It’s fair to say that the Brits can hardly be accused of failing to provide us with a good stock of unforgettable moments over the years (let’s not forget that cape incident, Madonna).
Yet, following a recent spurt in political activism at awards, like the Grammys (mostly revolving around character defamations of Trump), the Brits fell slightly short of the mark. Could it be fair to question whether these awards are still an actual reflection of the state of the music scene?
In this year’s instalment, Katy Perry’s attempt at political satire literally brought the house down, when one of her army of dancing houses toppled off stage, amidst terrifying skull-faced effigies of Theresa May and Trump. Then, upon winning Best Group, Matt Healy of The 1975 urged artists to not “stay in their lane when it comes to social issues”. In an apparent effort to practice what they preached, the band projected a selection of the negative comments they’d received on screen, during their performance of The Sound. Phrases like “unconvincing emo lyrics” and “punch-your-tv obnoxious” were quite entertaining, but naturally led to online confusion, with people assuming ITV had been hacked.
Katy Perry’s attempt at political satire brought the house down
In a disappointing turn, the ‘big reveal’ of the night turned out to be a collaboration with Closer duo The Chainsmokers and Chris Martin, who consciously uncoupled with credibility a long time before he did it with Gwyneth (I’m a massive fan). The night ended with Robbie Williams winning Brits ‘icon’, but then proceeded in performing a medley of none of his iconic hits.
However, the tributes to George Michael, including a touching speech by the remaining member of Wham! and a performance of A Different Corner by “finest singer songwriter of his generation” (Andrew Ridgeley’s words, definitely not mine), Chris Martin, were dignified and emotional.
Inevitably, David Bowie was also posthumously honoured, picking up British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year. His son, who fittingly dedicated it to “all the kooks”, accepted the awards.
However, whilst nobody is contesting Bowie’s legacy, one issue arises from his awards. Following on from last year’s outrage at the Brits lack of diversity, leading to #BritsSoWhite, the Brits promised an overhaul of the voting academy. Comedian Romesh Ranganathan referenced the diversity row whilst presenting with Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams. He quipped “Maisie’s here because she’s a star, and I’m here because they heard I listen to grime and they’re trying to over-compensate for last year.” And whilst there was a concerted nod towards this effort, with an unprecedented 45% of nominees hailing from BAME backgrounds, including grime artists Skepta, Stormzy and Kano, grime predictably fell short of tangible recognition. It still seems there’s a reluctance to give credence to the booming genre; Bowie posthumously winning more awards than British BAME artists collectively, despite only living for ten days of 2016, is slightly more than indicative of a failed diversifying ‘overhaul’.
grime predictably fell short of tangible recognition
Cast your minds back to 2015, when Kanye brought on half of the UK rap and grime scene on stage during his performance of All Day. His performance signalled a provocative reclaiming of an event that historically refused to recognise and reward their genre.
However, whilst the olive branch was there this year, it just didn’t seem to stretch far enough: Skepta’s performance was periodically muted by ITV for bad language, despite being post-watershed.
All this reiterates is that, despite the promises, the Brits are managed, organized and a celebration of the major labels. Yet, considering the success of unsigned Chance the Rapper, at the recent Grammys, does this not suggest the flaw actually lies with the Brits biased makeup? If so, are the corporate awards ceremonies steering towards their own obsolescence by refusing to modernise?
Maybe it’s high time we stopped looking to these ceremonies for a celebration of inclusivity and diversity, and realize the actual music industry paints a very different picture.