Boring and ignoring grime – but at least the Bedingfields weren't at the Brits

Award for A Tribe Called Quest is really only surprise on a night of predictable winners, with David Bowie taking home best male solo artist

Seasoned watchers of the Brits – poor benighted souls impelled for whatever reason to sit through the thing year in, year out – tend to find themselves scrolling through their memory, clutching at whatever straws they can. Yes, a well-judged and emotionally charged tribute to George Michael aside, it was boring – there was none of the righteous political anger that peppered the recent Grammy awards, the much-touted top secret collaboration between two huge bands turned out to be Coldplay performing with wan pop EDM duo the Chainsmokers – but at least it didn’t open with Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield committing an unprovoked assault on Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, as happened in 2005.

Yes, the judges’ dogged determination to overlook grime when doling out the gongs is getting excruciating – it’s almost as if the British music industry doesn’t want to reward black artists who’ve achieved vast commercial success largely without the aid of the British music industry – but at least a few of the scene’s stars got in on the nominations and Skepta and Stormzy were permitted to perform, the latter squeezed in at Ed Sheeran’s behest: an improvement of sorts on 2016, when the Brits ignored the genre altogether, prompting Stormzy to suggest they were “taking the piss”.

Katy Perry’s dancer falls off stage as she performs with Trump and May effigies

Yes, it might have been more interesting if the transgender artist Anohni had won the best British female artist award instead of Emeli Sandé – not least for the spectacle of the Daily Mail’s brain exploding with confusion and rage the following day – but at least they didn’t bafflingly nominate someone who’d been dead for five years, unlike last year, when Amy Winehouse got on the shortlist, as if to suggest there was so little female talent in the country, they’d had to scour beyond the grave to make up numbers.

But some things about the Brits never change, not least the whiff of well-what-did-you-expect? that attaches itself to the list of winners. As ever, you could easily have worked out who would triumph from the respective shortlists well in advance of the night itself. There was a certain sense of small mercies about Little Mix’s snappy Shout Out To My Ex winning the best single. (They could easily have given it to Britain’s Got Talent contestant Calum Scott’s behold-my-painful-sincerity piano ballad cover of Robyn’s Dancing on My Own, an omnipresent hit that presents as vivid and depressing an encapsulation of everything that’s wrong with current pop music as you could wish for).

In the end the nearest it came to delivering a surprise was by handing out the best international group to A Tribe Called Quest, the veteran hip hop act responsible for a great deal of the aforementioned political anger at the recent Grammys, enjoying a career renaissance thanks to their brilliant final album We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service. They didn’t appear at all, possibly because they weren’t available or the organisers feared their presence might make the evening perilously interesting.

Equally, you might suggest that, while David Bowie’s final album Blackstar may well have been the best British album of 2016, there’s something a little odd about giving the best male solo artist of the year to someone who died ten days into it, and whose life and nonpareil contribution to rock and pop had already been the subject of lavish celebration at last year’s ceremony. But at least it prompted the Brits’ one genuinely funny line. “If David Bowie could be here tonight,” offered actor Michael C Hall, with admirable candour, “He probably wouldn’t be here tonight.”


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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