Thursday, 23 February 2006

Smack My Brits Up

Like a geography teacher dancing at a sixth form disco, there's nothing as amusing as someone terminally uncool trying their damnedest to be hip. Here in the UK, we have a national institution dedicated to such an endeavour. It's called the Brit Awards, organised by the BPI. The mere handful of people over the age of 12 who do sit up and value this ceremony of giving meaningless tokens to meaningless acts confirm that Darwin's theory remains unproven.

In any case, I should be getting a bit of flak, because it's been over a week since the Brit Awards occurred. A whole seven days! That's the average career-span of a typical boy band these days. Sorry for being late with this one.

Every year, the record market shrinks ever more, thanks to people within the BPI insisting on daft chart regulation. We used to get four tracks on a CD single, but in the late 90s, the industry kow-towed to demands by manufactured pop acts into setting the maximum amount of tracks to three. And these pillocks wonder why they're not selling records any more.

Let's focus on one BPI member - former WEA chief John Reid, who once signed someone to a 500,000 five-album deal, stating "he is very talented singer and fans will buy his records because of that".

That 'singer' was Craig Phillips, a member of the public who won a reality show. He did have a single out, it flopped. Not really surprising, as Craig admitted to the press "I've never sung in the bath, let alone a recording studio".

Still, in 2002, the BPI saw fit to elect Mr Reid to their council. So now have a little insight into who actually votes for these Brit Awards. I'm not sure what substance was in the coffee that night at the BPI's AGM, but perhaps the management were having a laugh in deciding to have this failure of a man on board. He could be there for comic relief, alongside that Decca official who famously said "four-piece guitar bands are out, Mr Epstein".

You only need to see the headless-chicken-like panic at the way the recording industries are worried about MP3s. These emporers lauded it about with their new clothes for ages, and the public took the right stance by telling them where to stick their overpriced CDs. As this battle raged on, I recall one Sony executive in a newspaper making a statement as to why record labels were necessary. "We have invested in talent," said this exec, "such as Big Brothas". If you're saying "who?", don't worry. Like the failure of Craig Phillips to be the next, well, anything, the phrase 'Big Brother' does not tie in with music.

Lest we forget, let's take a look at some of the past winners of Brit Awards. These are all genuine, and more's the pity...

British Group: Five Star
Around this time, the band were on a phone-in on children's Saturday morning show Going Live, where one child caller asked the band "Why are you so fucking crap?". Clearly a rhetorical question.

British Single: Rick Astley "Never Gonna Give You Up"
"Can't sing, can't play, can't dance... you'll go far!" went the pseudo-witty Kit-Kit TV commercial of the time. What they should have said was "can't sing, can't play, can't dance, you're Rick Astley, that dignity-divorced arse-monkey".

British Producer: Stock/Aitken/Waterman
"Oh, we hated them at the time, but now it's all so good" say so many 'post-ironic' pundits. No. No, no, no. They were shit then. They are shit now. They will always be shit. Apply this to the Take That reunion, the Spice Girls, Vanilla Ice, etc. Cheese has a sell-by date for a reason.

British Breakthrough Act: Wet Wet Wet
People will argue about musical tastes 'til the end of time, the fools, not realising that my taste remains the best on the planet. Whilst indie kids will moan at R&B/urban (oblivious to the excellent output from Outkast, Beyonce, Blackstreet, Aaliyah, etc), and chavs will sneer at rock/metal/punk (ignorant to the passionate rage of The Clash, Deftones, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, etc), there is one musical genre that is total excrement through and through. That is LOVE SONGS. Crooners who sing about love - why? They aren't singing that because they are in love, they're doing it for the money. Look at the most prolific of them - Phil Collins and Chris De Burgh. Both cheated on their wives. Proof that romantic music has about as much sincerity as day-old plastic bucket of petrol garage forecourt flowers. I'm supposed to be focussing on Wet Wet Wet here, and I am unaware of any polygamous goings on from their chief warbler Marti Pellow. But then, that's not surprising, it is Marti Pellow after all.

