So here we are again. The Brits 2011, an award ceremony still searching for an identity, still looking to strike the right balance between the chaotic and the creative. Following a number of years where it has flirted with the former without ever really going the whole way, this year saw the emphasis firmly on the latter. A new, proper live venue (the O2), the screaming pop fans notable by their absence and continual assertions that this “was all about the music” led to a pretty sombre affair. Host James Corden signalled the shift in mood with a performance that was a world away from both his disaster a couple of years ago and Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes spite fest, yet you still wonder why they don’t just go for an actual presenter.
Awards wise, it was a pretty credible affair. Arcade Fire picked up two international prizes and looked genuinely pleased, Take That took best band, Rihanna International female and Tinie Tempah romped home in the best single and best newcomer categories. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night came when Mumford & Sons got the best British album, a moment slightly soured by Corden rushing them off the stage.
Yet, it was that kind of night and the performance reflected that. After Take That’s brilliantly camp opener (riot police chic anyone?) we settled down to a lot of ‘real’ artists. Often it worked. Mumford & Sons played it very straight, as did Adele – who was unquestionably brilliant. Arcade Fire were the only rock band in full effect on the night and stepped up to the task with ease, even if they could have picked a better track than ‘Ready To Start’.
As Laura Marling mumbled her away through her best British female acceptance speech, it suddenly became clear that what the night was missing – some genuine pop star pizzazz. God forbid that we would ever say we missed Katy Perry but, well we missed Katy Perry. The only major star from her field who showed up was Rihanna, whose sexless, soulless performance was simply depressing.
Plan B at least gave it a go but his extravagant performance veered dangerously close to Belmarsh! – The Musical. Thank God, yet again, for Tinie Tempah. By now we know what a dab hand he is at the one shot performance but his turn was still stunning, and provided the only real unmissable moment of the night.
After that, it all kind of fizzled out. For a show that has prided itself on the big, one off collaborations this year saw nothing of that ilk. Instead we had to make do with Cee-Lo mugging his way through ‘Forget You’ with a hopeless Paloma Faith to bring the night to a close in place of the usual Lifetime / Not Very Good New Album Out performance. Suddenly we found ourselves yearning for the Bee Gees.
The reality is that these kind of shows are always going to fall short and, even in this new form, the Brits are still preferable to the horror that is the MTV Awards. You just wish it could all be a bit more, well, fun because isn’t that what being all about the music should be about?
British Male Solo Artist – Plan B
British Female Solo Artist – Laura Marling
British Breakthrough Act – Tinie Tempah
British Group – Take That
British Single – Tinie Tempah, ‘Pass Out’
Mastercard British Album Of The Year – Mumford & Sons, ‘Sigh No More’
International Male Solo Artist – Cee Lo Green
International Female Solo Artist – Rihanna
International Breakthrough Act – Justin Bieber
International Group – Arcade Fire
International Album – Arcade Fire, ‘The Suburbs’
Critics’ Choice – Jessie J