A few days ago, I sat through half the Brit Awards 2012 because my daughter wanted to see Adele perform. It was obviously a lavish, expensive production. How much does it cost to bring Rihanna over to perform a song and pick up a prize? I don’t know, but I expect we’re not exactly talking a hundred quid here! And she was only one of many huge stars at the gathering. Why, then, the show is so painful to watch, so overwhelmingly amateur, is a matter for conjecture. I know people may look back to the infamous 1989 awards ceremony MCd by Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox as one of the most embarrassing moments ever to grace live music television, but at least that was genuinely (if unintentionally) hilarious. The ceremony this year wasn’t hilarious. I was cringing with disgust and sometimes anger.
The awards themselves looked like discarded souvenirs from a bargain bin on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a primary 3 class had been responsible for the paintwork. Cheap, tacky rubbish no self-respecting person would want to be seen dead with. When James Corden enthusiastically pointed out the guy responsible for the design, the complete lack of applause was more than noticeable.
But this was symptomatic of the whole affair. So much money must have been piled into that show, but you would never have known. The “tributes” to Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse were hopeless, especially the former: it was as though someone, half an hour before the show, had shoved together a few powerpoint slides with a barely audible selection of Whitney tracks, just to fulfil a duty. The Amy Winehouse one wasn’t much better. So little thought and creativity had gone into these that doing nothing at all would have been a massive improvement. It points to a crass lack of imagination, human warmth and empathy at the commercial end of the pop/entertainment market, which may not be a surprise, but I still found it amazing that such inadequacy was displayed so brazenly and without apology.
This theme continued when Emeli Sandé won the Critics Choice Award. The camera switched to her for about two seconds and then shot over James Corden who began interviewing last year’s winner, Jessie J. “Do you have any advice for Emeli?” asked the fawning Corden, overcome by Jessie’s charming hairdo, and forgetting within a few seconds that Sandé had ever existed. “Oooh, I could sit here all night!” It was just excruciatingly embarrassing and dreadful treatment of Sandé.
I read afterwards that Adele was cut off 20 seconds into her speech for winning Best Album because the show had been allowed to overrun earlier. Doesn’t surprise me. For all the millions of pounds sitting round the tables at this event, the level of creative energy, professionalism, and basic good manners was astonishingly low, and that’s even before you get to the music itself: the ludicrous sight of Best Single of 2012 going to One Direction. I mean, even on the woeful shortlist, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows anything about music that Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ knocks One Direction’s pitiful effort out of sight.
But appreciation of the music at the BRIT Awards is hardly something you’d expect of a alternative pop person like me. My main point is the complete mediocrity (that may be too generous a word) of it all. NOT just the music but the lack of care and imagination that went into the presentation, the links, the timing, and everything else. It was hard to know whether James Corden was a part of that or if he himself was also inwardly cringing and couldn’t wait for it to end.
One final thing: I know poets sometimes argue and fall out, sometimes snub, sometimes aim words like ‘mediocre’ at one another, but watching the BRIT Awards helps me, at least, to regain a degree of perspective. Most poets I have met have been decent people. Some have huge egos, some have other faults – being human! – but most are people who have many admirable qualities too, and any level of mediocrity, amateurism or lack of ambition is still several cuts above that exhibited at the BRIT Awards. And that’s without the massive resources available to the commercial music industry. Maybe we should try to appreciate one another more.