For the fourth year running, Shaun Ponsonby watches the BRIT Awards so you don’t have to, and perhaps for the first time ever, doesn’t find it a total failure. 

Breath taking. Truly breath taking. There was a moment where the last decade of my life flashed before my eyes, as the lead vocalist decided to extend the song for longer than he should have.

Obviously this didn’t happen at the BRITS. It happened at the Manchester Ritz, where The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon was performing a solo set. That is where I was while the BRITS was live.

But I came home and watched the ceremony as live, with the intention of writing this shit ready for the next morning, when everybody could devour my idiocy disguised as intellectual mumblings. And by everybody, I mean everybody.  Who doesn’t want to hear my thoughts on this? I can guarantee you that Camilla Parker-Bowls was lying awake all night thinking “But Shaun usually has his BRITS beat down ready for about an hour after the show”.

So, you can claim you that don’t care what I have to say, but you’re the one reading this, not me. And I categorically won’t read your comments underneath. So, there.

Watching not live this year was odd. I kinda feel like the show would have been more effective if watched live. But for once I didn’t come away thinking “That was terrible”. So what did I think?

Well, the BRITS is easy to break down into three easily definable sections,  so I shall cover each section as such so that you can browse each one during various bathroom breaks.

Awkward segues

Jack Whitehall? JACK WHITEHALL?! JACK FUCKING WHITEHALL?!?!?!

That was my initial reaction to seeing this years’ host, angrily scouring at the screen, my mouth foaming with orange juice residue.

It wasn’t helped by the show’s opening; Whitehall, widely known as an alternative to an unnecessary enema, walked around backstage with an increasingly large coat in an apparent tribute to Talking Heads’ David Byrne, looking like the least likely person to be hosting a cool, music industry awards show whilst the show’s producers desperately tried to prove that they were all into grime now, yeah? I mean, OMG, dey so street, lid.

But actually, as the night wore on, I gradually warmed to Whitehall. He wasn’t afraid of taking pot shots and he was genuinely witty. Consider that the last few hosts have been Ant & Dec, Dermot O’Leary and my mortal enemy, James Corden – who is the TV equivalent of the loud mouth in the pub who thinks he is funny, but isn’t.

I found myself laughing quite genuinely at some of Whitehall’s lines; singing Del Boy Olly Murs tweeting about an evacuation after some pyrotechnics, inferring that Simon Cowell is akin to Kim Jung Un, Sam Smith being for people who think Adele isn’t miserable enough. I even got the feeling that he may have gone further had the producers allowed him to.

The stifled banter through the rest of the night, which I usually find the most entertaining part, was actually the most boring thing.  I haven’t been this disappointed since I realised that I have been doing sex wrong all these years.

There were some moments that tickled me. Ed Sheeran – or “Ed Sha-ran”, as Elton John pronounced it – clapped himself during his introduction which made him look like a small ginger baby who had just figured out the sound of his own name.

There were also the odd little bits in the crowd which seemed lesser than usual, but raised several questions in my mind.

For example, a brief chat with Liam Payne and Cheryl Whateverthefuckhersurnameisnow made me wonder out loud how they ever had a child together seeing as they possess the chemistry of a toilet bowl and that one tiny floater that won’t flush. And when Whitehall walked past Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, I questioned whether Schofield has ever killed a prostitute and whether Willoughby knows about it.

The only other notable moment was some guy called Luke Evans who I’ve never heard of.  But he is either a massive twat or he was drunk. Possibly both.

Awards

It is about time the BRITS came to terms with something; nobody cares about the actual awards.

The statues themselves look weird this year. Like big, empty red vases – or vasi, whatever the plural is. They didn’t look comfortable to hold.  There’s a reason so many awards are phallic shaped, guys. Though I admit this may have been a contentious design, post-Weinstein.

Dua Lipa made headlines this year. Not front page headlines obviously.  One of those small articles that appears at the side of the page. But she was nominated for five awards, the most ever for a female solo artist, which in the eyes of the BRITS makes her literally better than Kate Bush in every way.

She won two. The first was for Best British Female, and she treated us to a world exclusive by composing her next album on the spot during her speech; “My team, my band, my crew/Everyone that pulls it through”. Catchy. She also called for more women to win awards. I presume she didn’t mean for Best British Female specifically.

She returned to collect her award for British Breakthrough Act – although the real winner was fellow nominee Dave for his hilariously inept and un-SEO friendly stage name. In her second speech, she jumped the shark as many artists do on their second album. She brought two kids upstage who I think she said were relatives – or at least I hope they were – and told them that she wanted to show them that “Magic is real”. Which is a bit misleading, dontcha think, what with magic not being real and all. She might as well have gone up there and said that Harry Potter was a true story. Lies.  All lies, Dua Lipa.

I couldn’t help noticing how old the Best International Groups were. Arcade Fire? The Killers? LCD Soundsystem? The slow, painful death of rock continues. Foo Fighters won, of course, despite nobody giving an absolute frig about their most recent album. But if they didn’t win it would have been pretty pointless asking them to perform. This may explain why they got off almost immediately.

My favourite award is always Video of the Year due to it’s desperate if successful attempt to ensure the show trends on twitter by getting the acts with the most rabid fan bases to vote. In the past this always meant One Direction won, but this time there are no One Direction videos as they have split. So what to do? Why, pit the Directions against each other, of course!

Well, not all of the Directions. Louis Direction and Niall Direction were notably absent, which even led to a few jokes from Whitehall.  Of course, Harry Direction won, despite Liam Direction being the only one present.

