Picture it. The annual celebration of the British music industry, opened by its biggest success story of the year. The stage that once hosted such wonders as Geri Halliwell storming out from between a massive pair of thighs and Jarvis Cocker's bare arse, announced for 2019 by, uh, Hugh Jackman, singing a song from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman, a Hollywood musical that has broken the record for the longest time spent at the top of the British album chart since that chart began.
This performance – boring but OK, serviceably showy but nothing special – kind of set the tone for a night which was Awards Show 101. The BRITs 2019 was two and a quarter hours of nothing much in particular; more female winners, sure, but nobody too unexpected. It wasn't bad at all; in fact it was a really slick show. But it wasn't exciting either. Nobody even fell over.
The monotony was punctuated only by a few good jokes by host Jack Whitehall (I snorted aloud at “Back in your grotto, Sheeran”), and Beyoncé and Jay-Z as The Carters, who filmed an elegant acceptance speech for Best International Group in front of a portrait of Meghan Markle, seemingly in solidarity with her as a hypervisible black woman who has been routinely ravaged by the UK press throughout her pregnancy.
Otherwise, however, it was very much business as usual, with a very game Whitehall unable to tease out even a hint of controversy from anyone (presumably his exploits from last year, which was better, went against him.) This made it feel like Awards-Show-by-Numbers, so this year my review comes in the form of all the conventions the BRITs 2019 slotted into.
A REALLY EXTREMELY BIZARRE PRESENTING DUO
It is a cardinal rule of award shows that at least one of the honours will be presented by two people who most likely met two minutes before a beleaguered floor manager shoved them onstage together. In the case of the BRITs 2019: I would love to know who fell through so that the unbelievable combination of footballer and label owner Daniel Sturridge and Paloma Faith – as in, this Paloma Faith – ended up presenting the night’s first award, for British Male Solo Artist.
I cannot help thinking that Jesse Lingard was booked to do a fun bit about Fortnite or something, but had to cancel at the last minute, forcing some poor talent booker to declare a Code Red, which is a euphemism for ringing Paloma Faith’s agent (otherwise known as the hardest working person in British show business.) That is the only possible explanation for why these two trundled on stage together – Sturridge in a sharp suit, Paloma in Barney the Dinosaur couture – having apparently two different conversations for the entire time, to inevitably give George Ezra an award.
Giggs, it is my professional responsibility to remind you, was robbed.
A MEDIA-TRAINED CELEBRITY GETTING UPSET WITH THE HOST WHO HAS SAID SOMETHING VAGUELY RISQUÉ
When Jack Whitehall called Shawn Mendes “a gentleman that likes to rock out with his jock out” RE: his Calvin Klein ad I have never seen someone look so existentially sorrowful.
VARYING DEGREES OF FEMINIST SENTIMENT MEETING MIDDLING APPLAUSE
Awards shows are #fempowering now, did you know? They’ve started nominating women! It’s all very progressive and exciting!!!!
Though, in fairness, the BRITs itself generally didn’t go in on making a big deal about its newly gender balanced nominations, a few of the presenters, performers, and award winners gestured towards it, meeting vague applause (applause which was much less enthusiastic than like, Bros got just for showing up). H.E.R. threw out a cute “The future is female!”, while Jorja Smith gave it a good go with her “This is for all the little girls and women who are just being themselves” acceptance speech for British Female Solo Artist. Annie Mac mentioned that there were “As many females nominated as males,” and Jess Glynne took her makeup off on the telly for women’s liberation, I think.
In fact, other than The 1975’s Matty Healy – who read from a piece written by the Guardian’s Laura Snapes, citing the double standard in the perception of male and female musical genius – it was all fairly unchallenging, surface level stuff.
AN EDGY TWIST ON THE MUSIC OF AN EXISTING ACT
Listen, I will level with you. I like that George Ezra. I like his commitment to short sleeved shirts, and I would go on record to say that “Shotgun” is “good.” He did a shoutout to Jack Whitehall’s nan – “HELLO MARY I HOPE YOU’RE WELL” – and seemed to know instinctively how to speak to nans (loudly, deliberately, politely.) He’s nice and he can write a catchy ditty; he’s sort of like if Ed Sheeran didn’t hate women.
I also like the Hot 8 Brass Band. Have you heard their cover of “Sexual Healing”? It’s really good! You should!
Anyway, I mention both because they performed together at the BRITs last night, in that way where awards shows try to make “exclusive” “moments” happen. The result was quite weird. The entire point of George Ezra’s music is that it is jaunty. It’s 30mph, it’s an April day where there’s a slight breeze. Jack Whitehall fairly accurately called Ezra “the Prius of pop,” and do you know what? That’s fine! It’s good even! I like Priuses because they’re spacious and very reliable. But a Prius cannot tolerate the Hot 8 Brass Band. It is simply too many passengers, for a start.
ED SHEERAN GETTING AN AWARD
Ed Sheeran got the one award nobody votes for, the “Global Success Award” (i.e. The Good Boy of Money Award), for the second year running, because once again his album ÷ sold more globally than anything else by a British act, which is really depressing. At this point I am begging for Adele to come back. Where is she?!
MEDLEYS WHICH ARE NOT REALLY MEDLEYS
Two medleys took place last night. 1) A medley by P!nk, who received an Outstanding Contribution to Music award, which basically felt like her doing the same song five times over (why would you not just do “Get the Party Started”?), although she is forgiven because she did fly about in a hoop, which I love and admire and 2) a medley by Calvin Harris.
This is the one I had problems with. Calvin Harris, the official British Producer of the Year, is supposedly an accomplished DJ. You would think he would be able to beatmatch inventively between his own productions, but what we got instead was basically three separate songs in a row – Rag 'n' Bone Man standing there and yelling like he always does, Sam Smith having a sweet little boogie in his “just come from the office get me a wine babe x” trousers, and Dua Lipa doing “One Kiss,” which was fine.
Let's hope 2020 is more entertaining, eh?
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