Posts Tagged ‘Music Industry’

The Brits – 2009

February 19, 2009

Last night’s Brits then, presented by James ‘why?’ Corden, the bloke off Catherine Tate and, for some reason, Kylie Minogue – when she wasn’t stage-right, getting changed into another unremarkable frock.

I watched it whilst taking notes, drinking tea and twittering. The twittering was more fun than the show – and when talking in less than 140 characters to strangers on a computer is more entertaining than a massive showbiz event, you know you’ve got problems.

Here then, are my notes, twitterings and musings, in REAL TIME!

The night opens with a Johnny Vegas voiceover which, from hereon in, kicks in every time a new award’s being dished out, prompting the audience to ponder how much they paid him to rattle off a few intros. Then – BANG! – we’re straight into a live performance from… some old men.

It’s U2, and Bono really ain’t getting any younger or any more original – demonstrated by the fact their new single sounds exactly like six other U2 singles. Adam Clayton is increasingly starting to look like Homer Simpson’s dad and the Edge still needs to lose the hat. To make things worse, the huge video screen behind him displays Bono’s lyrics as the frail frontman postures like a man half his age in front of them, showcasing his lack of writing talent in bold, illuminated words as he jiggles like a berk in front of them. Their big moment – and every Brit performance needs one, even though they usually fall further flat than a glass of cola left out overnight – is Bono taking off his spectacles to reveal an ageing idiot in eyeliner.

Greetings from our hosts! The three of them shuffle on with some dancers and they do the routine for Kylie’s 2001 single, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. Corden is a fat man, but he done did dancing!

The use of such an old Kylie hit can be seen as either the provision an eight year vintage or an irrelevance from ages ago – you can make your own mind up on that.

The finishing posture leaves Kylie cradling the boys’ groins, in the first of many misguided sauce-based gags that unearth nowt but tumbleweed from the audience both at home and in the auditorium. Corden even feels the need to apologise for his first joke as he absorbs the silence that follows his every utterance.

Simon Pegg arrives, on his own (I thought they presented in pairs?) to announce Best Female and, in the event, Duffy beats Adele, MIA, Beth (who?) Rowley and that mardy-arse Estelle. You can feel the oxigen in the nation’s atmosphere lessen as the audience yawns collectively.

Next up, Best International Female goes to Katie Perry – a fact I enjoy because my other half hates her, causing me much amusement. She won a Brit and she liked it! She’s here even though she’s ill, she says. In fact, all she does is complain that she’s sick when she takes the podium, implying that she only turned up because her record company made her. That’s gratitude.

And then… Girls Aloud! Can it get any more miserable?

Yes!

The ladies essentially do a striptease to the song they did that sounds like the sort of tune ABBA might shit out whilst paralytic. Their clothes removal is sexy! (If you read Nuts and get turned on by the thought of a moronic, untalented dance troupe fronted by a Geordie automaton).

Suddenly The Brits goes weird. We’re, inexplicably backstage with Fearne Cotton who’s standing beside a caravan. I check my remote control, but no, I’m not jammed on ITV2 by mistake. What the hell’s going on?

Fearne asks us to vote for something or other and, breaking up the party vibe, reads out the Ts and Cs for the phone vote at length, before the ads come on. It’s like being accosted by a drunk accountant at the worst party in the world, dragged outside and then being subjected to her rattling off her month end breakdown. Even any slight semblance of a reckless, party atmosphere is dropped to the shits.

After the break, it’s back to the front desk, and I become confused by who’s presenting what, why and how? Horne and Corden are now doing the work, looking like ITV’s version of Shirl and ‘Evver off ‘stenders. The trio of Horne, Corden and Minogue keeps merging, resynthesising and redistributing. That fact alongside Fearne’s droned phone numbers leaves me dribbling with shellshock.

And then – Oh God. Here’s Alex bloody James to present Best British Breakthrough from a list including Adele, Scouting for Girls, Duffy, Ting Tings and The Last Shadow Puppets – and Duffy wins again, which feels, frankly, like a direct insult.

Coldplay then take the stage, dressed like disco revolutionaries in pink, lime and purple Spanish civil war outfits – which would be fine if they made new-sounding, vital pop like, say, MGMT or Empire of the Sun – but they don’t. They make watery, bland, executive bum. They’re about as revolutionary as Norman Tebbit. Their presence makes the list of appearances, winners and performers sound like it was discovered, discarded, scrawled on a soggy piece of cardboard and found in the middle of the road.

