Cosmic Slop #6: The BRITs, Madonna, Kanye & the big fall out from The O2 Arena
In a special bumper Cosmic Slop, Shaun Ponsonby mulls over the highs and lows of what is advertised as “the biggest night in British music“.
Originally published on Getintothis
The BRITS always as an air of desperation about it, dontcha think? It wants to seem like it is serious about rewarding great British artists, but at the same time it’s high profile primetime ITV timeslot means that it also has to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In this day and age, of course, that means Ant & Dec and Taylor Swift.
So, after an excruciating opening sketch right out of the Saturday Night Takeaway Goes To a Vegas Kitchen musical that used to only exist in my head, where Ant & Dec walk around a kitchen for no reason whatsoever and the Geordie duo’s heads were finally served on a plate (literally), they introduced the biggest selling artist in the world, Taylor Swift, who performed the aptly titled Blank Space. It was a rather odd choice to start, quite an underwhelming, mid-paced anti-opening. Also it started snowing. Why? It’s spring.
There was a lot of “whys” actually. Why were Ant & Dec announced with their full names? No-one knows their surnames. Hell, most people don’t know which ones which. They’re just Ant & Dec. I guarantee you that 85% of the country were saying “who? I thought Ant & Dec were hosting.”
In fairness to Anthony and Declan, they are at least more likeable than James Corden. Nobody in the world has ever confessed to liking James Corden, that is a 100% completely non-proven unfact, so it’s at least a marginal step up from that reign of terror.
As everybody knows, there are three components to any awards show; there’s the awards themselves, the performances and awkward segues to link them all together. So, let’s look at them all separately.
Not much to talk about here. Pretty much everyone you think would win in fact won. It was nice to see Royal Blood win over One Direction for Best British Group, but then they did have Jimmy Page presenting the award. I can’t quite imagine him allocating that duty if it was for 1D. Not because of musical or ideological differences, but because Page has a documented history of kidnapping young people from clubs and keeping them prisoner in his home.
Paloma Faith won Best British Female and gave a knowingly lengthy speech that went on for exactly 374 minutes. At one point the director seemed to get bored and started excessively switching camera angles. I started to wonder if the speed at which s/he did it was sending some kind of visual Morse Code to the nation. Then I realised I may be morphing into one of those creepy “illumanti” believers. And through all this going on in my mind, she continued to talk. At least she didn’t seem to be taking it for granted.
Best British Video was voted for during the show via Twitter in a pretty transparent attempt to get the show trending. I’m not quite sure why most of these videos can be viewed as the “Best Video”. From the clips they showed, all but one of them consisted of people walking or driving down the street. Unsurprisingly, because teeny boppers are the only people who care enough about awards to reach for their phones and hash tag a vote, 1D won that one. They weren’t there to collect, so Simon Cowell did so on their behalf. He smugly walked up to the podium like the king he isn’t. In any sane world, Simon Cowell at a music awards show would be booed, heckled and possibly have things thrown at him. But, no. Everyone politely applauded and nobody called him a prick. If Whitney Houston can be booed at the Soul Train Awards, Simon Cowell can be booed everywhere.
The awkward segues are the highlight of any awards show. It is always great to see people make jokes that fall flat on their genitals. Anthony and Declan had that in abundance tonight. They had this recurring gag about choosing who was going to present the next award via “BRIT Awards Bingo”. It didn’t get a reaction the first time, but they decided to do it again anyway, in case we just didn’t “get” their sophisticated brand of humour.
The stifled banter was predictably gut wrenching. Any time Fearne Cotton shows up, you know you’re going to be watching from between your fingers. Even the ones that should have worked didn’t, like Lewis Hamilton and Ellie Goulding. Hamilton made a crack about Goulding’s dress. She said “that’s a good one”, but the audience appeared to disagree. And Jimmy Carr’s routine was like watching several of those moments in Shooting Stars back to back, where Vic Reeves would tell a bad joke and the entire panel would look unmoved, as a cold wind blew a tumbleweed around the studio.
I’ve never quite understood the need for interviews either. This is something they’ve increased over the years and it serves no real purpose other than killing time. Though sometimes as the hosts make a spur of the moment decision to have a chin wag with someone who coincidentally has two free chairs next to them, you get an incredibly enlightening conversation, such as Ed Sheeran talking about working with Pharrell (“he asked me, and I didn’t think he was serious, but then we did.” TV gold there, folks), or when it looked Ant and/or Dec was about to strangle Cowell with a tie they’d brought along for him. Of course, a less diplomatic man that I might suggest that they only spoke to Cowell in the first place because of his humungous ITV contract, but that man is not I.
People always liken Sam Smith to a male Adele, probably because he makes similar music and isn’t a traditional pin-up pop star type. But, there is a key difference in that he doesn’t bring it like Adele does. I can’t call myself a fan of hers, but she is a soulful powerhouse on that stage. Smith, not so much. Or at least not yet. That was proven at the Grammys when Mary J. Blige outdid him on his own song, but he did do a little better tonight. He supposedly performed with an orchestra, but I have doubts that they had time to set up that entire orchestra in the time they had. Like most of the performers, he was…OK. But, just remember people, melancholy doesn’t necessary equal quality.
