This week, the UK’s answer to the Grammy Awards, the BRITs, takes place in The O2 Arena. Every year, it seems like the organising committee have somewhat of a defeatist attitude, scheduling the ceremony so soon after the glitz and glamour of the Grammys. Where they get LL Cool J, we get James Corden. Where they get broadcast on CBS and attract 28.5million viewers, we get coverage on ITV which follows and hour of Emmerdale and Coronation Street. They get a performance from Beyoncé and Jay-Z, we get Dina Carroll and Darius Danesh. Ok, that last one’s not quite true, but you get the idea.
The winners in the Critics’ Choice (Sam Smith) and British Producer (Flood and Alan Moulder) have already been decided, but there still leaves ten gongs up for grabs on the night itself....
British Male Solo Artist
Nominees: David Bowie, Jake Bugg, James Blake, John Newman, Tom Odell
Bowie stunned the music world by releasing ‘The Next Day’ completely out of the blue in 2013, an album heralded as one of his best by the press. Jake Bugg and John Newman each seem uniquely focused on creating an adds-nothing pastiche of a certain musical style, soul in Newman’s case and a rock n’ roll/skiffle hybrid for the perpetually glum Jake “I’m just a lad who writes tunes” Bugg. Tom Odell has a decent way with melody but you forget any of his songs the minute they’ve finished, so that leaves it as a two-horse race between Bowie and James Blake. Blake’s ‘Overgrown’ album won the Mercury Prize last year, and few artists are doing anything as exciting and forward-looking as his chilly, experimental electronica.
My pick: James Blake
British Female Solo Artist
Nominees: Birdy, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J, Laura Marling, Laura Mvula
If this was just a straight sing-off, Jessie J would bludgeon the other four into submission with her melismatic foghorn of a voice. Thankfully that isn’t how the award is decided, so we can discount Ms. J from the running straight away for being entirely shit. Birdy’s presumably just here to make up the numbers – her music is so thin and wispy I’m not 100% sure she actually exists. The Lauras are the dark horses; Marling (a previous winner of this award) picked up plaudits for her latest album upon release, but it got largely ignored in the year-end round-up, whereas Mvula’s ‘Sing To The Moon’ was more of a slow-burner that revealed itself to be far more than just Radio 2-friendly soul. None of them have had the year that Ellie Goulding had though; she was barely out of the Top 10 with a succession of absolute pop bangers.
My pick: Ellie Goulding
Nominees: Arctic Monkeys, Bastille, Disclosure, One Direction, Rudimental
How do you even begin to decide this one? Arctic Monkeys, Disclosure and One Direction operate in such different spheres that trying to judge one against the others is like comparing apples and… wardrobes. Bastille are too boring to be remembered, let alone considered for an award, while Rudimental’s best moments came in 2012. One Direction, by their standards, were a little lacklustre last year in terms of song quality (relatively speaking) which makes this a shoot-out between Arctic Monkeys and Disclosure. The Sheffield lads open with Do I Wanna Know? but the Lawrence brothers counter with White Noise. Arctic Monkeys throw in Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? and Disclosure answer in kind with Latch. It’s R U Mine? from the rock corner matched by You & Me for team dance-pop. But what’s this? Disclosure have something else up their sleeve and floor Alex Turner and co. with a blast of F For You. The newcomers have won the day.
My pick: Disclosure
Nominees: Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Haim, Kings of Leon, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Looking at that list, it’s surprising how insubstantial that looks. In years gone by, you’d have had global heavyweights like Foo Fighters, U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers on that list. But from this motley crew, you’d have been hard-pressed to actually know Kings of Leon put anything out last year, and it’s pretty clear that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are to hip-hop what Kraft cheese slices are to fine dining (other brands of plasticky, luridly-coloured imitation food are available). Haim had the hype but didn’t quite take the world by storm as the tastemakers would have hoped which leaves Arcade Fire and Daft Punk – two acts who took a novel approach to advertising and promotion in the last year which meant they got people talking, but ultimately meant the albums they released could only fall short of expectations. If you’re wondering who should win, there’s only one question you need to ask: who released Get Lucky?
My pick: Daft Punk
British Breakthrough Act
Nominees: Bastille, Disclosure, Laura Mvula, London Grammar, Tom Odell
With the exception of Disclosure, this lot could all do with a trip to the funfair and a family-sized bag of strawberry laces, just to cheer them up and put a bit of a spring in their step. Whilst London Grammar at Alton Towers sounds like a BBC3 reality show in the making, it doesn’t add anything to their chances of winning here. All the rest have already been nominated elsewhere, so what can you say? It’s only Disclosure who make the concept of being a pop star and being in the charts look in any way fun, so a win for them is a win for hedonism and good times.
My pick: Disclosure
British Single of the Year
Nominees: Bastille (Pompeii), Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding (I Need Your Love), Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge (White Noise), Ellie Goulding (Burn), John Newman (Love Me Again), Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith (La La La), Olly Murs (Dear Darlin’), One Direction (One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)), Passenger (Let Her Go), Rudimental featuring Ella Eyre (Waiting All Night)
There are ten to get through here so this will have to be quick. Pompeii? No, it’s got that grating, “If you clewwws your oyyyys” bit in it. I Need Your Love? No, it sounds like every other Calvin Harris song of the last five years. White Noise? No, it’s good but I’ve already picked Disclosure twice. Burn? No, it also sounds like a Calvin Harris song. Love Me Again? No, it makes Plan B look like a viable Plan A. La La La? No, too annoying; you can’t award a song called La La La. Dear Darlin’? No, it’s an Olly Murs song – don’t be ridiculous. One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)? No, it’s two cover versions which are both far inferior to the originals. Let Her Go? No, it’s the aural equivalent of crying into a damp flannel. It must mean it’s the behemoth that is Waiting All Night, then. Tell me that you want meeeeeeeeeee, tell me that you need meeeeeeee-EEEEEEEEEE.
Our pick: Rudimental featuring Ella Eyre – Waiting All Night
International Male Solo Artist
Nominees: Bruno Mars, Drake, Eminem, John Grant, Justin Timberlake
It must be about a 1,000/1 shot, but wouldn’t it be great if John Grant won this? A confessional, gay singer-songwriter who’s written a bleak, solipsistic record about the breakup of a relationship (again) picking up a BRIT – it seems unlikely. Drake’s had a decent year, but ‘Nothing Was The Same’ didn’t quite make the same impact as his previous album. Eminem, while popular again, remains a shadow of his former self and Bruno Mars is discounted purely because he’s in a production group called The Smeezingtons. This means it’s down to Grant and Timberlake and, while it would be the shock of all shocks for John Grant to win, he’s not exactly the super-slick and sophisticated JT.
Our pick: Justin Timberlake
International Female Solo Artist
Nominees: Janelle Monáe, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Pink
Lorde’s had an incredible year and her album is fantastic but have you heard Janelle Monáe. She inhabits the character of a renegade cyborg called Cyndi Mayweather in her music. She writes songs that are a heady collision of soul, funk, disco, hip-hop and R&B. Her album features Prince, Solange, Erykah Badu and Miguel. In short, she’s the most exciting artist to debut in the 21st Century and the others just can’t compete. Gaga, Perry and Pink might as well just go home.
Our pick: Janelle Monáe