This year really should have been all about One Direction’s hair. It should have been a camera-trained tribute to the five gleaming superstar pompadours sitting on their polished heads like official pop-star halos. They should have opened the show, should have exploded from beneath the stage in a humid stew of hormones, hair and teeth like every parent’s HD nightmare. They conquered the planet didn’t they? They’ve only the universe left to discover and grind into submission… oh wait, apparently that’s still Muse’s job, to ward off the obvious threat of an oncoming apocalypse Captain Paranoia and the other two opened the show in their usual understated style, sliding round the stage still making guitar sounds with their lizard mouths like they were ten years ago, filling the stage with their brand of bluster and bollocks like the Darkness on downers.
The theme for this year’s Brits was apparent right from the off, the death of Pop, the return of ‘worthiness’ and its capable side-kick, the guitar band. As soon as Dave Grohl chirped ‘Long live Rock n’ Roll!’ the game was truly over. Giddy thrills had left the building. Gone was Olly Murs and his Ally Campbell impression, gone was Rihanna pulling out an effortless show stopper, like she was pulling out an errant bogey. Even permanent irritant Jessie J was missing, presumed punished for her part in making the U.K version of The Voice even worse. In their place was the bland safety net of Robbie Williams, good old Robbie, the vaudeville puppet now more obliging than ever. Good old Robbie looking like a thoroughly knackered uncle, wandering round the stage like he was trying to find the remote to end all this before it had even begun, this cacophony of tubas and trumpets marching us all into a certain hell, a bearded, boring, Tower of Babel built by Mumford and Sons under the watchful eyes of Coldplay.
Ah those Mumford boys, it had barely hit 8.09 before Mr. Tayto Corden had revved up his inexplicably tiny mouth to dribble out how ‘melodious’ they were and how much he weally, weally loved them, murdering the chance of anything remotely interesting or dangerous happening stone dead. From that moment onwards it became a triumphant, shiny-faced, thoroughly middle-class bean-feast. The Downton Abbey of award shows where Marcus Mumford gleamed like a Christmas ham in a Noel Coward play, the two unidentifiable ones from Coldplay accepted an award for best live –jolly-good-show, Emelie Sande politely coughed through her millionth acceptance speech least to offend anyone and a man who looked like he’d just walked off the set of a BBC sitcom won two awards. Ben Howard (he of the forgettable face) is this year’s Ed Sheeran, the invisible troubadour who is all about the music, the soul, the passion, the teeth grinding nothingness. Watching his utterly dour performance replete with a pretentious cello player and superfluous dandelion projections it made one weep for the sweat from one of Beyonce’s glistening thighs, anything to resuscitate this clammy corpse.
When some razzmatazz did arrive it dipped and weaved like a soggy Halloween banger. Firstly there was the return of Justin Timberlake, a man who touched Kylie’s bum at the Brits in 2003 in a ticker-tape explosion of sexy, silly pop; surely he would rise to the occasion? Alas, this was the night Justin (who now looks like a sinister pinch-faced perv) decided to sing something that even Bieber would have turned up his perfectly shaped nose at. ‘Mirrors’ is a forgettable, slushy affair that could have been a bonus track on a ‘New Jack Swing’ compilation. It would seem that his sexy is back…way back somewhere, stuck down the side of the pop-couch with Gaga’s original hip.
Add to this the troublesome Taylor Swift who is 23 years old but still can’t get over the fact that a boy may not like her. Perhaps if she stopped immediately buying houses near theirs or didn’t perform at award shows slagging their accents or wearing a kind of wedding dress and giving them the stink-eye she’d be more successful in her man-trapping. Girlfriend needs a hobby or a vibrator.
Thankfully her floppy-haired lothario and his friends attempted to rise to the challenge by doing a very similar performance to their video game –style exuberance-fest on last year’s X-Factor. This time however they did even more running around on a pin-ball machine mashing up Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’ and ‘Teenage Kicks’, naughty One Direction making Peel-purists and Jake Bugg cry. Sadly they were like a taste of sherbet fizz on the tongue; they sizzled and quickly disappeared just in time for the kids to be put to bed and the grown-ups to savour their Mumfords over some wine. Even the two most interesting winners, Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean were reduced to fluffy speeches and herded off stage to make room for more insipidness. There was no performance from either of them, no heart-stopping televisual moment to burst the show out of its dull chamber.
As it all came to a weary halt, after the Mumfords had finished their duelling banjos, bellow-fest, after they had carefully packed Emelie Sande away in her ‘Acceptable Face of Pop’ box and Corden had grown tired of saying ‘worthy’ it felt like the end of music’s Blue Peter, where stars are cut out carefully with paper scissors by a grown up, where everything is soft and sweet and kind and beige. It was hard to imagine the same stage being populated by the solid-gold thrills of the Bee-Gees closing set, the sharp wonder of the Pet Shop Boys tumbling through their directory of hits, Brett Anderson bashing his bum with a microphone lead, PJ and Bjork shrivelling up the coke-out brains in the audience with their version of ‘Satisfaction’ . It was hard to imagine anything before the Tower of bland Babel, the tower that with any luck will come smashing and tumbling down this time next year.