Musical quality is always an irrelevance at the Brits: they're a restatement of the bleedin' obvious, reminding you what's big so you'll make them bigger. So last year's UK best-seller Our Version of Events has been named Best Album, and its maker Emeli Sandé Best Female; the biggest group, Mumford & Sons, are also the Best. Even the relatively anonymous Ben Howard, awarded Best Male and Breakthrough Act, isn't such a wild card. His debut Every Kingdom is already a hit.
The winners are at least accurate reflections of what people are buying. The dominance of the singer-songwriter-influenced Howard and the Mumfords might suggest the so-called folk revival continues, if that didn't stretch the term "folk" into gibberish. Island Records have used Howard's Devon surfer background to position him as a West Country Bon Iver, but this is music for second-home country living. Mumford & Sons are a competent rock band with banjos.
Emeli Sandé, meanwhile, a bleached-blonde, mixed-race young woman from rural Scotland, happily doesn't look like an identikit winner, but sings similarly to 2012 winner Adele. A female artist who murmurs and insinuates into your soul is rarely on the boardroom agenda.
What is most depressing about the Brits is how tightly they now dovetail with the Mercury Prize (begun as an alternative to them) and the BBC Sound of… poll. Just watch 2013 Brits Critics' Choice Tom Odell's traceless rise through these taste-shepherding portals in the coming months. As it shrinks, the music industry is becoming ever more adept at controlling what enters the mainstream. The moribund album charts, lacking inspiration and challenge, show how well they've succeeded.