AS the glitz of the annual BRIT awards ceremony looms, industry professionals and music fans alike are beginning to raise the familiar issue that recurs year upon year: do they truly represent the British music industry, or are they simply the face of a repetitive record label façade? Quays News entertainment reporter Emily Ingram investigates…
During the run up to the latest edition of the awards, there’s been a hefty amount of social media buzz and casual name-dropping. With 2016 nominations ranging from hugely prevalent acts like Justin Bieber and Adele to the more alternative Bjӧrk and Wolf Alice, the majority of music fans seem to have been catered for.
But despite the persistent buzz of coverage received across Twitter, it appears that some disregard the ceremony as a celebration for the select few, rather than a wider scope of the popular music industry, as it was originally intended.
— Dan Collins (@dan_uep) February 11, 2016
— Dan Collins (@dan_uep) February 11, 2016
This certainly isn’t a fresh notion. Since the conception of the awards in 1977, it has been argued that the awards present an unbalanced array of ‘crowd-pleasers’, rather than those who are truly valued as the greatest British artists. In its debut year, the BRITS – known back then as the BPI awards – dished out tributes to Cliff Richard, the Beatles and Queen, three of the most popular chart-smashing superstars in Britain. Yet, other artists marked more or less universally as valuable that year, such as David Bowie, Pink Floyd and punk pioneers The Damned, were ignored in favour of the more established figures.
Of course, it’s a little simplistic to say that these alternative cultural icons hold more artistic merit than industry regulars like Richard: the awards are, after all, originally intended to be a celebration of popular acts. Plus, with the recent introduction of ‘emerging artist’ recognition, some might even speculate that this bias is a thing of the past.
— mollyelean0r (@mollyelean0r) February 11, 2016
But as a country with one of the strongest musical and cultural identities, local musicians have continued to show their disdain for the persistent industry-driven nature of the awards.
The BRITs are practically infamous for bringing a multitude of high profile, on-air scandals to our screens each year. This partly rings true of the notion that artists across the country are tired of the financial, political and musical concoction set before them, whilst also perhaps indicating that much of the drama is maintained to create a fake sense of patriotic ‘Britishness’.
TIMELINE: The history of the BRITs
On one hand, Tony Blair’s 1996 political PR stunt, in which he handed Bowie an ‘outstanding contribution’ award and conducted a speech about the importance of British music, made the event seem somewhat crass and fabricated. 2012 also saw an immensely proud Adele cut short, provoking her to overtly lash out at producers, or, as she puts it, “the suits”.
Yet, simultaneously, the night has been shown to provoke a spark of dry English wit, often directed towards international guest stars and industry big-wigs that have become more and more prominent at the ceremony throughout the years. In 1993, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker epitomised this protest with his crudely comic ode to Michael Jackson’s ‘Earthsong’.
In the last three years, fans have started to raise further doubts about the growing international presence of the awards. In 2014, the ceremony saw a whopping five performances from non-British artists, such as Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Bruno Mars. The credibility of the awards as a wholly British celebration of the national music industry has since been scrutinised. Some claim that the event has become too ‘Americanised’, whilst others dismiss it as the repetition of the same artists year upon year, regardless of origin.
With the combination of popularity bias, tiresome publicity scandals and seemingly unrelated Americanisation, it seems that the BRIT awards have always fallen a little short of their intended purpose. But despite the questionable credibility and meaning of the awards themselves, viewers across the country will continue to enjoy the ceremony in years to come, regarding it as nothing more than a regular celebration of pop culture.
By: Emily Ingram