The Week In Arts: These over-dedicated followers of fashion - Life and Style - The Independent

The Week In Arts: These over-dedicated followers of fashion

It's tempting to devote this space to querying how the Devon teenager Joss Stone won the urban music award at the Brits last Wednesday. But deconstructing the state of urban music on the mean streets of Paignton might cause the brain to implode.

Besides, there's a Brit award - not as outlandishly surreal as Miss Stone's triumph admittedly - which is more interesting to explore. It is the Outstanding Contribution to Music award, the climax of the evening. This year's winner was Bob Geldof; he, like Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Van Morrison and others before him, is clearly deserving of the accolade. Other past winners such as Duran Duran might divide opinion more.

But I am more surprised by the names that have failed to be included over the awards' 25-year history. Ray Davies of The Kinks is one of the quintessential English songwriters of the past 100 years. Some would add that the crashing chords of the group's first hit "You Really Got Me" invented heavy metal. Have The Kinks really made less of a contribution to British music than Duran Duran or other past winners such as Fleetwood Mac or Tom Jones?

If this award was genuinely for influence on British music, then the distinctly non-household name Richard Thompson ought to be on the stage. A massive figure in British folk rock, a historian on disc of British popular music and a hero to two generations of musicians, he would never in a million years be considered for the award.

The reason is that he isn't prime-time telly. This important sounding award is not really for outstanding contribution to British music at all. It is for outstanding contribution to British music by someone who'll go down well on ITV. That factor, I know, is always taken into consideration. And that rules out many of the more deserving candidates - though why the Brits committee and ITV think The Kinks wouldn't have viewers singing along is beyond me.

Outstanding contribution, lifetime achievement, call it what you will - such awards have got to start acknowledging genuine contribution and achievement, and not simply take into account current fashion. Mark Knopfler has not been in fashion for some time, and few people put their Dire Straits albums on display when company is expected. But they were massive sellers and won huge critical acclaim in their time.

It has to be wrong that fashion and the whims of television entertainment executives decide who has been important in British music. Let's see Ray Davies and The Kinks up there next year, and a disregard for the dictates of prime time.

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