On February 20th the biggest celebrities in British Pop Music turned out at Earl’s Court in London for the 21st Brit Awards Show. They came to celebrate the past year’s chart successes, and to drink as much as possible.
Pop music has long had a strong hold on British airwaves. But the national obsession seems to have reached new heights this year with the success of star making series like Popstars (the winners’ first single set a new record for first week sales) and the even bigger Pop Idol (8.5 million votes were counted to pick the winner on the last night). It is fitting then, that ITV, the terrestrial broadcaster of the two talent contests and this year’s Brit Awards, would pull out all the stops in promoting the UK’s biggest night of music.
For weeks ITV viewers were warned: The Brits are Coming! Three weeks of specials featured performances from Brit nominees and loads of celebs remembering Brits past. It seems so many of today’s stars grew up watching the awards and dreaming of being there. The Brits are known not only for the best in pop music but the worst in awards shows disasters like the year Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of Pulp, streaked across the stage during Michael Jackson’s performance of “Earth Song”. And then there was the year someone put the disastrous team of Samantha Fox (very small with big breasts) and Mick Fleetwood (very tall with big hat) together to host. It seemed neither of them could read the teleprompter nor did they seem to know that they were live and not just rehearsing! For many of those interviewed by ITV that was the year the Brits became a not-to-be-missed event!
The Brit Awards are a perfect cross between the seriousness of the Grammys and the fun of the MTV Music Video Awards. It is easily the biggest and the best party of the year and everyone wants to be there. In addition to The Brits Are Coming!, talk of the big night could be heard all over BBC’s Radio 1 and on music programmes like CD:UK. A few lucky contest winners would see the show live. The rest of the public could read the gossip in the next day’s tabloids then witness the edited down spectacular that night.
The UK recording industry’s favorite night consisted of dinner and drinks with record execs and their artists. The presentation of awards and first class performances followed. This year’s on stage banter was provided by talk show host Frank Skinner and Mrs. Fatboy Slim, Zoë Ball. Anything falling flat that night was easily punched up with rent-an-audience sound filler for television broadcast. The stellar performances, however, played well both on the night and on the TV.
Opening the show in jaw dropping animation were the Gorillaz. Seeing a computer generated performance “live” does not sound like a promising prospect, however, the 3D animation displayed on huge screens, along with live MCs rapping and the fantastic house sound, brought the Gorillaz to life in a way even their fans may not have expected. Kylie was next to appear. She arrived strapped to a giant CD, towering over her dancers and giving everyone a great view of her perfect bottom. The TV cameras made sure they got a shot of her famous cheeks so even the man in the back and the viewers at home could see what colour pants she was wearing. She freshened her almost tired hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” with a remix featuring snippets of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. She proved to the audience she deserved any awards coming her way. Other highlights from the show included Mis-Teeq, UK’s foremost garage girl group who had only release their first single at the time of the Brits last year. As new as they are their live performance rivalled anything Destiny’s Child has done lately.
A Brits tradition of a duet between two favoured stars was carried on this year with Jay-K and his band Jamiroquai performing disco classic “Bad Girls” with Anastacia. How nice to see a performance that is purely for pleasure—their’s and ours—and is not about showcasing a predicted winner—Grammys take note!
Shaggy entertained and So Solid Crew perpetuated the Gansta image rapping around an Audi TT waving bottles of Cristal. The Strokes looked scared, but rock the house and Sting, not to be out done by Kylie, took his shirt off to the embarrassment of his wife and daughter.
In the Brits Backstage special, aired a few days following, red carpet comments from nominees and other celebs revealed the excitement they had all felt for being invited to the big show they grew up watching. Thirty member-plus hip-hop group So Solid Crew, were toasting their two nominations for Best British Newcomer and Best Video for “21 Seconds” before they had even got in the building. Girl group Mis-Teeq, nervous about their live performance, were none the less enjoying the fact that they had come so far in a year. Sting, honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award, confessed he did not remember the first time he was there to collect the same award with the Police. And, in true Irish boy style, Bryan McFadden of Westlife, toasted their Best Pop Act award so enthusiastically that he had to “sleep it off” while the rest of his band did press.
Two things make the Brits special; the first being how the winners are chosen. With a system that helps to prevent elitism, nominations and winners are chosen in a variety of ways. The nominees for most categories are chosen by The Academy, which is comprised of representatives from all aspects of the British music industry. The Brits make sure to honour their own by keeping the majority of the awards strictly for British Artists. The others are international awards allowing UK favourites like Kylie Minogue and The Strokes honours.
The Academy chooses the ten nominations for British Newcomer, but Radio One listeners vote for the winner.
For Best British Single, artists with the top ten selling singles of the past year are nominated and the winner is chosen by Independent Commercial Radio (as opposed to BBC radio) listeners.
Best British Video nominees come from the Academy, but the winner is elected by the readers of Smash Hits magazine.
The nominees for Best Pop Act, the only award which contains both British and International artists competing, are again determined by sales but the winner is voted for by CD:UK viewers, The Sun Bizarre column readers and by British Telecom Cellnet text messaging.
Having the public involved allows for an element of surprise for artists and gives fans a chance to feel apart of an industry they so voraciously support. The Brits are broadcast live on Radio 1, but are not seen on television until the next night. Despite the winners and the gossip from the night appearing in all the papers, viewers still tune in to see the performances and to catch a glimpse of Kylie’s bottom or Sting’s chest for themselves.
The second interesting fact about the Brits is that is a charity event. The profits from the show go into the Brit Trust, which works to encourage the pursuit of cultural, therapeutic and educational benefits of music amongst young people. There is a Brit School providing opportunities for student to explore different facets of music, performance and production. And last year the Brits raised one million pounds most of which was given to Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre and the rest to other music related charities.
The Brits also care about the environment. For the second year the Brit Awards was “Carbon Neutral”. An environmental organization that goes by the same name works with the music industry to raise awareness of global warming. This group estimates how much carbon dioxide is generated during the production of the show and by the viewers watching the next night’s broadcast. The Brits organization then plants native trees with Future Forests to counterbalance the CO-2.
The first Brit Awards was held in 1977 to honor the best in popular music for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Here we are in the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the Brits are more important than ever. Keeping the night fun, honoring the word popular in pop music by not forgetting the fans and putting the money to good use. I think we can all drink to that!
British Male solo artist: Robbie Williams
British Female solo artist: Dido
British Group: Travis
Mastercard British Album: Dido “No Angel”
British Newcomer: Blue
British Single: S Club 7 “Don’t Stop Movin’”
British Video: So Solid Crew “21 Seconds”
British Dance Act: Basement Jaxx
International Male solo artist: Shaggy
International Female solo artist: Kylie Minogue
International Group: Destiny’s Child
International Album: Kylie Minogue “Fever”
International Newcomer: The Strokes
Pop Act (mixed categories British and international): Blue, Hear’ Say, Kylie Minogue, S Club 7, Westlife