British Male Solo Artist: Phil Collins
Around the time he had that hit 'Another Day In Paradise' that purported to be about the suffering of Britain's homeless. That juxtapositioned itself well with Phil's public adoration of the then Conservative government.

British Breakthrough Act: Bros
Picking on Bros would be like punching a baby. Well, twin babies at least. Clad in denim. With Grolsch bottle tops on their trainers. And singing "Oooh-yeah" in an attempting-to-be-macho-but-coming-out-really-camp voice that has only been topped by Will Young. Sod it, let's roll up the sleeves.

International Breakthrough Act: MC Hammer
The 20th Century's answer to Nelly.

British Breakthrough Act: Tasmin Archer
Known only for two things. 1) The chart hit 'Sleeping Satellite'. 2) Being a target of a surreal 'celebrity badger' running gag by Harry Hill. I have made that list in reverse order.

International Breakthrough Act: Lisa Loeb
An old joke: "How do you confuse an idiot? Fish!". The gag achieves its aims to most people, I guess, but if you do have a fetish for seeing people confused, simply ask them the title of Lisa Loeb's second chart hit.

British Dance Act: M People
The post-rave fallout, the rise of house superclubs, the DJ culture, the Prodigy winning over rock-orientated festivals with a hybrid of critically acclaimed sound, The Chemical Brothers' first steps towards a decade of chart limelight, the seeds of Big Beat being sown, the explosion of Ibiza, yes, that was Britain's globally-important dance music scene in 1995. So let's give the award to a hotel cabaret act with a female singer who sounds like a man with his testicles in a vice.

British Breakthrough Act: Oasis
I'm not knocking Oasis here, I raise this point to highlight the ineptitude of the Brit awards - that typical policy they have of placing votes against bands already made very popular in the past 12 months. The surefire bet, all done at the expense of being a exponent of risk-taking cutting-edge talent. Arctic Monkeys won an award this year, great band, but you know the Brit committee just looked at their headlines rather than listen to their album. The Brits - voted for by Heat magazine. Probably.

International Breakthrough Act: Robert Miles
A man who created a plinky-plonky piano house-lite annoyance, called it music, and got a hit with it. He then did this again, about two or three times with the notes slightly rearranged.

British Female Solo Artist: Gabrielle
It's 1997. I am Princess Diana, and Gabrielle is a Paris underpass pillar. Resultant metaphor: Gabrielle goes right through me.

British Female Solo Artist: Shola Ama
Quirky fact! Peter Townshend and Roger Daltry really won this Best Female Solo Artist award. Well, it seemed like it to me, because I'm pretty damned certain that as this no-mark Shola Ama walked towards the stage, the audience were shouting "WHO!?".

Freddie Mercury Award: Jubilee 2000
An award not seen since, er, 1999. And in case you're wondering, "Jubilee 2000" was a campaign to get big western nations to cancel the debt of third world nations. I saw Geldof taking notes. Meanwhile, it's 2006. Britain gets 1.1billion a year from poor nations that owe money to it.

British Female Solo Artist: Des'ree
"Life! Oh, life! Doo-do-doo!" screeched soul harpy Des'ree. Ironic really, hearing her using the word "life" so many times instigated a sucidal tendencies.

British Male Solo Artist: Rodney Williams
Where the emporer picked up his new clothes...

Outstanding Contribution: Spice Girls
Do I even have to add a comment to this?

International Female: Macy Gray
Thankfully, ths one's fallen off the radar. Seems like the chart-buying public got tired of this professional Marge Simpson impersonator.

Pop Act: Five
Granted, pop music in the noughties is going to carry more excrement than a nursing-home duvet, and I suppose I shouldn't be picking on it that much. I'd try to say something nice about Britain's premier 'unconvincing-thug' boy band Five, but all I can come up with is that they are not Daphne and Celeste.

