It’s that time of year again when the Brits and NME awards roll around, looking at the best of the music scene over the past year. 2016 was a good year for a number of bands, old and new, so we thought it would be worthwhile taking a look at the awards show’s to see whether they reflected the last year of music in the UK. On the whole, the results of both these awards shows give a rather depressing look at the way the music industry is viewed. I’ll start by looking at the positives because, despite the largely disappointing results, there are still some in the mix.
First of all, one award that surprised me but feels deserved was Skepta taking home ‘Best British Male’ at the NME awards. Although it’s fair to say Skepta is an artist of a genre that many NME readers wouldn’t typically listen to in Grime, the fact that Skepta has been able to help bring a genre as divisive as Grime to the forefront of British music without altering his style to make it more suitable for a ‘mainstream’ audience showcases that he is certainly deserving of the award. NME’s praise of the artist might show a sliver of individuality still exists behind the steadily declining magazine’s walls. His music may not be to my taste, but I cannot deny what he has achieved.
Another award from NME that didn’t depress me was ‘Music Moment of the Year’. This award was given to Coldplay. Yes, I have just said that Coldplay winning an award at the NME awards was a good thing. But hear me out. This award was given for the tribute the band paid to Viola Beach during their Glastonbury set. The tragic accident that resulted in the death of Warrington band Viola Beach and their manager was terrible, but the outpouring of support for the band following the tragic events has been heart-warming to see and giving this award to Coldplay for their poignant Glastonbury tribute felt like a fitting way to recognise the show of sympathy and support fans, artists and the industry gave the band. I’m not normally one to compliment Coldplay on anything they do, but fair play to them.
But that’s the fun bits over, the rest us far less inspiring. NME’s ‘Hero of the Year’ was one award that was not only irritating, but came across as distasteful. David Bowie was nominated for this award in a year where he released Blackstar, an album that went on to be one of his most successful, reaching number one in the charts in a number of countries and it was his only ever album to top the Billboard 200 in the United States. Not only this, but Bowie also lost his battle with cancer. For Bowie to not win this award, whilst some of the other nominees were the likes of Gary Lineker, for hosting Match of the Day in his underwear, frankly seemed distasteful towards his memory. Beyonce went on to win the award. In fairness, Beyonce made a powerful protest at the Superbowl in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. My issue isn’t with Beyonce winning this award, it is the fact that other nominees were Gary Lineker, for not wearing any clothes while presenting a TV show, and Liam Gallagher for calling his brother Noel a potato, as funny as that is. However, David Bowie did go on to win ‘Best British Male’ and ‘Best British Album’ for the hauntingly brilliant Blackstar at the Brit Awards.
The 1975 are a band that split opinion, many love them, but I find myself falling firmly on the side of dislike. The 1975 went on to win ‘Best Live Band’ at the NME awards and the ‘British Group Award’ at the Brits. Their performance of The Sound at the Brit Awards confirmed for me why they shouldn’t have won ‘Best Live Band’ at the NME awards. The band reduced their performance to a gimmick and a tired one at that. The band flashed criticism that have been put against them in the past on to the screen whilst they performed, similar to the music video for the same song. Fair enough to them ‘proving the critics wrong’, however for a band that is supposed to be the best live band around, for their performance to be reduced to this gimmick makes me think that they acknowledge that their performances leave much to be desired. The best live band shouldn’t need a gimmick to be talked about, they should excel not just in single shows, but as a whole. Also, the band ‘sneaking’ under their table (followed by multiple cameras, I might add) in order to smoke weed seemed like a pathetic attempt to come across as controversial and rebellious. When you would see an outburst from the Gallagher’s, that would be funny because they genuinely don’t care what anyone thinks of them and they do it because that’s how they naturally are. This from the 1975 feels planned and forced, very much like their live shows.
One artist that undeservingly came away with no awards from either award shows despite being nominated for ‘British Breakthrough Act’, were Blossoms. Having had what most would describe as the definition of a breakout year in 2016, with their debut album spending two weeks at the top of the UK charts and that’s for an indie band from the North West. This was through pure hard work, without mass media backing, and they have worked extensively touring around the country and overseas. No disrespect to Rag’n’Bone Man or Dua Lipa, with Rag N’ Bone having also spent 2 weeks at number 1 and Dua Lipa charting 2 UK top 10 singles, proving both to be talented artists. However, Rag’n’Bone man had a lot more radio and TV coverage than Blossoms, he’s being played by everyone right now, and rightly so, yet Blossoms could have made use of increased media attention. Also, Dua Lipa has a sound that is more appealing to a general audience. Blossoms winning with such an individual style of music and virtually no media coverage would have been a true success story for rising stars, sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
Another band similar to The 1975 in the way they split opinion, are Bastille, who won NME’s ‘Album of the Year’. It makes me wonder how they can be considered to display the best indie and alternative music, that NME supposedly covers. In a year which Blossoms released their debut, Jamie T returned to top form, Catfish and the Bottlemen successfully followed up their debut amongst others, how can Bastille’s Wild World be considered the best of such a strong bunch of albums?
The final gripe I will raise is with the NME awards was for ‘Best Festival Headliner’. First of all it is worth mentioning some of the nominees. The Stone Roses, who topped off their summer return with T in the Park. Biffy Clyro who headlined Reading and Leeds again, after headlining only three years earlier. Foals who also headlined Reading and Leeds, who are one of the best live bands out there and Radiohead, another fantastic live band. Even Coldplay are “apparently” meant to be a good live experience. The winner was Adele, who headlined Glastonbury. She doesn’t seem the type of artist who would appeal to a festival crowd, especially with her having only performed on three tours so far since 2011. For someone who’s debut album came out almost a decade ago, it leads me to believe that Adele herself doesn’t particularly merit her touring ability, or perhaps doesn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe this is a problem I have with the pop industry as a whole rather than just Adele, but I prefer an artist to go out and earn a living for themselves on the road, to hone their craft at tiny venues before being rewarded with the festival headline circuit. For someone who plays live so rarely to headline arguably the most famous festival in the world bemuses me, let alone for them to be given an award for said performance.
Overall, this awards season disappoints me as I feel it sends out the wrong message to emerging artists, that working hard on tour and engaging with your fans in venues across the country won’t be recognised and that you need a commercial aspect, mass media support or a gimmick in order to be successful. I find myself surprised then that the only individual whose managed to stand against the tide is Sketpa, who has managed to win an award in spite of this. If more proof of grime’s significance in British music was needed I’m sure we’ll see it at next years awards season as well.