A splendid time was had by all, including me, at the Brits on Wednesday. It was the usual high-energy celebration of the best of British pop, via performances by Emeli Sandé and Muse, plus a bit of transatlantic action. And yet I felt, as most years, something missing.
This is best exemplified by the Lifetime Achievement Award. This year it wasn't given at all. Part of the reason was a fine one, that the 20th anniversary of the charity War Child deserved a special award instead. But another part of the reason is that the organisers believe they have pretty much run out of lifetime achievers. Last year they honoured Britpop, with the award going to Blur. In the same vein, perhaps Pulp might get it next year, as Oasis have already received the award. After that they could be stuck as it's a bit too soon to talk in terms of lifetime for the likes of Adele or Arctic Monkeys.
But, of course, they haven't really run out of lifers. There are those little known garage bands Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, who seem to have been somehow overlooked, as have, curiously, Roxy Music, even while the likes of The Beatles and Elton John have won it twice. How many lifetimes have they had? Then there's one of the greatest British songwriters ever, Ray Davies of The Kinks, likewise ignored, though singer Tom Jones of a similar vintage is among the lifetime achievers. The reason, I am quite sure, is that the winners (like all Brits winners) have to be ITV Prime-Time friendly. And, probably for this same reason, the Brits organisers would not in a million years choose someone like Richard Thompson who, from his early days with Fairport Convention and throughout his challenging and boundary-breaking solo career, has been a major force in British music.
No more would the organisers choose another folk hero Martin Carthy, despite his gong from the Queen, or massively influential bluesman John Mayall, electric folk masters Steeleye Span and their singer Maddy Prior or producer, synth pioneer and avant-garde curator Brian Eno, or Sixties giants Cream. Prime Time, any of them? I don't think so. Pioneers in British music, yes. There are many more.
As with the lifetime achievers, so with the awards themselves. They celebrate a part of the British music scene. But let's stop pretending that what we saw on Wednesday and what we see every year, for all the adulation, is the whole scene. There's a wealth of British music out there, a spectrum that the record companies that run the Brits and their ITV colleagues are nervous of exploring or rewarding. As a partial celebration of British music, Wednesday night was fun. But partial it certainly was.
You should pick up the Mantel, Kate
So how should the Duchess of Cambridge respond to Booker Prize-winner Hilary Mantel's speech? Ms Mantel, albeit in a rather misunderstood and misinterpreted speech, compared the Duchess to a "shop-window mannequin" and said she was "gloss varnished" with a "plastic smile". No Anne Boleyn, she. My advice to Kate is to show her breadth of interests by making a speech bemoaning the current state of literary awards and their unimaginative homogeneity, where Costas and Bookers, Critics Circle and even Specsavers Book of the Year, seem unable to find prize-worthy books in the literary world beyond one author. Naming no names, of course.
No, Jennifer, women didn't like your show either
Jennifer Saunders, who wrote the script for the much panned Spice Girls musical Viva Forever!, kept her silence after the show's opening last December, but has now broken it, saying the poor reviews were written by "five middle-aged men" who could hardly have been expected to enjoy the show. Ah, those middle-aged men – it's so easy to blame them rather than wonder if there could have been actual failings in the script. But I fear that Jennifer may have only seen some of the reviews, the middle-aged male ones, so I'm happy to give her a fuller picture. She may have missed The Observer's Miranda Sawyer (gender female) who wrote: "There is very little to recommend this show." Perhaps she does not log on to the Huffington Post, where Caroline Flint (gender female) declared: "The show only comes to life after it finishes." And I suspect she didn't get her weekly copy of The Stage, where Lisa Martland (gender female) concluded: "One of the biggest disappointments is Jennifer Saunders' rather trite book." Damning verdicts, and not a middle-aged chap in sight.