Frocks, falls and fisticuffs: Why the Brits always delivers
Forget the Oscars - the best awards show in town is the annual music bash. Our music correspondent looks back at the highlights
Published 24/02/2016 | 18:00
When Madonna took a tumble at the Brit Awards last year it confirmed the UK music industry shindig's status as one of the most reliably hair-raising events in entertainment.
Where the liveliest the Oscars can offer is a blubbing actor or Chris Rock saying something faux-controversial about race, controversy is wrapped up in the DNA of the Brits. Already the 2016 ceremony, taking place at the O2 in London tonight, has been mired in controversy, with Lily Allen and new boy James Bay clashing on Twitter over minority representation at the Brits.
And with one-man internet outrage machine Justin Bieber, and the notoriously provocative Rihanna, lined up to sing this evening, further surprises seem a distinct possibility. To whet appetites for the awards, broadcast on UTV with Ant and Dec compering, here are the top 10 Brit controversies from the archives.
1 Madge's Cape Malfunction
Madonna's 2015 Brits spot was billed a triumphant return by the self-styled queen of pop. But the performance went downhill quickly - or at least Madonna did - as her Armani cape became entangled and she executed a painful face-plant in front of millions of viewers.
The internet promptly exploded, though Madonna herself would later seem surprisingly sanguine about it. "I'm always nervous. Live TV is a f-----," she would say. "What's the worst that can happen? You make a mistake and fall down stairs. I'm done with capes. Cape Fear is over."
2 James Corden v Adele
Before he was that annoying man who drives around in cars with pop stars, Corden was that annoying man who presented the Brits. He was never a particularly popular Brits host but his lowest moment was surely 2012 when, under pressure from producers, he cut off Album of the Year winner Adele mid heartfelt acceptance speech.
Luckily Adele isn't one to hold a grudge (unless it's against a former boyfriend, in which case she will make him the subject of every piece of music she has ever recorded). Accepting the trophy for Single of the Year by video link 12 months later she cracked wise about Corden's brusqueness: "I won't keep you too long as I wouldn't want to interrupt the Best Album speech at the end of the night".
3 The KLF Shoot Everyone
Pop provocateurs The KLF made outrageousness into an artform. One of their finest / barmiest moments came as they opened the 1992 Brits. The initial plan had been to chuck buckets of blood at the audience. In the event, they were talked down to firing blank machine gun rounds at the great and good of the British music industry. For an encore, the What Time Is Live? duo later flung a dead sheep at the awards after party, with the message "I died for ewe". Top that, Ed Sheeran.
4 Jarvis Cocker Bumrushes Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson performs 'Earth Song' at the 1996 ceremony before Jarvis Cocker’s stage invasion
Having Michael Jackson warble at the 1996 Brit Awards was regarded as a coup. Yet in hindsight, inviting the world's most sanctimonious singer to headline the event at the height of Britpop was probably foolish. As Jacko commenced his grandiose performance of Earth Song, a skinny, disheveled figure could be seen jigging maniacally at edge of stage.
"My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christlike figure with the power of healing," Cocker would later state, denying he had collided with any of Jackson's backing dancers. "I just ran on the stage. I didn't make any contact with anyone as far as I recall."
Such justifications didn't cut much ice with the police who promptly hauled him off for a dressing down. It took the intervention of comedian Bob Mortimer - a qualified solicitor - to secure his release at 3am.
"Bob Mortimer used to work for Peckham Council in the legal department so he offered to speak in my defences and deal with the legal aspects of the case," said Cocker. "All the policemen kept asking him for his autograph."
5 Kate Moss Turns Up Dressed As David Bowie
A recluse since the mid-2000s, it seemed unlikely David Bowie would accept his Lifetime Achievement award in person at the 2014 Brits. So it proved, with Kate Moss instead taking delivery of the gong wearing a provocative one-piece based on Bowie's Ziggy Stardust cat-suit from the early 70s. "Scotland, stay with us" Bowie urged in his acceptance speech (read by Moss).
6 Oasis Insult Michael Hutchence To His Face
Gloriously off their heads, Oasis were in mischief-making mood at the 1996 Brits. Receiving the gong for Best British Group from Michael Hutchence, frontman Liam Gallagher aimed both barrels at the INXS singer, snarling "Hasbeens shouldn't be giving awards to gonna-bes". But Liam was himself in the firing line in 2000 as Robbie Williams - with whom Oasis had been feuding - took to the Brits podium and challenged Gallagher to a boxing match.
"So, anybody like to see me fight Liam? Would you pay to come and see it? Liam, a hundred grand of your money and a hundred grand of my money," he grandstanded. "We'll get in a ring and we'll have a fight and you can all watch it on TV."
7 Russell Brand Outrages Everyone
Always up for scandalising the moral majority, 2007 presenter Russell Brand kicked up a firestorm with some provocative quips about the deaths by "friendly fire" of British and American combatants in Iraq.
"I think a good international breakthrough would be if the British and American soldiers tell each other where they are standing," he said.
"Alternatively they could use a system I learned at school, where one team takes off their tops and the others don't. This makes the team distinction clear. It allows you to see fat lads' boobs, which can really lift the mood in a drab football match - or indeed a war."
The ITV complaints line promptly went into meltdown.
8 Geri Halliwell Flies /Wears The Flag
Not a controversy as such but a performance that nonetheless was immediately seared into the public consciousness. With the 1997 Brits doubling as a victory lap for the "girl power" standard bearers, Halliwell went for broke, squeezing into a black Gucci mini-dress onto which her sister had stitched a Union Jack tea towel. It was later auctioned for £41,000 and today hangs on the wall of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
At the same ceremony, Halliwell, now belted into a red sequin frock, gave viewers more than they had bargained for as she suffered a "wardrobe malfunction" en route to the winner's podium.
9 Chumbawumba and the Bucket Of Ice
Socialist pop stars Chumbawumba weren't having it when British cabinet minister John Prescott attended the 1998 Brits, with band member Danbert Nobacon pitching a bucket of ice over the stunned politician's head.
"If John Prescott has the nerve to turn up at events like the Brit Awards in a vain attempt to make Labour seem cool and trendy, then he deserves all we can throw at him," he explained.
10 Arctic Monkeys Turn up Dressed As Toffs
Making a point about the growing pervasiveness of the privately educated, middle class in British music, the lairy Sheffield band attended the 2008 awards outfitted like country squires. They went on to deliver an expletive-laden tirade about the Brit School - alma mater to Adele and Amy Winehouse - with their speech later cut from the broadcast.