By Emmanuel Legrand
That’s what I asked myself after attending the 2012 BRIT Awards on Feb. 21 at the O2 in London. I could not remember one song that was played there, except for Adele’s (but more about her later).
Coldplay’s opener (‘Charlie Brown’) was blander than their average songs (and it takes some!). It was totally unremarkable, despite the fireworks.
Ed Sheeran’s acoustic song (‘Lego House’) was a winner with the public (and you need some balls to go strip naked in front of 20,000 people), but it was hardly ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.
And Florence? As Andy Gill quite rightly said in The Independent, she came with her big Machine but forgot to bring a song with her.
And what was that track from Noel Gallagher? It sounded like a pre-Creation demo. Is that the best he can do? (He also looked like he’d been happier working on an assembly line than on the Brits’ stage…)
No need to even mention two alumni from the School of Simon Cowell, Olly Murs (who performed some indigent song) and One Direction (who, luckily, did not perform, but did get a lot of exposure).
That said, the international acts present at the O2 (fantastic venue by the way) did not raise the bar either. All I remember from Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ extravaganza was the Eurodance beats and the pumped up synth chorus, but was it a song? (BTW, it was composed by a Brit, Calvin Harris)
And Bruno Mars charmingly sang a sub-Marvin Gaye track (‘Just The Way You Are’) – and all we could talk about afterwards was his nice smile and his hairdo.
It took Blur to come on stage to show that you could have great songs with substance and some kind of rock’n roll attitude too. But these songs were about 15 to 20 years old!!! It was also a reminder that the combination singer/guitarist has produced some of the most amazing songwriting partnerships in the UK (think Jagger/Richards, Plant/Page, Morrissey/Marr, Anderson/Butler, Albarn/Coxon, to name but a few).
Which brings us back to Adele. I make no bones that I do not like her music. It leaves me cold, and that’s been the case since her debut ‘19’. But I can see why it works: she has a good voice, she is true to herself, and she has…SONGS! You know, these little gems that contain an intro, a verse, a chorus, a verse, a bridge, etc. Her music is not over-produced so you can really hear the songs behind the instrumentation. And her songs stick to mind. Eureka!
One can argue that the BRIT Awards are just a snapshot of the year that went by, but they are also a reflection of what “worked” in the commercial environment (the BRITs experienced their best TV audience since 2005, so something must have been working for the viewers).
Maybe it was a weak year, maybe it was a sign of the times where a good hook and production values are more important that the overall structure of a song. Maybe good songs do not matter as much as they used to. Maybe it’s just me being nostalgic.
Nothing beats a good song. And I could not find one to bring home with me the other night.
PS: in his 20-point plan to revamp the BRITs, Independent's Andy Gill suggests to bring Ricky Gervais to host the show. I second that motion! If Gervais is good enough for the up-their-own-arses crowd of actors and film directors, he should be good too for the music biz crowd. And he'd be funny.
[Typed while listening to Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Suck It And See’ (Domino) and Laura Marling’s ‘Night After Night’ (Virgin), two of the grand absentees of the other night.]