It was a glamorous, glitzy affair. Duffy’s smoky soul songs triumphed. The crowd went crazy. The pair from Gavin and Stacey seemed an imaginative choice to host the event alongside Kylie Minogue. The Pet Shop Boys gave a superb performance. And there were welcome cameos from Estelle, the Ting Tings and Brandon Flowers of the Killers. Even Girls Aloud sounded almost as good as they looked. Almost.
The Brits this year were judged a great success. So why do I feel a little curmudgeonly about the whole shebang? As a member of the voting academy this year I will probably be run out of town, or certainly out of the academy, for voicing any discontent.
But discontent I did feel. I watched the jamboree on TV, and had to rub my eyes as the show finished and we were treated to a lengthy commercial for a soft drink featuring the star of the night, Duffy, pictured. Full marks to the soft drink company and the TV network, both working to a tight deadline, waiting to see that their star had swept the board (what a lousy ad it would have been if she had lost) and then running with it. But how utterly naff to see Britain’s newest female pop star, making money from touting the product of a multinational within seconds of the credits rolling. I like to think that Lily Allen wouldn’t have been so uncool.
Uncool too to see such obviously choreographed hysteria from the Brit School students crowded around the stage. Hysteria that was timed to erupt just as we returned from each commercial break. Of course, I know that in television, stage-managed applause goes with the territory. It’s just that one hoped that in an event showcasing rock and rock stars, some spontaneity would be allowed, even encouraged.
In fact, spontaneity was more absent from this year’s Brits than any year I can recall. It’s unthinkable that moments such as Jarvis Cocker mooning or John Prescott being drenched could occur at the highly regimented Brits of today.
James Corden and the slightly self-conscious Mat Horne’s routines were quite rightly rehearsed. They just shouldn’t have looked quite so rehearsed. Kylie gave them a lesson in “doing” effortlessly natural.
And what of the awards themselves? Who wouldn’t applaud the Pet Shop Boys winning the special achievement award? It’s a rare occasion that the award went to artists who really had made an outstanding contribution. Insiders tell me that what really decides this prestigious award is who will go down well with a prime-time ITV audience. That’s no way to decide on an outstanding contribution to British music. But it might explain why Ray Davies of the Kinks, one of the greatest British singer-songwriters ever, has, appallingly, not been given the award. It would certainly explain why someone such as the musician’s musician, Richard Thompson, influential over four decades, would never be considered.
As for why the array of awards doled out at the Brits does not include an urban music prize, thus ignoring masses of performers and swathes of the music-buying public, I’ve no idea. I do have an idea what a table at the Brits costs, around £7,000. There are people in the music industry, currently experiencing a wave of redundancies, who wonder if this is money well spent. I don’t begrudge the expense. Awards ceremonies, glamour and glitz are needed in a recession as much, if not more, as in the good times.
What is more depressing is the way that the biggest evening in the rock music calendar has become a self-regarding, made for TV occasion.
Make up your minds
One piece of “linguistic correctness” I can’t take to is describing actresses as actors. On the day after the Baftas, The Guardian had a headline on its front page: “Kate Winslet wins Best Actor.” But she didn’t. Mickey Rourke did. I can’t quite see how actresses can insist on being called actors but are more than happy to be actresses when it comes to awards.
This could all change tomorrow at the Oscars. Whoever out of Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Melissa Leo wins the best actress award could stride up to the stage and say: “I refuse to accept this award. I am an actor. I will not be demeaned by being categorised as an actress.” If that happens, I for one will henceforth always refer to actresses as actors. If it doesn’t, then I trust that those ladies, and all others in the future, will describe themselves as actresses. Otherwise it gets mighty confusing.
Save the workers from exploitation
Art-house cinemas are the place to see films about exploitation of workers in Third World countries, especially those who are paid starvation wages. It must be a little embarrassing then for one of Britain’s celebrated art-house cinemas to be accused by a famous film director of paying its own workers starvation wages.
The director Len Loach has attacked the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester for not following the city council’s example and paying their lowest paid staff an extra £1.01 on top of the minimum wage. The cinema’s management says that it can’t afford to pay more than £5.73 an hour to the lowest paid staff. And if it paid the average front-of-house worker £1 more, it would cost £38,000 a year.
Loach says: “Workers can’t survive on £6 an hour. I don’t think there’s any justification for paying starvation wages. If you hire people, you have to pay them the right money.”
Watch out for Exploitation in the Art House directed by Ken Loach.