US music titans boycott Mobo awards in Glasgow

The awards ceremony, normally held in London, has moved 400 miles north – and is proving to be less of a draw than before
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The Independent Culture

The Mobo awards have gone too far this time. Literally. While in previous years the London-based gala awards have attracted world-spanning, platinum-disc-gathering artists from around the world. This year, they're not coming. And many suspect it's because the organisers have moved this Wednesday's ceremony out of London, for the first time, to Glasgow in Scotland.

The 14th Mobo awards, which celebrate artists of any race or nationality who perform black music, features many groups and individuals who have been part of reality TV shows such as The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. Reality TV performers such as JLS, Shaheen Jafargholi and Flawless have all been nominated. But even though US music titans including Jay-Z, Eminem, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga are all up for awards, they will not be attending or performing.

It was a very different story four years ago. At the 2005 Mobo awards when some of America's biggest stars turned up to perform, Grammy award winner John Legend, Public Enemy and Lauryn Hill made the ceremony one of the biggest nights since the Mobo awards began in 1996.

Kanye West appeared together with Shaggy in 2007. And last year, in a tribute to Motown, Mary Wilson of The Supremes collected a lifetime achievement award and Legend returned to perform with rapper Flo Rider.

But this year, the pickings are much slimmer. Perhaps the only notable US import will be Jermaine Jackson, who will perform a version of the song "Smile" which his brother Michael Jackson recorded for his 1995 double HIStory album. It will be one of many performances paying tribute to the star who died in June.

Paul McKenzie, former Mobo panellist and former editor of Touch magazine, said yesterday: "The real problem is getting the stars to go to Glasgow. I can understand why the Mobos went to Glasgow – because they were having problems getting the council to foot the bill for security. But it simply doesn't work. Glasgow just isn't sexy and it's a very white city. Even Leeds, Cardiff or Birmingham would have made more sense. It's not a big draw for US artists. They've really struggled to get the big stars. Ask any American artist where Scotland is and they'd probably struggle."

But organisers at the Mobo awards claimed that this year's line-up is a sign that British talent is showing that it can be as successful as their US counterparts. A spokeswoman said: "The main thing that is coming out of these awards is the real strength of the British scene at the moment. Actually, we don't need the international artists any more because the scene is strong enough. We've got all these artists selling number one records at the moment and they're British.

"It's a great sign of where we've come in that time and how it affects the music industry. Some of the British artists are actually adopting the American model now as they're becoming brands in their own right as well as artists."

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