The instant Madonna hit the deck, you knew that was the only aspect of the Brits that people were going to be talking about the next day.
What price the triumphs of Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, or the deathless banter of Lewis Hamilton and Ellie Goulding, or even Jimmy Page dutifully saying “I hope you’re having a great night – I am!” while wearing an expression suggesting he’d rather have been having a sinus wash, when set against the sight of the most successful female artist of all time falling backwards down a flight of stairs?
Even the evening’s other hugely entertaining cock-up, in which ITV censors muted the sound on Kanye West’s performance so often he started looking less like a rapper than a mime artist, paled in comparison.
Perhaps that’s as it should be. Regardless of its title and the gongs being doled out, at heart the Brits isn’t really an awards show. Its primary function is as a light entertainment TV programme, a means by which ITV can attract the kind of stars that don’t usually deign to perform live on the channel at 8pm on a weekday night, Madonna and Kanye West having thus far proved oddly resistant to appearing on More Tales From Northumberland with Robson Green or Barging Around Britain with John Sergeant. The awards themselves feel secondary to the live performances, an inconvenient interruption.
This year’s winners were boringly predictable, not an upset or a surprise or a decision you couldn’t have seen coming a mile off among them: there might conceivably have been someone out there who seriously thought FKA twigs or Chvrches were going to unseat Sam Smith from the British breakthrough act, or that St Vincent was going to triumph over Taylor Swift, but you wouldn’t bet on their existence.
Furthermore, they seem to reflect a remarkably narrow view of British music, not in the sense that those toiling away at the bleeding edge of free jazz or doggedly striving to meld the sound of footwork with PC music and improvisational electronic sound sculpture went unrewarded – that’s patently not what the Brits are for – but in the sense that they somehow contrived to make the charts look less diverse than they actually are. Urban music’s solitary representative was Pharrell Williams, the pop-house hybrid that has provided the heartbeat of the singles chart over the past 12 months barely got a look in, nor did EDM.
But it doesn’t matter, because the Brits don’t matter. Twenty-six years after they changed their name from BPI awards, the Brits still carry no weight at all, not even of the millstone-around-the-neck variety sometimes associated with the Mercury prize.
Even in a year in which the most famous woman in the world doesn’t distract attention by landing on her backside on live television, no one ever seems to remember who actually won the things. If you wanted to set a particularly tricky round in a pub quiz, you could fill it with questions about Brit winners of years past – Who was the best British female in 2006? Who won international male of the year in 2011? – confident that no one would guess the answers (KT Tunstall and Cee-Lo Green respectively) without sneaking off to the toilets and Googling on their smartphone. If the ceremony proved anything, it was that the Brit awards themselves are substantially less interesting than watching someone fall over.