The British Bit: Brit Awards Recap

Article originally published by North By Northwestern.

The Brit Awards are the highlight of my year and the only awards ceremony I ever bother watching. They combine two things in life that I am most passionate about: music and British culture. Sure, winning a Grammy is probably a bigger deal than winning a Brit, but the Brits (like the awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)) are about celebrating the nation itself.

The star of this year’s ceremony was Adele. She took home two trophies for British Female Solo Artist and the highly coveted MasterCard British Album of the Year, but all the headlines were about Adele giving the middle finger after her speech was cut off at the end of the ceremony.

I have two opinions on that. Firstly, I gladly join the queue of people who wanted to hear the rest of her speech and think she should have been allowed to finish. This was 21 after all, the best-selling album of the 21st century that has sold more digital copies in one calendar year than any other album ever. Secondly, I kind of wish she’d used the V sign instead. It would have been much more British.

Adele also performed “Rolling in the Deep” for the O2 Arena crowd. It was not a bad performance, but there was no way it could top last year’s “Someone Like You.” That performance was understated yet raw with emotion and was partially responsible for launching her world domination. I think Kylie Minogue got it right during this show when she answered host James Corden’s question about which current artist has the most staying power and will be around for years. Her first diplomatic response was that everyone’s got the potential. Her real answer was, “If I had to choose someone today, I’d say Adele.”

In addition to her two wins, Adele was nominated for British Single with “Someone Like You” but lost to One Direction, a boy band that came in third place in X Factor in 2010. I’m not going to lie – I was shocked. This was one of three categories decided by the public, but I was still convinced that Ed Sheeran’s avid fanbase would mobilize better than any other artist’s. Then again, I can see how “What Makes You Beautiful” would have wormed its way into the hearts of many females.

Speaking of Sheeran, the 21-year-old was the other big focus of the evening. He led the nominations with four and walked away with British Male Solo Artist and voter-decided British Breakthrough Act. I think both were greatly deserved and that if it hadn’t been up against 21, + would have won Album of the Year. Sheeran spent the evening being charmingly humble — wearing a designer suit just to make his parents happy, giving little nods of thanks to the crowd after his “Lego House” performance, not preparing a speech for Male Solo Artist because he never expected to win.

Not winning any of her three categories didn’t stop Jessie J from also being gracious and cheering for Sheeran (who beat her out for British Breakthrough) at every opportunity. She did manage to make a splash with that sheer red dress of hers. No matter what you think of it, you have to admit that she pulled the look off way better than Fergie did at the Grammys last week.

In the International arena, Bruno Mars won Male Solo Artist, Rihanna won Female Solo Artist (not surprising considering how obsessed the Brits are with her), the Foo Fighters won International Group and Lana Del Rey won International Breakthrough. Wait, what? Lana Del Rey?! Seriously?! I thought everyone was already over her like me. Guess not.

Apart from the awards themselves and the performances, there were random little moments in the ceremony that gave me a chuckle. Like when Labrinth got between the camera and James Corden while he was trying to introduce Rihanna. “Really?! Labrinth! I’m on the TV!” Or when BBC Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley had to present the award for British Group to Coldplay even though it’s no secret that she hates their music. And Bruno Mars practically read my mind when he said, “This is almost taller than me,” gesturing to his statuette after hugging the substantially taller International Male Solo Artist presenters Jack Whitehall and Jessie J.

In general, the show was mild and predictable which is probably why the media have all led with Adele’s cut-off and middle finger. Personally, I’m more interested in what she managed to fit in just before being cut off: “I’m so, so proud to be British and to be flying our flag.” I think that sentiment is the whole point of the Brit Awards and the Britishness of these artists is definitely part of why I love them so much.

For a complete run-down of the winners and losers, visit the Brit Awards website.


Sound Snack: Baard Kolstad

I don’t usually care about drummers but this kid is incredible. It helps that I have a soft spot for street musicians.

Sound Snack: Michael Kiwanuka

I discovered Michael Kiwanuka while reading Nylon Guys over the weekend. Even before I got to the part about him signing with a label co-founded by Ben Lovett (of Mumford & Sons) and spending the fall supporting Adele on her European Tour, I was intrigued by his “old soul vibe” so I looked him up on YouTube. I immediately fell in love with “Home Again” and it’s been on repeat all weekend.

Home again
Home again
One day I know
I’ll feel home again
Home again
Home again
One day I know
I’ll feel strong again

Sound Snack: Gregory Paul

Gregory Paul is an excellent banjo-player I saw busking last month at the first Starbucks near Seattle’s Pike Place Market. He’s got some albums on Bandcamp and I highly recommend them to anyone who likes old-timey stuff.

I’m already happy (new Ben Sollee song)

Basically everything Ben Sollee does makes me happy. Right now, I’m specifically happy about the new song he’s offering for download on his website.

Because what’s cooler than a cellist-singer-songwriter? A cellist-singer-songwriter who not only covers a song from the 1920s, but samples a Fletcher Henderson recording of that song! My inner musicologist is freaking out with excitement right now.

“Then I’ll Be Happy” is Sollee’s “new” track that will be on his new LP out in the fall — after a live recording he’s releasing in the spring!