A tragedy in three acts
Act 1: The atrocity begins… In which British music is splashed in the face by ginger acid, and the feted architects of asininity marvel at their three new muses only to discover they are chronically afflicted by arthritic emotions.
Chris Evans sweeps on stage as if blown there by the winds of desperation. He is wearing a black suit in which he seems to be drowning, that hangs from his body like the soaking mediocrity that has clung to him since 1996.
The first band are Kaiser Chiefs. It’s not that Kaiser Chiefs are so horrendously bad, it’s just that liking them is such a dull and worthy choice; like taking a gap year in India and making friends at university by showing off the photos of you getting sprayed with water by a mischievous elephant. Everyone likes them, but there again, everyone dies too so uniformity of action isn’t necessarily a good thing.
As the show occurred the previous night we already knew the winners and losers. The message was given by those myopic newsreaders so detached from popular culture they are like skeletal grave-ridden hands clutching forlornly at the moon. With that perceivable ready-break glow that surrounds newsreaders when they feel they are delivering unequivocally good news and smiles pitched permanently in place like insufferably mundane marquees at society weddings between blue bloods so interbred they can count up the Magnificent Seven on one hand, they told us that James Blunt and the Kaiser Chiefs had been triumphant. They make you feel so sick it’s as if someone is poking around in the guts of your stomach with a blocked lavatory.
And the first award is claimed by Blunt. In accepting the award his voice exits his throat with the same pathetic, repellent rhythmic cadences as the blows reigning down on a helpless seal cub being clubbed to death on some Arctic ice floe. And from a distance his eyes resemble dark pits useful for nothing more than for tyrants to cast their prisoners into and leave to starve; while up close their vacuity and emptiness are something you could lose your car keys in.
Prince was next to perform. Would he offer some salvation? Little hope. His innovation and spark are stripped from him and he is forced to convert his faith to the overwhelming dullness of the Brits 2006, overseen by High Priest Evans. A few aimless ballads and versions of Purple Rain and Let’s Go Crazy that have been scrubbed and sanitised of all inspiration by cleaners moonlighting from Porton Down, and he is wildly applauded by the audience. But they would wildly applaud their own gruesome execution.
Jack Johnson wins Best International Newcomer largely on the “he’s turned up, so he gets the award” ticket, as he is so crushingly normal if he were a knife he wouldn’t be able to cut through air. And if he is worthy of reverence then why not snapped tree branches, air trapped in colostomy bags, slightly worn carpets, the frustrated expression of someone waiting for an hour at a bus stop – go on British Phonographic Industry, award these things too as they have equal merit to Jack Johnson.
The British Rock prize was a travesty – Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Franz Ferdinand are not rock bands. Of the nominees, only Kasabian are remotely connected to rock but their album came out in 2004, so they should be disqualified on that count alone. At this point, the Kaiser Chiefs’ Modern Way sounds quite good, but it simply serves to affirm that it’s a harbinger of future woe for innovation in British music in much the same way as a glorious summer’s day now acts as a warning in a decade of desiccated rivers, parched fields, crop failures, rising sea levels that swamp Norfolk off the map and that your ears will be assailed by a squat band from Leeds churning out their 11th album of MOR dirges that would put Curtis Stigers to shame.
Act 2: In this chapter, the jaws of bland conformity grip the pallid frame of innovation, and bite down hard.
James Blunt wins British Breakthrough Act. It’s like that moment in The Two Towers when the Orcs breach the walls of Helm’s Deep and pour into the courtyard skewering the Rohirrim on their pikes. But here there’s no chance of some Gandalf-like figure charging to the rescue, here all we can look forward to hoping our corpses will be burned on pyres rather than being disembowelled and guzzled down by the greedy Orcs.
The Kaiser Chiefs win Best Live Act. It’s worth noting that the day of the Brits saw the Government force through a law that claims to act to protect the safety of the public, while the Brits committee have handed out gongs with the same emphasis on creating a “safe” environment for everyone.
Kelly Clarkson plays next. If God ever hired out his omnipotent powers to the corporate sector, Kelly Clarkson could act as a human gestation tank for a new advertiser compliant universe, a void absent of talent and sincerity but brimming with intricate, mechanised facial movements and an over-enthusiastic audience who seem to have been planted with the callous precision of mines in a school playing field.
Like Josef Stalin repelling Nazi Germany, James Blunt performs a singular good deed when he beats Robbie Williams to Best Male.
Has Morten Harket been following the edicts of Countess Elizabeth Bathory and bathed in virgins’ blood? If he has, it would seem to be working as he looks about 30.
KT Tunstall offers one of the brighter moments of this total musical eclipse when she wins Best British Female. She actually seems to be passionate about her music, rather than being passionate about being famous.
The final nails of incredulity are banged into the Brits’ coffin when Kaiser Chiefs defeat Gorillaz to win Best British Group; and Vic Reeves joins them on stage like a weeping sore of the bubonic plague mingling happily with an infectious viral strain of lethal bird flu.
Act 3: The exhibition concludes the great hopes for the future are slung in a freaks’ asylum to be laughed at and poked by cloned hybrids of record company executives and hyenas with helium for blood.
Kanye West’s performance is the most disappointing of the evening. Of all the winners, he is the one act who strives for invention and pioneers a way of making music that is both pop and avant-garde. Yet he succumbs to their bland mood of the ceremony as he is joined by a troupe of half-naked gold painted synchronised dancers, making his medley of hits as nauseatingly corporate as champagne and heads car-crash jerking back in false laughter at a cosy ‘do’ in the ‘function room’ at the after show party.
Another nadir as Jack Johnson performs and is outshone by the featureless, obsidian stage floor. Who buys his records? The scarcely animated charred husks of people chained to their desks in offices situated next to the motorway in one of those business parks that make cemeteries seem convivial, picking at lunches consisting of food that tastes of burnt tyre rubber and drinks with the odour of stale hairspray in an canteen so soulless possessed children are brought there as a last resort to expel the demon within, while the outside teeth-whitened parasites swarm to town in their 4×4 jeeps on their bi-annual CD buying voyage to purchase the 32 albums recommended by Woolworths.
Davina tried gamely to whip up some atmosphere (well actually she just shouted, like she always does), but the odds were against her. The awards were presented at a hideous perspex desk, adorned only by a big MasterCard sign, that had been dumped in the middle of the hall so that half the audience had their backs to it. To deathly silence, Davina called celebrities of the calibre of Tess Daly and Vernon Kay up to give little statuettes to the talent, who duly thanked their record companies, managers and mums (in that order) and got off quick. It was so gripping that a suit in the posh seats started talking on his mobile, and was ticked off by Davina for not paying attention. The look he gave her – “I’m here because I have to be and it’s a bloody nuisance” – said it all.
There were small mercies. The Popstars: The Rivals winners, symbols of all that’s worst in current pop, weren’t even allowed in, while Will Young, rather than sickly crooner Gareth Gates, got the Best Manufactured Act (sorry, Breakthrough Artist) award. Robbie Williams wasn’t there (another plus), although he did seem to make a lot of video appearances. The live acts – Avril Lavigne with drums, Justin Timberlake with Kylie’s bum – were very good, which was just as well as they seemed to be the real point of the show.
But it was all very controlled and sterile, the nearest thing to controversy being a quiet dig at George Bush from Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and the worst behaviour a tediously silly acceptance video from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The lack of shock-factors wasn’t, however, the major problem – what was missing the most was any real sense of occasion. This wasn’t the industry celebrating its finest; it was the industry putting on an act for the punters before going next door for the real event. It showed.