Back to the caravan! With Jamie Cullum and Jamie Oliver, both looking like they’re having a strand-off at the stupid haircut festival. To distract us from their wacky barnets, we hear more phone votes from Fearne. Halfway in to the two hours and literally nothing of any note has happened. Bring back Brandon Block! All is forgiven!

Here’s Natalie Imbruglia, who must have died since her Torn single came out in the nineties, as she staggers on looking like a reanimated corpse dug up from the grounds of a derelict botox farm. She’s here to announce British Male Solo Artist from a pick of James Morrison, Paul Weller, Ian Brown, Will Young and The Streets. Weller wins, and his acceptance speech is a video of Adele giggling.

We’re past halfway – and it’s time for a Duffy performance, or time for a kitchen break and tea-making, as I bypass the vapid motown-theft she passes off as music. As I return with an enormous cup of the brown stuff, Corden bellows a query:

ARE WE HAVING FUN PEOPLE?

More tumbleweed.

So – who will win Best International Album? Fleet Foxes, The Killers, MGMT, Kings of Leon or someone else I can’t remember?

Kings of Leon, in the event, and they take the stage resembling what you might imagine the Managing Directors of Beebo to look like. ‘If it weren’t for England we wouldn’t exist’, the singer says, forgetting he’s at the Brits. One in the eye for Duffy! Good lads.

Take That mime for a bit, handily wasting some time. The Robbie reunion thankfully remains an unfulfilled rumour and Nick Frost ambles on to present best live act. Nick Frost on his own. Without Simon Pegg. Who also presented on his own. Are we running low on guests?

Beating The Verve, Coldplay, Scouting For Girls and Elbow, Iron Maiden win this. A demonstration of people-power and only the hardest heart could begrudge them. Nicko McBrain still looks exactly like he did in the 80s. And they even wheel out Eddie, which probably confuses anyone under the age of 28.

Here comes David Hasslehoff to present something (I think Best British Band). Elbow beat Radiohead, Girls Aloud, Take That and Coldplay. Elbow – the band everyone’s too lazy to diss. I haven’t got anything against them, they just feel like a slow episode of Coronation Street set to 90s indie.

Then Kings of Leon play their big single with an ill-advised bass breakdown that makes the song sound like it’s going to shrivel up and die before Horne reappears to make his second Craig David joke of the night. We’re then on to the Critics Choice award which goes to indie types Florence and the Machine.

Florence and the Who?

Clear off!

Gok Wan wanders on smiling like a man possessed, waving and screeching ‘HIYA!’ like an oriental Wavey Davey. He presents the International Male gong which goes to Kanye West who, inevitably couldn’t make it to the evening and is filmed standing in a utility room in an anonymous building, looking sheepish.

And now for the real lowpoint. A modern mash-up of two of the year’s worst singles – Estelle and Ting Tings working to combine their awful songs in what is truly the most godawful dirge I’ve heard in years. The less about that, the better.

The end is in sight! It’s time for the best British Single and Alan Carr presents it to Girls Aloud for that ABBA-stealing pile of shit that accompanied their striptease earlier. ‘About time!’ screams the tall blonde one. ‘I wet meself!’ she continues, before being dragged off. And that’s as close as we get to controversy all night.

Tom Jones, looking like an overweight Rolf Harris, presents Best British Album and ruins the fact it’s bound to be Duffy, what with her also being from Wales and all. She gets her trio of meaningless statues and another Brit Awards gathers its crutches for the weary trudge to 2010. But first, the Pet Shop Boys Achievement award.

Hard to begrudge them their gong, but their stage show was such an unrelenting slaughter of flashing lights and dancing personnel, I had to read Twitter to work out what was going on. When Lady Gaga appeared to sing one line of a song dressed like a willow-patterned teapot, I thought I was hallucinating – compounded by the ostrich feathers on Brandon Flowers shoulders which made him look like a Flash Gordon birdman.

Roll credits!

Writing down every detail seemed like a good idea at the time. I hope reliving the experience with me hasn’t been too damaging for you – for me, at least, it was therapeutic.

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Never Mind The Buzzcocks

November 14, 2008

Ever since a loose collective of Metallica fans in Boston ripped the culture industry a new arsehole, we’ve been promised a new dawn in music.

The internet was talked about in the early part of the decade as a cross between the Russian Revolution and the second coming of Christ. Papers foretold a world in which the oppressed music fandom proletariat would rise against the industry, behead our evil corporate overlords and instigate a new world order where bands could reach fans while leaving out the coke-addled suit in the middle.

