Well it wasn’t the finale expected. Up until a painful point in proceedings the most interesting thing to happen at the Brits 2015 was watching Kim Kardashian undulate to the stage and give top class selfie tips. It was a night where Ant and Dec nudged each other in the ribs, two Jimmy Tarbucks out on the tiles, overseeing the event as if MCing a wedding or the most turgid office Christmas party ever, awkwardly chatting to charisma-voids such as Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora but exuding their usual tea-time cosiness.
Those relatable everymen went on to introduce winners Royal Blood like they were a forgotten health insurance policy before taking refuge in talking to the people’s friend, patented ‘nice guy’ pencil-topper Ed Sheeran. Everyone was a nice guy. Everyone was friends. Taylor Swift, pop’s own My Little Pony squeaked about her friend Ed, Ellie Goulding and Karlie Kloss simpered about their friend Taylor. This bland, circle-jerk of nothingness had everyone pining for the days when a Spice Girl offered Liam Gallagher out for a scrap or when Sarah from Girls Aloud was too drunk to speak, accepting their award in a thick half-slur.
The show had a slick boredom about it befitting its credit card sponsorship. The Brits always will be a glorified industry piss up, a place where acts give hand wringing speeches last heard in 1987 where record execs are actually thanked in earnest. It’s a place for the populace, the folk who voted ‘grafter’ Sam Bailey as their X Factor winner, a place where the brightest British popstar Charli XCX was not even acknowledged; instead she was resigned to presenting an award rather than opening the show with any of her world dominating hits.
Eyes misted over with performances from professional sad-sack Sam Smith who rocked back and forth in his ill-fitting Top Man suit having a moan about being single, the shadow cast by Adele and Amy growing longer and further away. Multi-award winner Ed Sheeran looped himself into oblivion in an attempt to be interesting in a sea of lonely fuckers mewling into the darkness brandishing their acoustic guitars. Even the once poptastic, cod-piece flashing Take That were reduced to a confused Coldplay tribute band, weekend dads dressed in jumble sale clothes or, in Mark Owen’s case, auditioning for Waiting for Godot -The Musical. Kanye West diligently attempted to inject something into the deflated serious-fest with his flame-throwers and stage crammed with a posse so motley it haunted a terrified Lionel Richie agape in the crowd. Alas the old establishment fearing complaints about the ruckus muted the audio leaving Kanye sputtering and the audience at home over-hearing imbecilic coked-up industry chatter. The night was supposed to end with a bang and it sure did, but just not in the way anyone was predicting.
The triumphant return of Queen Madge to the Brit Award stage after 20 years was supposed to ignite the party. It was meant to do showcase what Madonna does best, to exhibit pop as a unifying force that suffocates the uniform, supposedly soulful blandness with the Technicolor of its choruses and the dizzy heights of its hooks. It couldn’t have gone any worse than if she’d arrived on stage using Ed Sheeran as a mop after Paloma Faith’s rain drenched performance. Dragged down the stairs by the throat like an unruly stage invader due to her faffy Armani cape (perhaps it’s time for immediate retirement Giorgio), it was the crash and wallop heard round the world. At once a thousand GIFs were born.
Undignified yes, unmitigated disaster – perhaps not, as she scrambled back to her feet wryly grinning at the irony of spouting lyrics like ‘watched me stumble’ and ‘lift me up’ as the Detroit house clang of single ‘Living for Love’ morphed into something else, something true, a glimpse behind the curtain. After months of Brand Madonna attempting to cultivate the cool-thing ahead of the release of Rebel Heart, from premiering her video on Snapchat, the Grindr takeover to the endless badly written Instagram updates, this one uncontrollable accident oddly enough could be the boost Madonna desperately needs. If this phase has reinforced anything about Madonna it is her unyielding strength, after the album itself was demolished through leaks she, the master control freak, had to let go of the reigns and ride through the wild-west of the net. And now there’s this face-palm moment of pure embarrassment.
This was Madonna the perfectionist at her most vulnerable, dusting herself off and carrying on, indefatigable, undefeated, as she held those bull horns aloft like a triumphant matador she had made it through. The show went on through Kim and Kanye’s self-obsessed obliviousness, through Taylor Swift’s shocked whispering to bum-chum Karlie Kloss, through the Twitter meltdown, through hundreds of real time hilarious ‘old people falling over’ jokes. This was Madonna dancing through the pain like the solid-gold trooper she is. Even if the unfortunate dancer who yanked her off the stage is found flayed in a dumpster somewhere and the war on capes begins in earnest, this was a moment where her patented frostiness thawed and non-Madge fans perhaps thought differently about the Queen of Pop.
The Brits may have been on the cusp of irrelevancy but the unpredictability and pageantry of pop may have just saved it from retirement, it bestowed the gift that just a guy and his guitar could never give – good gossip.