Brit Awards 2017: Familiar cast of UK musicians leaves show feeling increasingly irrelevant

From the moment the late David Bowie was awarded Best British Male, it became clear that nothing much has changed

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
@Roisin_OConnor
Wednesday 22 February 2017 23:39
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Robbie Williams performs on stage at the Brit Awards
Robbie Williams performs on stage at the Brit Awards

After the #BritsSoWhite storm in 2016 many people thought this year’s awards ceremony would step up its game and begin representing all aspects of British music.

But from the moment the late David Bowie was awarded the prize for Best British Male it became clear that nothing much has changed.

Bowie's award was collected by Michael C Hall of Six Feet Under who said, rather perfectly: “If David Bowie could be here tonight he wouldn’t be here tonight.”

Performance-wise things were a little improved on the past couple of years.

Little Mix and Bruno Mars made for tough acts to follow in the live performances; the girl group stormed onto the stage for their smash hit ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ for which they would later win the award for Best Single, while Bruno Mars added some much-needed funk to a so-far overly polite evening.

Katy Perry brought the ‘woke’ stage of her career to the ceremony and performed her new single ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ featuring giant puppets of US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

It was arguably the most political moment of an incredibly tame night - where the next-best thing was Matty from The 1975 encouraging pop artists to speak out over important issues. It was just unfortunate that Perry seemed to put even less effort into this performance than she did at the Grammys.

Rag ’n’ Bone Man made history with his win for Best British Breakthrough, becoming the only artist to win that award alongside the Brits Critics’ Choice pick; this came shortly after his album Human became the biggest-selling male debut of the decade.

Skepta arrived onstage without the crowd that accompanied Kanye West’s legendary takeover at the 2015 awards, railing against the establishment at one of the most ‘establishment’ events around, delivering a ferocious ‘Shutdown’ - with just some brief disappointment that he didn’t bring on any other stars of the London grime scene. But boundless energy, swift flow and that sheer, unadulterated energy was enough to thrill everyone present.

Again the international categories (rushed through by the presenters) were the most diverse and relevant winners: Drake, Beyonce and A Tribe Called Quest won Best International Male, Best International Female and Best International Group respectively... but Beyonce and ATCQ couldn’t even be bothered to send in a video ‘thank you’. It was worryingly indicative of how interest in the Brits has waned over the past five years.

Chris Martin performed a tribute to the late George Michael with the question of why this particular artist was chosen for such a momentous task - before it became clear that this was something of a Chris Martin Show; the Coldplay artist returned shortly after his tribute for a brand new track with The Chainsmokers.

Ed Sheeran, returning after his year’s hiatus from social media, delivered pitchy versions of ‘Castle on the Hill’ and ‘Shape of You’ with some help from an on-form Stormzy… but the beats were basic, Sheeran was breathless and the whole thing felt flat.

It seems fitting that Robbie Williams, the most Brit-awarded artist in history, closed the show. Because despite the fanfare that arrived with the awards shake-up, nothing much has changed… and the Brits remain irrelevant.

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