The BRIT Awards are framed by chaos. Whether that’s Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood struggling to read the auto-cue or Jarvis Cocker waggling his bottom at Michael Jackson, the ceremony has historically conjured scenes akin to the after-party of an office annual appraisal.
There’s a train of thought, however, that such moments are behind us. The brand spanking new BRITs, so the argument goes, have upped their game, streamlined the omnishambles, and squeezed all the bedlam and turmoil out of the ceremony.
In truth, this is pretty wide of the mark. For proof, just take a gander at the Grammy awards, and its cavalcade of professionalism, all gleaming white smiles, immaculate frocks, and ultra-swish tuxedos. Now contrast with BRIT Awards: Alex Turner’s mic drop, Lizzo chugging tequila, and Madonna almost throttling herself live onstage.
Truly, it’s almost enough to make you feel proud to be British. Here’s five recent highlights that exemplify the BRIT Awards’ chaotic heart.
Adele gives James Corden the middle finger.
It’s 2012, and everyone loves Adele. You love Adele. Your mum loves Adele. Your cynical younger brother secretly loves Adele. Quite simply everyone on the known planet, and perhaps those beyond our cosmos, love Adele. She’s up there with Rice Crispies in the pantheon of Things You Can’t Possibly Complain About.
So why, then, did James Corden march out onstage and grab the mic away from her when Adele was about to complete an emotional speech? Arguably the pinnacle of her rise, it followed that breakout tear-strewn performance of ‘Someone Like You’ in 2011, with her triumph becoming a mirror to those tears.
Until Corden came along, with his sweaty bear-man hands, and pulled the mic away. The awards had over-run – Emili Sande and Blur also suffered from shortened run-time – and the host himself was left ravaged with guilt, seemingly inconsolable backstage. The image of Adele flipping the bird at James Corden swiftly went viral, however, and in the long run did her no harm at all. As for us, we simply lived for the chaotic energy of it all.
Alex Turner’s onstage philosophising.
Alex Turner is many things: a wordsmith, an era-defining frontman, and a raunchy lil dude. His BRIT Awards speech in 2014, however, enshrined him in a new role – the undeniable chaotic king of rock ‘n’ roll philosophy.
The first act to scoop Best British Album and Best British Band in the same ceremony three times, Arctic Monkeys dutifully mounted the stairs, and clutched yet another award. Gleaming into camera and clutching the mic, Alex Turner let loose his theory on the mysterious mutability of rock ‘n’ roll and its cyclical path through the cosmos.
“That rock’n’roll, eh? That rock’n’roll, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp. I think the cyclical nature of the universe in which it exists demands it adheres to some of its rules.”
“But it’s always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash through the glass ceiling, looking better than ever. “Yeah, that rock’n’roll, it seems like it’s fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Thank you very much for this. I do truly appreciate it. Don’t take that the wrong way… “
What did it mean? No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative.
David Bowie’s letter causing Caledonian palpitations.
David Bowie spent the final decade of his life generally ignoring the hustle and bustle of awards ceremonies. When you’ve won as many as he had, the novelty no doubt wears off – plus, he had health matters to attend to.
2014, though, saw David Bowie landed with yet another gong, with the BRITs naming him Best British Male – a title he could probably win in perpetuity, truth be told. Close friend Kate Moss bounded up to the stand wearing one of Bowie’s vintage catsuits, and promptly read out a message from the Thin White Duke himself. Simple in tone, exact in language, it finished: “Scotland, stay with us!”
Cue absolute bedlam on social media. With the Scottish independence referendum heating up, Bowie’s intrusion – how dare he! – was lauded on one side, and mocked on another. “He’s not made a decent album since ‘Low’” became a somewhat unlikely trope of Scottish nationalism, with the Unionist cause forced to re-assess the haphazard studio adventures of Tin Machine as a means of securing the status quo.
Thousands of miles away, seated in his New York apartment, David Bowie was no doubt scrolling the headlines with a wry smile on his face.
Hugh Jackman opens the BRIT Awards 2019.
The opening performance in the BRIT Awards is a chance to highlight British music to the world. It’s one of the most prominent, most dissected, most discussed slots available in British media – in world media, even – and it sets the tone for what is to follow.
All that makes it even more remarkable that the BRITs chose to push former PE teacher and full-time Wolverine Hugh Jackman out-front to open 2019’s ceremony. One of the few genuine WTF? moments from that year’s ceremony, Mr Jackman (as his pupils no doubt called him) blazed through The Greatest Show amid a pyramid of dancers.
Host Jack Whitehall promptly dubbed him “Australia’s answer to Bradley Walsh”, but with The Greatest Showman soundtrack album demolishing chart records in 2018 the Hollywood actor probably had more right to be there than, say, a Clash writer.
Perhaps the real chaos isn’t the BRIT Awards after all – it’s the UK public who buy these albums.
Lizzo chugs a full glass of tequila.
Did someone say chaos?
Shout out to @jackwhitehall for this unforgettable #BRITs moment involving @Harry_Styles, @lizzo and some tequila pic.twitter.com/wwSSPynCMP
— BRIT Awards (@BRITs) March 25, 2021
Say what you like about Jack Whitehall. No, seriously, say what you like. – Jokes aside, Jack Whitehall made a decent fist of being BRITs host, all around. Amiable and genuinely enthusiastic to be there, he closed out his stint with last year’s semi-ceremony, but leaves behind some pleasingly chaotic memories.
Such as this moment from the event in 2020. Grabbing the chair next to Harry Styles, a clearly thirsty – in every sense – host grabs the glass closest to him and takes a sip. And then nearly vomits.
It seems that Harry Styles has a full glass of neat tequila opposite him, with the pop icon leaping gleefully to his feet. Not to be out-done, Lizzo – who struck up a KEWT friendship with Harry Styles during the ceremony – simply grabbed the glass and kept on chugging, finishing the liquor in one drop.
Truly, the Grammys could never.
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