In fact, given the orchestra, it’s alarming that Royal Blood managed to make a much bigger sound than Smith with their performance of Figure It Out, despite the fact that there‘s only two of them. It was actually one of the few performances to bring some excitement to the damn thing, and it was a whole 40 minutes into the Zeusdamn show.
I surprised myself by quite enjoying Ed Sheeran’s performance of Bloodstream. He seems to have found a way to become less boring than he used to be. His use of pedal effects actually managed to make a helluva racket. Fair play. Although, does making a famously ginger performer play in front of predominantly red and orange lights count as racist?
Take That furthered their increasing attempts to be Coldplay (a comment Ant and/or Dec made mere seconds after I wrote that phrase in my notes) with something I couldn‘t be bothered finding out the title of. But, rest assured, it was pretty much the same as everything they’ve done since reuniting. This was their first performance as a trio after one of the ones that stands at the back and no-one really knows retired and Robbie Williams returned to his solo career after his brief return did its job and reinvigorated it as planned.
We really do have to stop encouraging Gary Barlow, though. Its not right that we should let him believe such an incredibly bland man could ever be a national treasure. It’s for our own good too. If you look at the recent history of the British economy, whenever Gary Barlow is successful, the economy suffers. Similarly, whenever he fails, the economy booms. I’m not saying that correlation is causation, I’m just saying we should leave nothing to chance.
Following the snow over Taylor Swift, the synthetic weather inside the O2 Arena decided to piss it down all over Paloma Faith, who actually pulled out an old-fashioned, stylish show stopper which – after all the ultra-modern production of the other performances – was a refreshing change of pace.
Then there was Kanye. A lot of jokes at his expense from Ant & Dec – probably deservedly. He seemed intent on creating a “Kanye moment” not with his antics, but with his own performance, which I support fully. He premiered new track All Day, which most people probably mistook for being called Audio Muted judging by the constant appearance of the phrase in the corner of the screen as the music disappeared. The press promised a large production for the number, which apparently means lots of people on stage bobbing like the Churchill dog whilst Ellen Ripley from Alien let’s her flamethrower off like there was a Face Hugger on the ceiling. But at least the minimal lighting and staging created the appropriate atmosphere. And actually added some fuckin’ danger to the proceedings.
All the muted audio for Kanye looked set to be the “famous moment” for this year. Which was disappointing. As the BRITS gets slicker, there seems to be less and less reason to watch. You know what doesn’t make good TV? Pampered celebrities successfully slapping each others backs for two and a half hours, peppered with bad jokes and Take That. You know why we still talk about Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox? Because it’s fucking fun to watch.
And then it happened.
I mean it happened.
The fallen Madonna.
The vine has been doing the rounds, but it doesn’t give the full picture. The build up to the moment is spectacular. All night, Ant & Dec were hyping Madonna’s “first BRITS appearance in 20 years”, something which they had obviously been ordered to say as a condition of her performance.
The thing about Madonna is, I find her delightful as a fun pop star, and while I think some of her more artistic efforts noble, at her core she is best when filling the dance floors and not producing pretentious rubbish like 2013’s 17-minute vanity art film secretprojectrevolution, which I watched in various states of agony. She entered the stage to audio from that film. She talked about artistic freedom and how she wants to start a revolution. It was somewhere between Beyonce directing feature length documentaries on herself and Michael Jackson floating his statue down the Thames in the realms of pure pomposity.
Then…after all this pretentious talk of the importance of revolution and artistic freedom…she was pulled on her arse down a flight of steps by a dancer who I can only assume will never work again. Perhaps in a visual metaphor for what happens when she does get arty.
Given that ITV now likely own the rights to that clip, I think its only fair for You’ve Been Framed to bung her £250.
However, the great self-imposed punch line to the whole debacle is, as the nation cried with laughter – now unable to take the performance seriously – she sang new single Living For Love, where the line “lift me up and watch me stumble” took on a whole new meaning. She recovered as best as she could. The fall proved that she was singing live, and it was a pretty full-on routine. She’s had a hard time being old, has Madge. Her image doesn’t naturally suit it. But things like this remind you that she is a fighter, bless her. If she can get over that Sex book, damnit, she can get over anything!
And yet, despite the abject hilarity, that wasn’t my highlight. It came pretty close, but you know what pipped it to the post? Mark Ronson name checked Morris Day & The Time in his Best British Single acceptance speech. YES!
And that was The BRITS 2015. I always like the end when they do a montage of the night, as if to say “wasn’t it wonderful? Remember when this happened 40 minutes ago? Oh, those were the minutes!” And yet they didn’t include Madonna’s fall? It was more fondly remembered than Ant & Dec’s heads on a plate. For shame, editors. For shame!