Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Kasabian, Dizzee Rascal - A BRIT of a nightmare

Nathan O'Hagan 18/02/2010

It's been 30 long years since the Brit Awards was first launched, and a lot has changed in that time. The venue has switched many times, the ceremony has fluctuated between live TV broadcasts and pre-recorded highlights, the style of the show has changed from a somewhat stuffy affair (culminating in the infamous 1989 debacle during which an eight foot tall Mick Fleetwood and a Samantha Fox apparently incapable of completing even the most basic of sentences suffered perhaps the most lingering public demise since the days of public executions. But at least the audiences at public executions went home happy) to the slick, glossy ceremonies we see these days. Show hosts have changed too, from the old school Smashie and Nicey presenting style of Simon Bates, Noel Edmunds and even Michael bloody Aspel to the controversy-courting likes of Russell Brand. One thing that has been consistent in recent years though, is the nature of the nominees. Around the mid 90's, in was apparent to everyone that the Brit Awards has become totally irrelevant. The established British acts, most of whom have seen better days, were constantly clogging up most of the categories. The likes of Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sting ect, could all be pretty much guaranteed a nomination, sometimes even if they hadn't released an album that year. The result was, nobody under 30 really cared about the Brits. Then Brit Pop came along. Suddenly, the awards seemed to almost have some relevance. Acts like Blur, Oasis and Pulp received the bulk of the nominations.

Since then, the list of nominees each year have had a very similar feel, mainly made up of vaguely indie-ish guitar bands, with a few pop acts thrown in to show that the music industry voters are not elitist snobs, a couple of urban acts to show they are diverse, and whichever female solo singer was big that year, to show it wasn't just a boys club.

It seems to me, however, that there are two prevailing points of interest with this annual farce. Firstly, there's the gathered celebrities, be they nominees or assorted hangers on, and whatever undignified acts they get up to. Whether it be Brandon Block invading the stage and nearly coming to blows with Ronnie Wood, Chumbawamba throwing a bucket of iced water over John Prescott (yeah really anarchic, is there actually anyone out there who hasn't, at some point, pelted Prescott with some food or beverage item?) or Jarvis Cocker wafting his arse at Michael Jackson during an offensively self-aggrandising rendition of 'Earth Song'. Come to think of it, that might just be the best moment in Brits history. Secondly, there's the insufferable duets the organisers seem intent on inflicting on their audience every year. Remember KD Lang and Andy Bell? Sting and M People? PJ Harvey and Bjork? Queen and Five? No? Well, luckily I've managed to block most of these out too. Christ, it sounds like someone has literally thrown a bunch of names into a hat and picked out pairs completely at random. The list of duets throughout the history of the Brits reads more like a draw for the early stages of the FA Cup than a coming together of mutually beneficial artists.

So, what of this year's ceremony? Well, it was, in essence, exactly like every other year. It began with a “show stopping” (if only) performance, in this case by a wigged up Lily Allen, and from there on we got just what we would have expected. Kasabian won Best British Band, Lady Gaga wore a garish outfit and picked up more awards than anyone else, Peter Kay presented and confirmed my suspicion that he had woken up one morning several years ago and simply decided not to be funny anymore, and Jonathan Ross acted like an uncle gatecrashing a teenagers party and trying pitifully to appear “down” with them.

The first of the evenings duets was performed by Dizzee Rascal and Florence Welch, and it was pretty painful. Florence has already massacred “You Got the Love” on record, and set about doing likewise in front of an audience of millions. Dizzee did his best, but the look in his eyes told me he was just focussing on the increased record sales as a coping mechanism. Next was Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, neither of whom I am a fan of, but musically, their duet worked pretty well. It didn't feel too forced and, unlike Florence, at least Alicia can actually sing. Oh, and Cheryl Cole's appalling attempt at miming was just embarrassing for all concerned.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before Robbie Williams was dragged back from chasing UFO's in the Arizona desert and deposited on stage, sans beard, to perform with the same vainglorious smugness that has defined his career. He was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement award. The fact that a pop chancer like him can receive such an award pretty much sums up the Brits for me. No doubt Williams will be back next year in some capacity, and every year thereafter until he drops. And each year he will be joined by pretty much the same bands, it's just that the names and hairstyles will be slightly different.