8 ways the Brit Awards could be better
The Brit Awards 2014 attracted the lowest viewership in 15 years: just 4.2 million people tuned in to watch James Corden’s Brits swansong live. This year’s event, hosted by ITV’s irrepressible Ant and Dec, doesn’t look likely to enthuse many more viewers.
Here are some of the ways they could enliven the ceremony:
1. Get better presenters
After four ceremonies of Belieber-offending jokes, James Corden is setting sail for an American Late Night chat show. As a result, the Brits have called in Ant and Dec, the cheeky-chappy Geordies of I’m A Celeb and Britain's Got Talent fame. While the pair will probably bring a few lol-inducing jokes to the proceedings, they are also a safe pair of hands with nearly two decades of experience in live TV.
This means no missed autocues, like when Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood hosted in 1989, no rowdy expletives, as The Osbornes offered in 2009 and none of the 300 complaints ITV received after Russell Brand hosted in 2007. When Ant & Dec last hosted the Awards in 2001, Noel Gallagher merely upset hasbeen boyband A1.
In 1994, the Brits were hosted by Elton John and RuPaul, the drag queen who was then at the peak of her pop career. It would be nice to bring a pairing as fierce, camp and witty back to the stage. Or a woman: only three have presented the awards in nearly 40 years: Davina McCall in 2000, Cathy McGowan in 1990 and Samantha Fox in 1989.
2. Get out of the O2 Arena
The glory days of the Brits - when Rick Astley was interrupted by The Who, Jarvis Cocker mooned Michael Jackson and Geri Halliwell unveiled her knickers to the world - took place in the Royal Albert Hall, which has a capacity of 5,000, and Earls Court Two, which holds a maximum of 6,000.
By contrast, the cavernous, branded leviathan of the O2 Arena comfortably seats 20,000. Even the showbiz few seated on the ground of the arena have to rely on two massive screens to see the antics on stage, with prizewinners and performers appearing impossibly small to everyone else. It’s hardly surprising that the most interesting thing that’s happened to the Brit Awards since they have been hosted there in 2011 is Adele giving the middle finger to “the suits” behind the event.
A return to a smaller concert hall could bring back a more intimate air of mischief to the proceedings, but Earls Court will be rubble by this time next year.
3. Allow more alcohol
All the best Brits moments have happened under the influence. One Direction reportedly only had peppermint tea on their rider before mangling Blondie’s One Way or Another on stage at the 2013 awards, possibly the most boring to date. By contrast, the ceremonies of the Nineties, where stars including Robbie Williams prided themselves on being drunk, were far more entertaining.
4. Do the red carpet properly
The Brits could learn many things from their glossier American siblings, the MTV VMAs and The Grammys, but one of them would be the red carpet. This year, YouTubers-turned-radio presenters Dan and Phil will be presenting a YouTube stream as stars arrive at the O2. But if the red carpet was given the same prominence as that of the Baftas, and broadcast on ITV, then everyone watching (and tweeting along, naturally), would be able to witness the awkward interviews and bizarre wardrobe choices before the ceremony.
5. Have some exciting duets
At the Grammys in January, SIA, Kristen Wiig and 12-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler gave a performance that was so beautiful and bizarre it dominated the internet for hours after and had genuine cultural importance. The last time the Brits hosted something as excellent was in 1994, when Bjork and PJ Harvey covered I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.
While there have been some strong gigs in recent years (Arctic Monkeys in 2014 and Blur two years earlier), the Brits have been lacking a good duet since Florence and the Machine and Dizzee Rascal collaborated on You’ve Got the Love in 2010. Last year was an amazing year for female pop collaboration - Nicki Minaj, Jessie J and Ariana Grande’s Bang Bang aside - if the Brits actually reflected that, it might even counteract the male-dominated Best British Band category.
6. Nominate some actual newcomers
It’s not just the Brits that are guilty of this, but the British Breakthrough category gets increasingly embarrassing every year. This year, they’ve pulled the old trick of nominating someone who previously won the Brits Critics Choice award (Adele was nominated in 2009, two years after she won in 2007) in Sam Smith, who will probably add his Breakthrough prize to the four Grammys he picked up a few weeks ago.
With the exception of Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches, who would make a more sensible inclusion in the Best British Band category than Coldplay, the other four nominees appear in at least one other category.
If the Brits reinvented this as the Best Newcomer category and/or chose to highlight some less likely musicians who really did make an impact over the past year - such as Charli XCX, Ella Eyre, Kwabs and yes, FKA Twigs - it would bring the awards some much-needed relevance.
7. Invite Kanye West
Because he unfailing does something entertaining.
8. Understand how to use social media
Instead of, say, invite Kanye West, in recent years the Brit Awards have made a big effort to lure big name British pop stars to the event by inventing new categories which can be won through social popularity contests.
Last year, it was the Social Vote Award for British Video, which could be seen as an excuse for Directioners to make sure One Direction picked up a Brit award that year. They’ll probably beat fellow nominees Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars to the prize again this year, as they have the greatest number of Twitter followers and that’s how the award is won.
But anyone watching social media after an awards ceremony these days will know that its the likes of Left Shark, Awesome Possum and Kanye’s takedown of Beck (see point 7) that dominates traffic the next day. Hopefully new Brits committee chair Max Lousada, CEO of Warner Music, and Olympics Opening Ceremony designer Es Devlin, could help put some future listicle fodder in place. Having proper signal in the venue (see point 2) would help, too.