same 10 songs on repeat throughout the day.
Then there is the case of Best British Video, that was brought back in 2014 after a 12-year absence and has since been dominated by One Direction, who are nominated once again, thanks to the hordes of fans who spend hours tweeting and voting for their idols to win.
The Radio 1 backed British Breakthrough Act is also being voted for on Twitter, and is probably the most intriguing award of the night as there is no stand-out winner. A very mixed category contains pop starlets Jess Glynne and Years & Years alongside the rockier Catfish & the Bottlemen and Wolf Alice. But again, if it’s tween girls who make up the majority of the voting, the award is likely to go last year’s Critics’ Choice winner, and part-time Burberry model, James Bay.
But in the end it doesn’t really matter who wins, because no one really remembers. Past last year’s awards, it is hard to name which artist won what award in what year. But everyone remembers Ginger Spice’s Union Jack dress, Jarvis Cocker flashing Michael Jackson, and Justin Timberlake and Kylie getting steamy on stage. It is the performance that captures the memory, and gets the attention, and that’s why we watch it; even the organisers will be secretly hoping that something outrageous happens.