Thursday, January 17, 2008

The 2008 Brit Awards: Just Another in a Long Line of Disappointments

There's absolutely no reason why I should ever even entertain the thought that awards shows of any kind could have any use whatsoever. Especially music awards shows. I know they're all corporate brothels of mediocrity and drivel. I have effectively avoided most of them for several years now - I don't even take note of who gets nominated or who wins or who performs. I think the last time I saw any portion of the Grammies was when it was a celebration of U2 (in all honesty, it could have been any year that U2 had an album out...or possibly any year at all because I'm fairly certain that they've won awards when they had no album out that particular year...or that they have collected awards over two years for the same album). Admittedly, the Brit Awards (the UK version of the Grammies) used to be a welcome relief from the bloated North American shows which featured more inane speeches than actual musical performance.

I know the Brits were definitely never the bastion of musical excellence either, but at least I used to see the odd band that I genuinely liked and the ratio of music to talking was the reverse of any North American slogfest of bland idiocy. There were also moments worth remembering (Jarvis Cocker waggling his backside during Michael Jackson's performance in 1996 ultimately leading to the inspired "Free Jarvis" campaign, the Manic Street Preachers performing A Design for Life and also winning two awards in 1997, Suede performing "Animal Nitrate" in 1993, the Placebo-David Bowie duet in 1997, even the fabulously fun and over-the-top Scissor Sisters performance complete with giant puppets from Jim Henson's Workshop in 2005). And last year, the Brits walked the fine line between credibility and vulgarity by choosing Russell Brand as host and it worked quite brilliantly. The Grammies show has such a very large stick up its arse it couldn't even conceive of someone like Russell Brand let alone understand his jokes. And the MTV awards are too steeped in their own crap to comprehend anything less subtle than a fisting. Or a kiss between pop tarts of then and now. I will concede that the Brits are also filled with thousands of missteps (allowing flavour-of-the-year acts to perform or giving a lifetime achievement award to Oasis), but they were also the only watchable award show for me. However, judging from this year's nominees and line-up of performances, I'm far more disappointed than usual.

British Male Solo nominees are: Jamie T, Mark Ronson, Mika, Newton Faulkner, and Richard Hawley. I tried to understand the Jamie T hype, but I still don't get it. Hailing from the home of The Wombles and tennis, he smacks of the whole I-produced-an-album-by-myself-in-my-bedroom-and-write-true-to-life-lyrics-like-Mike-Skinner hype. At any rate, his music doesn't make any particular impression on me - maybe because I don't live the life he sings about. Then again, I've never seen a vicar in a tutu either. Mark Ronson is King Hype right now and the hottest producer going since his production of Amy Winehouse and the release of his own album of covers in which he mainly works on production and arrangement. Both utilize that sleazy big band retro feel, and have pretty much solidified his signature sound. Whether this particular sound will remain cool and popular in the future and whether Ronson will adapt or not remains to be seen. Mika...touted as a Lebanese Freddie Mercury. Well, he is from Lebanon. Anyhow, it was practically impossible to avoid his helium-inflected "Grace Kelly" for the better (or more appropriately worse) part of last year - it was like a saccharine viral brain worm. My only consolation is the fact he will one day take his place alongside Lieutenant Pigeon, Jilted John, and The Mock Turtles. I don't know Newton Faulkner, but my assumption is that he's that extra indie credibility artist thrown into the list for good measure, but who has no chance at winning anything. And Richard Hawley - the one I would want to win, but who very likely will not. He has been in two of my favourite bands (Pulp and The Longpigs), and he is a legitimate solo artist. Which means he will not win.

British Female Solo nominees are: Bat for Lashes, Kate Nash, KT Tunstall, Leona Lewis, and PJ Harvey. Bat for Lashes (real name: Natasha Khan) and PJ Harvey appear to be the token legitimate artists on this list. I haven't even really heard much of PJ Harvey's latest album, but I'm sure it's miles better than that Mockney choking noise that Kate Nash produces. Even if PJ Harvey just stood there hitting a tambourine, it would be better than Kate Nash's ramblings and pathetic rhymes ("bitter" and "fitter" anyone?). I'm more than just a little annoyed with Kate Nash because I've had to endure her music longer than other people in North America, having heard "Foundations" countless times over in the UK this past spring (and I never again want to see another featurette telling me that she found out she could write music when she broke her leg). KT Tunstall...hey, wasn't she flavour-of-the-year a couple of years ago? What's she doing back on the list? No one cares. Even her fans stopped caring after her two singles. And considering I don't know who Leona Lewis is, I'm merely going to go with my gut and a visual rhetoric analysis of her photos and album cover and say she's merely MOR/adult easy listening, and thus not worthy.

