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Britain deserves better than The Brits

The Brit Awards need to start representing the country as a whole – or just stop

By Oliver Keens
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The Brit AwardsOn behalf of 100 great British artists who have never won a Brit Award… Illustration by Bryan Mayes

We all make mistakes. But when you look at the 100 names above and dwell on how many mistakes the Brit Awards have made, and how much great music they’ve ignored since 1982, you start to wonder whether the ultimate mistake is allowing this event to keep representing British music.

Why run a piece about the Brits if they suck? Well, it’s a legitimate question – after all, for a whole generation of music fans, the Brits isn’t something watched for entertainment. It’s an annual televised car crash whose only function is be hated on and tweeted about, or to serve up some agonising newsworthy fuck-up à la #capegate.

All the same, there are valid reasons to be concerned about the awards. British music is beleaguered right now. Look beyond Adele’s piles of tearstained royalty cheques, and you’ll see that physical sales are down, streaming revenue is paltry and live venues are closing.

The Brit Awards

Yet, despite all this adversity, great things are happening in British music – artists like Little Simz and Young Fathers are pushing boundaries in hip hop, pop is being dissected and rebuilt in various ways by Charli XCX, PC Music and Chvrches. And then there’s grime, which spectacularly reinvigorated itself (with no help from major labels) last year to become the defining sound of British youth. It’s a scene that’s ripe for acknowledgement, applause and all the national attention afforded by a high-profile TV broadcast. This is exactly what a major national music presentation should be doing. And how many grime artists are nominated this year? None.

Anything that hijacks the word ‘Brit’ should reflect all aspects of British life. But as you can see below, The Brit Awards don’t score well on diversity. Female winners of the Best Album award are scant, and amazingly, despite the ceremony relying heavily on girl band performances, no all-female band has ever won Best British Group. Not even the Spice Girls.

The Brit Awards

There are some really good nominees tomorrow. Florence, Jamie xx, Laura Marling, even Aphex Twin. None of these people are going to win. The Brits choose gimmicks over greatness every time. A prime example of this is PJ Harvey: tokenistically nominated a staggering EIGHT times, yet passed over for each one in favour of some of the flimsiest, featherweight names in music history: Des’ree, Dido, Joss Stone, Kate Nash and Sonique.

What British music needs right now is an Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony moment. What it will almost certainly get on Wednesday is a Closing Ceremony moment. That, and another addition to the Brits blooper reel. British music fans deserve better – something that makes us punch the air with pride, not facepalm in despair.

The Brit Awards

 

The Brit Awards 2016 are on Wednesday February 24.

Find out more about The Brits

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