I had actually tuned out by the time we reached Best British Group. Luckily Gorillaz being a shambles in their acceptance speech woke me out of my slumber. First there was a pre-recorded segment from fictional frontman 2-D. Then, confusingly, the actual touring members came on stage. Damon Albarn lived up to his previous reputation of rambling on and on and on. Then it cut to Whitehall, who started talking only to pull a confused expression as one of the members of Gorillaz carried on. Then another started. Then the producers told them where to stick it and cut back to Whitehall for good.

You know who doesn’t get enough tributes? Elton John’s favourite artist, Ed Sha-ran. 

Sha-ran received the Global Success Award, a prize which probably would have made far more sense in the yuppie 80s than it does today, and was probably a condition of his appearance.

John appeared with a brief video message before a montage about Sha-ran’s boring life and music, in which Sir Elt seemed to be slurring his words, presumably he was either drunk or doesn’t give a toss about Ed Sha-ran and couldn’t fake the enthusiasm. But then it’s hard for one upper class guy to have too much enthusiasm about giving an award to another, younger upper class guy.

The actual award was presented by Ronnie Wood, who sadly didn’t stage a repeat of his infamous fight with Brandon Block from the early naughties, but did continuously say “Thank you for having me back”, in a possible reference to it. They also used It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It) to introduce him – a song that Wood didn’t play on.

Finally, the big moment tonight was definitely Stormzy winning Album of the Year. They may have gone for the most obvious grime star – it is the BRITS after all – but it definitely felt like a change in the air. And we will be all the better for it.

Performances

Following his achingly underwhelming Superbowl performance – in which he didn’t even mime sexually assaulting a black woman and accidentally expose her breast to the world then leave her to take the blame, allowing her career to be blackballed like he did last time – Justin Timberlake made sure he disappointed tonight, with an opening less dynamic than me opening a packet of crisps.

His recent performances have proven that, contrary to what we’ve been fed, he ain’t no real deal and never was. If anything they reek of a desperation to be taken seriously as an artiste. He also introduced Chris Stapleton to the stage, perhaps unaware that Stapleton has a grand total of 12 fans in the UK and his introduction was met by a bemused national expression.

Rag N Bone Man won last years’ Critics Choice Award, so he had to perform tonight so he could prove the critics were right. He performed with this years’ recipient, Jorja Smith who outclassed him every step of the way. Looking at the two of them together, only one thought crossed my mind; it would be nice to see a Little and Large reunion at some point.  There were also some pretty lame pyrotechnics that looked like KISS in retirement. But at least he was wearing a Ren and Stimpy shirt.

I had an entire paragraph of vitriol aimed at Gary Barlow here. He showed up to introduce something and I was poised to let rip. And then he started talking about the Manchester Arena attack and…shit. I can’t slag that off.  He may be a bad Tory and single handedly responsible for all of the UK’s financial troubles, but in this situation I can’t exactly call him a bland rubber glove, can I?

He introduced Liam Gallagher, who performed Oasis’ Live Forever – I had heard Ariana Grande was due to perform but fell ill, so this might explain the laid back nature of the performance. Last time he was at the BRITS was the infamous occasion where Peter Kay suffixed his fleeting appearance by telling the audience “What a knobhead”. It was true then and it is true now. Extra knobhead points to Gallagher by the association of having both Olly Murs and Ed Sha-ran singing along to every word of your song.

Most of the rest was pretty nondescript; Dua Lipa dressed as if she was attending a hipster 80s themed gym, Ed Sha-ran did nothing to prove why he is asked back every fucking year, Foo Fighters played on top of  makeshift ski lodge for some reason, Sam Smith continued being the worst LGBT icon in the history of LGBT icons.

Rita Ora and Liam Direction was hyped all night, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you why. It isn’t exactly as if either of them were the biggest stars on the bill, is it? Liam isn’t even the most famous Direction.

I looked him up once. Apparently his identity in 1D was “The sensible one”. The fucking sensible one? Who wants that?! Is that the depths of boredom we have reached with pop in the 21st century? We’re hyping a performance from “The sensible one”? He’s the guy who parked his Rolls Royce safely in the garage while Keith Moon was parking his in the pool.

They performed a song from the new 50 Shades atrocity, which disappointingly didn’t end with them having a full-on BDSM session, complete with cumshot, which almost definitely would have been the only thing to make it interesting.

By far the best performances on the night, though, were Kendrick Lamar and Stormzy.

Not gonna lie, I was on tenterhooks with Kendrick. I am pretty sure anyone who has seen his performances will have been. What was he going to do?

Well, he was going to stand on top of the set of ITV’s The Cube as a man smashed up a car inside it and the cast of Bring It On performed a variation of the routine Sparky taught them. It was so much better than I am making out.

But the thing that got people talking was all the muted audio. Tell me, babez, what is the point of getting someone like Kendrick to perform if you’re going to make half of the song impossible to hear? Especially when you are nearly an hour past the watershed. I’m pretty sure we all would have survived, yo.

Stormzy closed the show with the most impassioned BRITS performance I have probably ever seen. It was politically, emotionally and…erm…I need a third one…energetically (it’s nearly 4am, I’m tired) charged. There is probably nothing I can say about it that somebody else hasn’t already put more eloquently somewhere else.

Sloppy Conclusion

This year was an odd one.

It is still way too long. You could lose half an hour and be happier for it. But there are signs of improvement. I did feel that the BRITS this year were more with the times than, say, NME is.

But it didn’t feel natural. Whitehall actually made a comment at one point about the BRITS being diverse, and I think that was the point it hit me; they’re trying reeealllllly hard to prove this.

But it has to start this way, right? It is a gradual process. So Stormzy’s win may have felt forced to begin with – no matter how deserved it might be – but you got to force something before it comes natural. And I am pretty confident that we all have our own toilet metaphor to use here.

So, congratulations, The Brits. You’re still kinda boring, but this isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen you.

At least someone enjoyed themselves…