Instead, what we got was a world of Sandy Thom. Nowadays, it’s completely normal for a music label to reach a four figure settlement with a teenager who downloaded nursery rhymes. 

Music hasn’t got better, only more prolific. There are more bands, singers, songwriters and dancers. More record labels, industry types, music blogs and music fans. 

Everybody is a critic, and the word ‘critic’ has been diluted so much that no music critic ever dares to criticise music. From that irritating, snivelling fan-boy Zane Lowe, who churns out superlatives like a thesaurus on a crack binge, to the cretinous scenester twunts at the NME, the music industry regularly pops out a vertebra, bends over backwards and fellates itself silly. 

The music industry seems to have survived a major assassination attempt.   

Which is why it’s still a godsend that we have a programme like Never Mind the Buzzcocks. For the last 22 series, NMTB has gathered an assortment of artists, musicians, singers, industry types, actors and dancers and torn apart their dignity with the elation and precision of a sadistic dentist. 

It has insulted national treasures, pretentious artistes, nihilistic rock stars and desperate round-eyed pop singers. As the series has progressed, with new hosts, team captains, rounds and guests, this is the one thing that has remained stable, and will remain the reason that audiences tune in. People often criticise the comedy-quiz genre for a lack of spontaneity and originality, confused as to why people still tune in.

However, while you still have a preposterous and self-congratulating music industry, you will still have people that want these musicians taken down a peg, and you will still have Buzzcocks. The producers signalled as much by hiring Amstell. 

A good host is the cornerstone of a good comedy quiz show. Mark Lamarr, in this department, was a tonic. Part comedian and part music nerd, he acted as the ill-tempered guardian of respectable music. He had a weighty yardstick with which he would bash his guests over the head by. Namely: contribution to music. 

If you were in a well-respected band he might let you off lightly, while if you were a leech on pop’s anus he would tear you down with manic glee. As the series progressed he got increasingly cynical until he called it a day, retiring to a radio career where he plays obscure sixties songs.  

Amstell, however, is not Lemarr 2.0. He entered the music industry as an apathetic presenter of a by-the-numbers pop music show. It eventually became a cult hit due to his presenting style, which included insulting about 90% pop stars doing the rounds. While other pop presenters were grinning from ear-to-ear, congratulating McFly on their latest single, suggesting it is their favourite so far and generally patronising the viewer senseless, Amstell was coming on to notoriously homophobic dancehall star Beanie Man, saying Katie Melua’s first album was ‘so bad it made me want to puke my guts out’ and making Britney cry.

And here lies the main difference between Lamarr and Amstell. Lemarr might simply insult you because your band is the flavour of the week. His increasing cynicism towards the role made you suspect he still believed that somewhere there was a molecule of respect in the music industry which his show was failing to represent. He seemed to believe it was an industry worth saving. 

Amstell, who has admitted before he has ‘doesn’t know anything’ about music, sees it as a doomed industry ripe for the picking. On Buzzcocks, Amstell doesn’t so much as mock rubbish music as perform character assassinations. On any day he can be as cruel and as witty as Lemarr, his twee fuddling presenter shtick forces guests to let their guard down before he sticks the knife in. While Lamarr might have mocked Preston from The Ordinary Boys for being a pretentious arse, Amstell caused him to walk off by quoting choice bits from his wife’s biography. He sees the façade of celebrity and brings the contestants back down to earth. 

Anybody who saw the recent episode with James from Glasvegas will realise he’s steadily gaining confidence in the role. The official NEXTBESTBANDINTHEWORLD according to the self appointed indie bible, the NME, he seemed content to do the dark and broody thing until Amstell mentioned a song he wrote about his father. 

Annoyed, James decides to insult Amstell’s gaudy cardigan. ‘Oh, as if you could see this thing with those deeply pretentious sunglasses on’ returned Amstell. James shut up, confused.

James will probably appear on the chat shows and have Jonathan Ross explain how much of a fan he is. He’ll get put on the NME’s cool list.  He’ll do interviews with Zane Lowe, who will call him the best guitarist in the last 25 years – something he says about six people per week. He’ll do stadium tours, get a coke addiction and release a second album, by which time nobody will care. He’ll probably realise that the one person he talked to in his walk towards fame who said what he and other people actually thought about him was Amstell. 

That’s why people keep tuning in. With the music industry showing little sign of falling as predicted and with Amstell hitting his stride, it’s hard to see an end to Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

So long as there’re pop stars, rock stars, singers, dancers, producers, guitarists and icons, there will be bored people on a Thursday evening who want to watch them get taken down a notch.