British Album: Travis "The Man Who"
Twelve years after winning their first Brit, too! A canny idea for Marti and the boys to rename their band to Travis, and continue putting out the same bland monotonous dirges. Record shops mistakenly placed this stuff in the "indie" section. Yes, what cutting edge stuff we have here. A song about a piece of wood, well done guys. And then using the word "turn" many many times in place of meaningful lyrics, and titling the resulting blandfest with that word. A feat they repeated in 2001 with "Sing". Let's not forget how this antithesis-to-all-that-is-Clash made their mark either, with their anthem that goes "Why does it always rain on me, is it because I lied when I was 17?", which completely ignores the issues of atmospheric fronts and the water cycle, much like the band have ignored the issues of soul, punk rock, energy-injected tunes and stabbing Embrace in their faces instead of emulating them.

British Female Solo Artist: Sonique
Songs can be like buses. Take the justifiably-forgotten Sonique. She waited ages for a hit, got three at once. And just like buses, her hits didn't sound at all pleasant, were overpriced, and regularly took shortcuts to complete the stop quota at Willesden Green. Er, scrub that last one.

British Breakthrough Act: A1
Jesus weeping on a bicycle! They've applied the term "breakthrough" to a boy band that impersonate a third rate Take That tribute band, minus Rodney, Mark, Howard and Jason.

British Female Solo Artist: Dido
This 'singer' has a relative in Faithless, the band that produced Insomnia. Dido herself takes a contrary role to that. Within a mere minute of hearing her dull-as-porridge ballads, Insomnia is completely cured.

British Urban Act: Ms Dynamite
Ah, the anti-war celebrity who recently started a fight. It's no surprise that this person is billed as a cutting-edge passionate and talented singer, yet turns out not to be so. Dynamite blows.

British Urban Act: Lemar
It is decreed by the British music industry that some runner-up of a reality TV show is better than the Streets. Given what I said above about one of the judges having been responsible for giving a Big Brother winner a 500,000 five-album deal, I was expecting Nadia's single to elevate him/her to Outstanding Contribution To Music status. That didn't happen, but I did get told that 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' winner Kerry Katona once had a record deal for some reason or other, singing with two other reality TV show contestants.

British Breakthrough Act: Keane
Did these Coldplay-wannabes ever turn up to pick up their award? It'd be pushing it gone 8pm, well past their bedtime.

BRITs25 - The Best Song Award: Rodney Williams - "Angels"
An award dedicated to the past 25 years of British music, with the obvious intent in avoiding the cliche of Bohemian Rhapsody or Imagine when it comes to asking the public what their favourite song is. And the British public need taking out with a crossbow, for choosing this overrated dirge as the best thing from two and a half decades of music! It was up against Joy Division's ':Love Will Tear Us Apart' and Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights'! Where's your taste, UK? This slushy ballad has as much genuine sentiment as an Asda 8p Valentine's card. One that's fallen from the shelf, too. With several footprints on it. Handed to your loved one in November. Christ, it's not even Rodney's best song! (Not that picking his best song would be a pleasant task - it's like having a beauty contest on a leper colony.)

British Single: Will Young "Your Game"
Will has fought hard for his success in the charts, scraping his way to the top by only having the support of a prime-time television series and a multi-millionaire record chief.

At the first awards, things were very interesting. The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was awarded best British Album, and the Fab Four themselves (John, George, Ringo and the other one) won best British Group. Only one problem, this was the year 1977, a full decade after the album was released, and quite a while after the Beatles had split up. Fitting in with this glorious inconstistency was Queen winning best British single for their 1975 hit Bohemian Rhapsody.

The final item I must note from that very first awards ceremony, is that Richard Burton won something for best "non-musical record". I'm surprised they haven't brought this back for this year. James Blunt gets my vote for that.

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