British Group nominees are: Arctic Monkeys, Editors, Girls Aloud, Kaiser Chiefs, and Take That. Arctic Monkeys already won last year, and I still like their first album much more than their latest effort. Maybe that pub/clubbing lad poetry of the everyman zeitgeist thing just gets old after one album. Editors are in the same boat as the Arctic Monkeys as far as I'm concerned - I quite liked their first album (a more melodic and danceable Interpol), but their new material leaves me underwhelmed. Kaiser Chiefs...see Arctic Monkeys and Editors. What's odd is the one band that I think did just as well on their sophomore album as on their first album and fits into the same timeline as these bands is Bloc Party. For some reason, A Weekend in the City just didn't get the support it deserved. Compare "The Prayer" to "Ruby" and you'll see what I mean. Girls Aloud aren't really worth discussing. Take That, on the other hand, are the perfect example of nostalgia gone rabid and mad. What I want to know is who is supporting Take That - if they've gained new fans, these fans must be insipid or under 18 and into watching old men perform dance routines, and if their old fans are the balustrades, they are having a serious attack of regression, which must cause blindness and deafness. It seems everyone likes a warm and fuzzy comeback story. Just not real music fans.

British Album nominees are: Arctic Monkeys' Favourite Worst Nightmare, Leona Lewis's Spirit, Mark Ronson's Version, Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion, and Take That's Beautiful World. And so the repetitive nominee feature kicks in. Arctic Monkeys, Leona Lewis, Mark Ronson, Mika and Take That again. How wonderfully varied.

British Breakthrough Act nominees are: Bat for Lashes, Kate Nash, Klaxons, Leona Lewis, and Mika. Out of this nearly completely sorry group my only possible votes could go to Bat for Lashes and Klaxons. Considering the Klaxons already won the Mercury Prize, they probably won't win this one. And let's face it, if Bat for Lashes wins, it will only be because someone in the academy wanted to appear hip and credible. And I still don't know who Leona Lewis is. But I still instinctually despise her.

British Live Act nominees are: Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Klaxons, Muse, and Take That. All acts that have already been nominated except for Muse, who seem to be nominated in this category every single year. They also tend to win. Out of this bunch I actually wouldn't mind Muse winning again. Although I'm glad I got to see Muse play an intimate venue in Winnipeg rather than some space invaders extravaganza at Wembley. I got to see Arctic Monkeys live this year in Cardiff and for me, they didn't really sustain the excitement for the whole show. In fact, their finale was so anti-climactic I can't recall what it was. Kaiser Chiefs are getting old pretty fast for me. I don't think anything surpassed "I Predict a Riot" for me, and seeing them live probably wouldn't save them at this point in my opinion. I saw them on every other British festival show on the BBC this summer anyway (merely proving the Radio One conspiracy that strictly promotes a specific list of bands decided upon at the beginning of the year), and I was forced to use the red button. Take That - four sad men in their 30's attempting to dance (except for Gary Barlow who seems glued to his piano bench).

British Single nominees are: The Hoosiers' "Worried About Ray," James Blunt's "1973," Kaiser Chiefs' "Ruby," Kate Nash's "Foundations," Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," Mark Ronson's "Valerie," Mika's "Grace Kelly," Mutya Buena's "Real Girl," Sugababes "About You Now," and Take That's "Shine." Has nobody but me noticed that "Worried About Ray" sounds like a sped-up version of The Turtles' "Happy Together"? Oh, and James Blunt...pulling a KT Tunstall by being in this list. I didn't even know he had released another song recently (until I had the misfortune of hearing it in a Quiznos yesterday). A friend of mine said that James Blunt made cardboard seem spicy and I agree wholeheartedly. All I can hope is that one day James will replace berk in cockney rhyming slang. My heart skipped a beat when I mistook Sugababes for saying Sugarcubes - then I realized that would be ludicrous with Bjork being a successful solo artist for many years. Although not as ludicrous as the Sugababes actually being nominated. And wasn't Mutya Buena one in the long line of Sugababes casualties? All I can say is that "Real Girl" made me physically ill while I was in the UK last year. It's sad when the best song out of all these is one that isn't written or sung by the person nominated: "Valerie" featuring Amy Winehouse on vocals is of course a Zutons song, but it is better than the rest of the songs on this list. Take That's "Shine" is even looking pretty good. That cheeky little Mark Owen. How he pried vocals away from Gary Barlow's chubby hands, we'll never know.

The performance line-up makes me even more depressed than the nominations: Kaiser Chiefs, Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Mika, Kylie, and Mark Ronson. I'm certain the Kaiser Chiefs performed last year - is it even allowed to perform two years in a row? They didn't even let Robbie Williams do that. And I can't bear to hear that "Umbrella" song again - it makes me want to use the handle of an umbrella like an ancient Egyptian brain extractor and self-lobotomize through my nose. At this rate, the only performance I'll be okay with seeing is Kylie. The Outstanding Contribution Award will go to Sir Paul McCartney this year - they should just rename the award Old Overrated Git Award. And who is the host this year? The Osbournes. I thought the Osbournes were popular several years ago, but apparently this year has taken all the musical detritus from recent years and repackaged it, so it makes sense after all.

If I were in charge, which I'm not and never will be, I would have nominations for Patrick Wolf, Johnny Boy, Puressence, Siouxsie, Gruff Rhys, Bloc Party, The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and of course the Manics. And in the international category: LCD Soundsystem, Of Montreal, Bright Eyes, Justice, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Digitalism, and Interpol.

The only way Brits 2008 will be palatable for me is if during Macca's performance, Jarvis Cocker ran on stage and shook his bum. Other than that, nothing can save them now.

The Prayer - Bloc Party

Drop Down to Earth - Puressence

Joyriders - Pulp


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