BRITs in Pieces: The Reanimation of the UK’s Premier Music Gong Show


It’s come a long way, baby – but where is it headed? This year’s edition of the BRITs boasted a facelift that would have even Pete Burns running for cover. And in terms of a success, the Grammy-fied 2011 version of the UK’s biggest music awards might similarly have had onlookers hankering for the ‘before’…

In its efforts to emulate America’s annual music biz back-slap, the onus this time was on live performances. Not a bad move, perhaps, but the presentations then suffered from such detached staging, guests and nominees alike unable to relate to an audience that was little more than a black sea stretched out before the jetty from which they were asked to project.

Roger Daltrey seemed – perhaps surprisingly for a seasoned performer such as he – at a loss for anything with which to regale the crowd, while Will Young (who appeared in tandem with another gone-but-forgotten in Avril Lavigne) didn’t utter a word when awarding the gong for Best International Breakthrough Act to Justin Bieber – perhaps the only artist who, by comparison, should make him feel empowered.

The surreal atmosphere was perhaps best summed up by Laura Marling’s acceptance speech for her unexpected Best British Female Award: “My name’s Laura. And this is weird.” Then there was the choice of presenter: unfortunately, whatever his merits as a writer, no amount of television exposure will ever make James Corden an individual charismatic enough to host such an event. His asides generally falling on ears already deafened by a combination of on-stage pyrotechnics and massed Bieber-teens, Corden struggled to sustain humour that seemed permanently at odds with the job in hand.

There were some moments to savour: Arcade Fire – fresh from those pesky Grammys – survived apparent jet-lag to land an award and pump out a decent live performance of ‘Ready To Start’; the hard-to-dislike Cee-Lo Green and Paloma Faith contrived a sort of music-industry ‘Burns & Allen’ routine for the audience; while Plan B’s live rendition of the excellent ‘She Said’ gave Michael Jackson’s infamous 1996 performance a serious run for its money. Even an impromptu appearance by Jarvis Cocker couldn’t have topped that.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of ambition, but change for its own sake is seldom a good idea: sometimes one simply has to mature gracefully. Reflecting the island it represents, The BRITs needs to retain some sense of humility and proportion – however, this latest departure suggests its own ‘Plan B’ is to do anything but.

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Jeremy Simmonds is an author and television producer who rakes over pop archaeology in south London. Among his credits are three editions of The Rough Guide to Rock and several series of the music game shows Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Mental! Jeremy is also author of, The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches (Chicago Review Press, 2008)

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Not sure you acquire this one? Really? Hence the way you figure it, because Jobs mentioned a ton of music on his Ipod he couldn’t ALSO have, appreciate and get a ton of vinyl? How would you think nearly all of it managed to get onto the Ipod-and on CDs before that- initially! Why is there this rush to always try to replace mediums instead of allowing them to coexist? Even though we invented the wheel didn’t mean unfortunately we cannot ever wish to walk again and really should cut off our legs. Just because we can fly in the airplane doesn’t mean we don’t need to drive places too. Hello. Neil Young understands that better than most. He embraces progress in technology mainly because it applies to recorded mediums (his Archives, natch) without eschewing the strengths and quality of vinyl. Why always pick a side, pick a team, choose a medium? Maybe I like having and utilizing more than one option. Why people who fancy themselves so progressive can’t get that is beyond me. It’s actually a terribly short sighted attitude and yes it ultimately does much more harm than good both business wise and artistically.

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