The Brit Awards: Why George The Poet Could Be A New Icon For British Youth

He might have lost the race to be the Critic's Choice tonight, but long-term he might win the right to be called a game changer...
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He might have lost the race to be the Critic's Choice tonight, but long-term he might win the right to be called a game changer...


You might not have heard of George The Poet yet, but by 10pm tonight you probably will. He’s already been announced as a runner-up in The Brit’s Critic’s Choice award, losing out to the be-hatted warbler James Bay.

I saw George play at Oslo last night, and doing so confirmed what I had already suspected: that he is freakishly intelligent, and unashamedly and consistently aware of the big picture,

Having just turned 24 and graduated Cambridge University last year with a degree in Politics, Psychology and Sociology, he published his first collection of poetry called Search Party last month. This followed up The Chicken & The Egg E.P, released through Island in 2014.

Now then, the phrase ‘collection of poetry’ may concern you- hear ‘collection of poetry’ think ’spoken word’. As someone that has been educated in a Humanities degree at a family non-descript university, I’ve been to my fair share of spoken word events. For the most part I found them to be one long circle jerk of whooping and back-slapping, as boys and girls in headscarves successfully semi-rhymed ‘Shaznay Lewis’ with ‘parliamentary druids’.  And bean bags. Fucking bean bags everywhere.

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Anyway, George’s stuff is nothing like that and occupies the space between rap and spoken word. Onstage he’s backed up by three musicians, and they ensure there’s a musical energy to everything going down. 

George himself is an endless ball of well-articulated energy.

His confidence is supreme, and every song (and I think we can call them songs) is indispersed with context, about what he wants you to take from the song. It’s not about patronising the audience, it’s about giving them the knowledge they need to quickly grasp the truth in his rhymes.

Most of those rhymes on the The Chicken & The Egg concern themselves with the perils of modern attitudes to contraception and fatherhood. It’s an acknowledgment of lust and our powerlessness to resist it, even though our weakness is weakening our society. It’s a pretty powerful piece of work punctuated by moments of Portishead-ian gravitas, such as on ‘Baby Mother’ and ‘Kids’.

Kids in schools should be made to listen to it, and  George seems like he could be the perfect icon for a new generation of responsibility . Recently we all saw the stories about falling numbers of UK teenagers drinking and taking drugs. but our teenage pregnancies are still higher than anywhere in Western Europe - 2.9 out of every 100 girls between 15 and 19 give birth every year, as opposed to 1.1 in Germany, 0.9 in France and, well, you don’t want to know how low it is in Japan.

Towards the end of the show George started talking about a manifesto, with three points he was primarily interested in - social enterprise, social inclusion and better wages. He asked the audience to put their name in a ballot box at the back of the room if they wanted to be a part of his movement; to help him make a change, whatever that change was.

To be honest, I zoned out a bit here (though I did out of curiosity put my name in the box) and the cynical among us might see it as an Orwellian marketing ploy. But it didn’t feel like that, and as I saw young Hackney adults queuing to drop their cards in the box to be part of something as yet undescribed, it struck me that this estate kid from Harlesden might be the artist that can have an transformative effect on the actions of the nation’s youth. Let’s see James Bay try and do that.

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