BRIT Awards 2013

Brit Awards 2013 - Show

As ITV’s ad campaign reminded us this year, the BRIT Awards have always been and always will be the biggest night in British music, and 2013 didn’t disappoint. Last night’s ceremony was a look back at a year in music where Britain gave some incredible exports to the world: from Adele to One Direction, Mumford and Sons to Emeli Sandé, there was plenty of celebrating to be done.

Adele won the Best British Single for ‘Skyfall’ which she accepted from L.A. where she is hoping to bag the Oscar on Sunday night. Fellow Londoners-done-good Mumford and Sons were the toast of the night, taking Best British Band before bringing down the house with a performance of ‘I Will Wait’.

But as far as performances go, the evening was a little underwhelming. Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift gave decent performances, but none of the spectacle we have come to expect from our American visitors. One Direction ticked the pop segment, but not with anything too exciting. Robbie Williams had a nice set design, but looked a bit like Morrissey had walked on to Olly Murs’ performance by mistake. Worst of all there were none of the ceremony’s famous duets. Anyone holding out for a surprise appearance from Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones will have been very disappointed.

Even the banter was a little thin on the ground. James Cordon relied on worn jokes about Harry Styles’ flings with older women, and his infamous interjection to Adele’s speech last year. Even kissing Nick Grimshaw on the lips didn’t make him seem very funny. Had Sharon Osbourne not come on and said ‘willy’, the evening would have gone without lukewarm watershed defiance completely. Even then, it was Harry Styles’ willy she was talking about.

The evening’s ‘who the hell is this’ moment came twice – as chilled out, lesser know, guitar playing Ben Howard won British Breakthrough Act and Best British Male (he dropped out of uni, you know), both times proving that he had absolutely nothing to say for himself. Other winners included Coldplay, Frank Ocean, and the ever profound Lana ‘I made my life into a work of art’ Del Rey.

The losers of the evening were Alt-J, Plan B and Paloma Faith, who held double nominations but didn’t win. However, the profiles which were put together to mark their nominations in the Best British Album category certainly showed off the modest masterpieces they’ve created, and were a reminder that that the British album contest remains a powerhouse, even when it’s not dominated by major pop acts.

Emeli Sandé professed herself to be ‘a very unlikely pop star’, as she picked up the awards for Best British Female and Best British Album, and most people would probably agree. Her success in 2012 cannot be denied – in fact, it could not be escaped. But her omnipresence is only just made tolerable by the fact that she is a truly great talent, with a formidable catalogue of songs already under her belt. She closed the show (as only she can), reminding everyone that this night truly belonged to her.

All in all, a night without incident or highlight, but a celebration of one of the best years British music has had in a long time.

Full winners list
  • Critics’ Choice – Tom Odell
  • British Female Solo Artist – Emeli Sande
  • British Breakthrough – Ben Howard
  • British Group – Mumford & Sons
  • Best Male Solo Artist – Ben Howard
  • International Female Solo Artist – Lana Del Rey
  • Best Live Act – Coldplay
  • International Female Solo Artist – Lana Del Rey
  • Best British Single with Capital FM – Adele, ‘Skyfall’
  • International Male Solo artist – Frank Ocean
  • British Album Of The Year – Emeli Sande, ‘Our Version Of Events’
  • BRITs Global Success – One Direction

The BRIT Awards 2013 can be watched in their entirety on the ITV Player.

This review appeared originally on SoSoGay online.

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An Introduction To Mad Men

Over the past few years Mad Men has never really risen to the fore of my attention. Other than being vaguely aware that it was a TV show, I was blissfully unaware of what it was. Perhaps student years without a TV had played some part in my ignorance. But, by the time Christmas 2011 came around, I had had enough friends and acquaintances telling me I HAD to see it – usually based on my mild obsession with JFK, Revolutionary Road being one of my favourite novels, or my half-hearted attempts to recreate vintage 60s looks in my wardrobe. So, Santa Claus brought Mad Men on DVD and I got stuck in.

The show follows the lives of the Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper, and is centred on creative director Don Draper. Obviously it’s the purpose of any pilot to give a taste of everything a show will have to offer, but it’s unlikely any television series has hit that nail on the head quite as precisely as Mad Men. From the smoking and drinking, to the sexism and antisemitism; to the way a hard day’s doing nothing can remain productive; as soon as a passing remark gives Don the tag line for the product he’s been musing on all day. Episode One will have you hooked, so it’s a good thing I got the complete box set. I set about watching one 45 minute episode each night, or thereabouts.

The idea is to look at the emerging 1960s consumer culture, with the ideals of the American Dream so infused in its promotions, but to see it from the perspectives of the very real, and flawed characters who design it (and thus undermining its actual existence). Clever, right? You have no idea.

Don Draper is the man who has it all. On the surface he’s the perfect American man – he’s handsome, with a great job and a beautiful young family; reflective of the Kennedys themselves. But the reality of the juxtaposition between the smiles on the product covers, and the turmoil underneath is what enlists Draper in the ranks of the American antihero. His frontier? Between consumerism gone wild, the Cold War era, suburban imprisonment and the constant temptation from modern amorality, he’s got his work cut out for him. And there’s the small matter of his assumed identity, which sticks him right up there with Jay Gatsby – music to my literary ears. But I’ll let you get to that by yourselves…

If Don is far from perfect, he’s certainly not alone. If you do manage to develop a favourite character in Mad Men, it won’t be for their likability, for every single character is flawed in themselves. The men are adulterous alcoholics with a ruthless attitude towards everyone they meet; and the women are either superficial city dwellers or moaning desperate housewives. But you could find yourself heartbroken when you get a taste of Pete Campbell’s emasculation, Peggy’s Catholic guilt, or Joan’s desperation to be something more than a sex symbol. Then there’s the question you’ll be asking yourself at the end of every episode – is Don a good man? (Answers on a post card).

Roughly, I watched four seasons in the first four months of 2012, so when season five appeared on Sky Atlantic in May, I couldn’t have been happier. I had finally caught up and could enjoy it in real time with all the other fans. I realise I could write enough on this to fill several blogs –  a book perhaps. So consider this a mere sketch of the thoughts I have on the show. If only I’d watched Mad Men years ago, I could definitely have written an awesome dissertation on it. A decidedly low brow English Literature dissertation probably, but awesome nonetheless.