Well this year’s ceremony is only going to be remembered for Madonna falling over at the end isn’t it? But as for the rest of it?
The hosts this year were ITV stalwarts Ant and Dec. They are about the safest choice you could think of, but they still didn’t do very well. They were mostly unfunny.
They were cracking stale jokes about Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards (which happened in 2009!) , and doing sketches where they “accidentally” ended up on opposite ends of the runway, and pretending they were picking the people who would present the awards randomly via a bingo machine. It all fell flat, and came across as obvious filler material.
For some reason, the evening began with a filmed sketch of Ant and Dec in a kitchen with chefs, which led to a weird opening stage dance featuring dancing waiters, women dressed in feathery costumes, some spraying champagne bottles or getting covered in sauce and ended with Ant and Dec’s heads under cloches. I’m really not sure why anyone thought that was necessary, except perhaps thinking they needed a more interesting opening act, because Taylor Swift’s performance of ‘Blank Space’ was incredibly underwhelming and tepid for a show opener. She won the International Female Solo Artist award, and nearly everyone who came on stage to receive or present an award said they were her best friend. She really is “the most popular girl in school” who everyone wants to be in the inner circle of at the moment. Maybe Katy Perry was onto something when she tweeted about Taylor Swift being a Regina George type.
The British Male Solo Artist award was always going to be a two horse race between Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Ed Sheeran won, and took home the MasterCard British Album of the Year award too. I’m not sure if Sam Smith was bothered about losing out to those awards (after all, he has just won loads of Grammys), but if he were he could console himself with winning the British Breakthrough award and the BRITS Global Success Award/Special Award for Being
One Direction Sam Smith.
If we were just going by their performances on the night, then Ed Sheeran deserved to win. Sam Smith has a great voice, but the song ‘Lay Me Down’ was dull and his performance of it was uptight. Ed Sheeran might not be as vocally gifted, but his performance of ‘Bloodstream’ was one of the best of the night. It had a rawness to it, and he seemed to be really in the zone when performing it, playing his guitar, and towards the end he used it as a drum.
It was good that most of the acceptance speeches were short. The exception was the British Female Solo Artist award winner Paloma Faith, but she actually came across quite endearing. She gave a long, tearful speech with a seemingly endless list of thank yous, which she didn’t get to the end of, and finished it off after her performance later in the evening. And yes, you will notice that this year continues the usual pattern of acts who perform at the ceremony winning the awards. Speaking of award show trends, there’s often a moment where the camera catches a nominee looking sulky after just learning someone else has won. This time it was Ella Henderson after Paloma Faith won.
Paloma Faith’s performance of ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ was fine, though I mainly remember it for her hands being covered in black paint and glitter, and the torrential downpour on the stage from the rain machine.
My favourite performance was by British Group winners Royal Blood, who’s laser filled rendition of ‘Figure It Out’ was fantastic, and it was a refreshing change of pace to get a rock band performance during this years ceremony.
A couple of winners didn’t turn up and sent prerecorded acceptance messages. Those were Pharrell Williams for International Male Solo Artist, and Foo Fighters for International Group. Now it was a night where most of the award presenters didn’t do a good job of what looks like a straightforward task. Pop stars like Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Mark Ronson came across as awkward when they had to present awards, Kim Kardashian failed to take a selfie with Ant and Dec, and Jimmy Carr died on his arse after making terrible jokes (again). But oddly enough the two which had to present an award to a prerecorded message were probably the best. Cara Delevigne was at least amusing when she said she wanted to be the meat in an Ant and Dec sandwich, and asked for a drum roll before she announced the International Male Solo Artist award. John Bishop while presenting the International Group award noted that neither the winner nor the fact that they hadn’t turned up was a surprise.
The British Video award was decided by social media votes, so as always the boyband fangirls were out in force, and it went to One Direction. They didn’t turn up either, but instead of a prerecorded acceptance message, Simon Cowell accepted it on their behalf, which is kind of like cutting out the middle man. I guess one thing we’re always going to find more efficient ways to do is how to pump more air into Simon Cowell’s already overinflated ego.
Mark Ronson won the British Single award for ‘Uptown Funk’. It doesn’t feel like it’s been around long enough to be called a single of last year, but that’s a problem with late December/early January hits, as like Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ it would be thought to be ages old by the time it got to the end of the year it was a big hit, so what can you do?
Other performances included Take That, playing instruments surprisingly, although the track itself ‘Let In The Sun’ wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. One of the few funny observations the hosts made was when Ant quipped “Someone’s been listening to Coldplay” after Take That’s performance. Then there was a nice acoustic performance of a nice song ‘Budapest’ by a nice lad George Ezra.
There were two very controversial performances. One was by Kanye West, who was a last minute booking and performed ‘All Day’ on a stage which included flamethrowers. The reason this performance was notable however was because people watching at home couldn’t hear a great deal of it as parts of the audio were muted by ITV, who were perhaps worried about it being too explicit. It did look like an example of the BRITS not thinking things through.
Finally, there was the major event of the ceremony.
Madonna performing at the BRITs for the first time in 20 years was always going to be a big deal, that’s likely why they had her closing the show, the X Factor “pimp slot” if you like. But it ended up becoming an instant internet meme and tabloid front page news. Madonna entered to perform her new single ‘Living For Love’ dressed a bit like a matador and wearing a long black cape surrounded by shirtless guys with masks and bull horns. It looks like the idea was for her to go to the top of some stairs, untie her cape and for the dancers to pull it away. But apparently, her cape was tied too tight, so she couldn’t undo it in time and she ended up being pulled down the stairs backwards.
There were many, many, many jokes made about it (about old ladies falling, stairlifts, injury compensation claims, dancers getting fired etc). While on one level, Madonna falling down some stairs was funny, in the sense that the most basic joke in the world is someone slipping on a banana skin and the clips that seem to be the most popular on You’ve Been Framed are of grannies tripping over and the like. But on another level, the accident looked like a very nasty fall, and it must have hurt a lot. But all credit to Madonna, she got back up, carried on, gave a great performance, which ended with her triumphantly holding a pair of bull horns in the air.
This year had more of what we’ve come to expect from the BRITs really. Mostly bland, the hosts doing a mediocre job, the winners being predictable, some decent performances and it all being upstaged by a mess-up at the very end. I actually think this year was better than most, but I suppose the bar is set low. I personally think alt-J should have won the album award for This Is All Yours, but I didn’t mind most of the winners. I do reckon that Madonna’s fall is going to be one of the most all-time remembered moments of the BRITs.