Ahead of the 37th BRIT Awards ceremony being held at London’s O2 Arena tonight, here are my thoughts on the nominees and winners..
British Album of the Year
‘I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’, by The 1975
A pleasingly eclectic comeback from the young-ish Manchester upstarts, fronted as ever by affable yet aloof ‘Matty’ Healey. Sonically more adventurous than their 2013 self-titled debut, this sophomore record – with the longest running-time of the five nominees – takes in influences as wide and varied as INXS, Christina Aguilera, My Blood Valentine and D’Angelo, and should see them finally recognised after mysteriously being snubbed in every category during their first album campaign.
‘Made In The Manor’, by Kano
An underhyped and underpraised comeback album for one of grime’s original gangleaders, his first in six years, grabs you by the throat in guitar-y opening track ‘Hail’ and then follows it up with absolute bangers in the form of ‘T-Shirt Weather in the Manor’ and the aptly-named ‘New Banger’. The pace relents slightly in the second half and it could perhaps have had more crossover appeal into the mainstream if it had made more of Damon Albarn’s feature on ‘Blue Blues’, but none-the-less an exciting, important, vibrant and eventually exhausting LP.
‘Blackstar’, by David Bowie
Historic in its much-acknowledged astonishing timing, breathtaking in its artistic scope, moving in its pain and intimacy, Bowie’s ‘goodbye’ album could scarcely be more perfect. Third track ‘Lazarus’, in particular, as an immensely moving six minute epic, has deservedly shaken pop music to its core. Such an important album, it doesn’t bear thinking about when another so significant in the timeline of popular culture might along, if ever.
‘Konnichiwa’, by Skepta
Already a Mercury Prize winner, ‘Konnichiwa’ has in a stroke solidified grime’s presence in the mainstream. There can barely be a young person alive who hasn’t been exposed to the massive hit ‘Shutdown’ but this a complete album, put together with heart and authenticity, that eclipses ‘Boy in da Corner’ as grime’s most important album ever – at least until Stormzy drops his debut on Friday – and as such there are numerous highlights here, from the Pharrell-featuring ‘Numbers’ to ‘That’s Not Me’, the latter of which has become as anthemic as ‘Shutdown’ in some quarters. White Radio 2 listeners might find it alienating but it’s high time their cultural tastes were no longer deemed so important to the industry anyway.
‘Love & Hate’, by Michael Kiwanuka
Whilst failing to replicate the mainstream cut-through of 2012 debut ‘Home Again’, this beautiful and soulful return from yet another Londoner – only The 1975 are not from London, in this year’s best album shortlist – is an atmospheric and confident step-up in class, but still stays true to the roots lay down by its predecessor. ‘Black Man in a White World’ obviously offers a social commentary of sorts, and is a highlight along with the title track, but throughout this is a fantastically engaging and textured listen no matter what angle a listener might choose to approach it from.
Winner: If released any other year, ‘Made In The Manor’, ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ and ‘Konnichiwa’ would have walked this main award. Indeed, even ‘Love & Hate’ – probably a distant last out of this selection of five – would have been considered a relative frontrunner if it had been a candidate at the 2016, 2014 and 2016 ceremonies. But this year, the award for the best album released during 2016’s most agonising 12 months, can only be awarded, must only be awarded, to ‘Blackstar’.
British Male Solo Artist
Nominees: Craig David, David Bowie, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Skepta
Should win: Skepta, for giving grime the mainstream breakthrough that eluded even Dizzee Rascal
Probably will win: David Bowie
British Female Solo Artist
Nominees: Anohni, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas, Nao
Should win: Laura Mvula
Probably will win: Ellie Goulding, despite – like fellow nominee Lianne La Havas – not releasing an album in 2016
Nominees: The 1975, Bastille, Biffy Clyro, Little Mix, Radiohead
Should win: Radiohead, if only to make up for their ridiculous snub in the Best Album category
Probably will win: The 1975
British Breakthrough Act
Nominees: Anne-Marie, Blossoms, Rag’N’Bone Man, Skepta, Stormzy
Should win: Stormzy – how Skepta and Rag’N’Bone Man even qualify for this category is beyond me
Probably will win: Skepta
Nominees: A Tribe Called Quest, Drake and Future, Kings of Leon, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Twenty One Pilots
Should win: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, for summoning up the strength to record the hauntingly brave ‘Skeleton Tree’ in the wake of son Arthur’s tragic death in July 2015
Probably will win: Twenty One Pilots, to sustain the BRITs’ proud tradition of clawing back some credibility with the nominees in the ‘International’ categories, only to give the statuette to the most populist and commercial nominee after all
International Male Solo Artist
Nominees: Bon Iver, Bruno Mars, Drake, Leonard Cohen, The Weeknd
Should win: Bon Iver, with commendations to sadly-passed Leonard Cohen
Probably will win: Drake, despite apparently also being an international group
International Female Solo Artist
Nominees: Beyonce, Christine and the Queens, Rihanna, Sia, Solange
Should win: Beyonce
Probably will win: Beyonce
British Single of the Year
Nominees: ‘Faded’ – Alan Walker, ‘Dancing On My Own’ – Calum Scott (but really Robyn), ‘This Is What You Came For’ – Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna and Taylor Swift, ‘Rockabye’ – Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie, ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ – Coldplay feat. Beyonce, ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ – James Arthur, ‘Fast Car’ – Jonas Blue feat. Dakota (but really Tracy Chapman), ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ – Little Mix, ‘Girls Like’ – Tinie Tempah feat. Zara Larsson, ‘Pillowtalk’ – Zayn
Should win: anything except ‘Girls Like’, ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’, ‘Dancing on My Own’, ‘Fast Car’ and ‘Faded’
Probably will win: ‘Rockabye’, for which we can be thankful this category is no longer decided by public vote
Nominees: ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ – Coldplay feat. Beyonce, ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ – James Arthur, ‘Pillowtalk’- Zayn, ‘History’ – One Direction, ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ – Little Mix
Should win: Hymn For The Weekend – a beautiful, thoughtful, cultural exploration of India featuring vibrant colours and lots of art and happy children
Probably will win: ‘History’, despite being effortless trash consisting of nothing more than a career highlights reel and the four of them waving their arms about in front of a brick wall, proving once again the decision to base any nominations list on who gets the most YouTube views to be utterly egregious.