The BRIT Awards 2011

For the first time, the BRIT Awards took place at The O2 Arena on 15th February 2011, now, according to the official website, with more live music than ever before. James Corden was the host, and the award was designed by Vivienne Westwood.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2010 ceremony here, and the 2012 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album of the Year

Presented by Roger Daltrey from The Who. Nominees:

  • Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
  • Plan B – The Defamation of Strickland Banks
  • Take That – Progress
  • Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
  • The xx – xx

Winner: Mumford & Sons

British Single

Voted for by listeners of Capital Radio and users of iTunes, and presented by Alan Carr. Nominees:

  • Alexandra Burke feat. Pitbull – All Night Long
  • Matt Cardle – When We Collide
  • Cheryl Cole – Parachute
  • Taio Cruz – Dynamite
  • Florence + The Machine – You Got the Love
  • Olly Murs – Please Don’t Let Me Go
  • Plan B – She Said
  • Scouting for Girls – This Ain’t a Love Song
  • Tinie Tempah – Pass Out
  • The Wanted – All Time Low

Winner: Tinie Tempah

British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Dizzee Rascal. Nominees:

  • Plan B
  • Robert Plant
  • Mark Ronson
  • Tinie Tempah
  • Paul Weller

Winner: Plan B

British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Boy George. Nominees:

  • Cheryl Cole
  • Paloma Faith
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Laura Marling
  • Rumer

Winner: Laura Marling

British Group

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 2, and presented by Dermot O’Leary. Nominees:

  • Biffy Clyro
  • Gorillaz
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Take That
  • The xx

Winner: Take That

British Breakthrough Act

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1, and presented by Fearne Cotton. Nominees:

  • Ellie Goulding
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Rumer
  • Tinie Tempah
  • The xx

Winner: Tinie Tempah

British Producer

Awarded alongside a couple of other producer awards at the Music Producers Guild Awards the week before the main ceremony. Nominees:

  • Markus Dravs
  • Ethan Johns
  • John Leckie
  • Mike Pela
  • Stuart Price

Winner: Markus Dravs

International Album

Presented by Boris Becker. Nominees:

  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Eminem – Recovery
  • Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
  • Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown
  • Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Winner: Arcade Fire

International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Lewis Hamilton. Nominees:

  • Eminem
  • Cee Lo Green
  • David Guetta
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Kanye West

Winner: Cee Lo Green

International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Cheryl Cole. Nominees:

  • Alicia Keys
  • Kylie Minogue
  • Katy Perry
  • Rihanna
  • Robyn

Winner: Rihanna

International Group

Presented by Simon Le Bon and John Taylor from Duran Duran. Nominees:

  • Arcade Fire
  • The Black Eyed Peas
  • Kings of Leon
  • The Script
  • Vampire Weekend

Winner: Arcade Fire

International Breakthrough Act

Voted for by viewers of MTV, and presented by Avril Lavigne and Will Young. Nominees:

  • Justin Bieber
  • Glee Cast
  • Bruno Mars
  • The National
  • The Temper Trap

Winner: Justin Bieber

Critics’ Choice

In association with War Child, and presented by Mark Ronson and Ellie Goulding. Nominees:

  • James Blake
  • Jessie J
  • The Vaccines

Winner: Jessie J

Outstanding Contribution

The BBC’s coverage (linked below) of the previous week’s Music Producers Guild Awards is a little confusing, as the entire event must have been. Was the Outstanding Contribution award part of the BRITs or of the Music Producers Guild event? Wikipedia thinks it was part of the BRITs…

My own interpretation of the situation is that there was no outstanding contribution award at the BRITs this year, but either way, the entirely justified winner was the founder of Mute Records, Daniel Miller, presented by Alison Goldfrapp, while Tony Visconti won the Innovation in Production award.

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 2010

The 2010 BRIT Awards were hosted by Peter Kay at Earls Court, in London, on Tuesday 16th February. Complicatedly, this was the thirtieth ceremony, although not the thirtieth anniversary, but this was celebrated by the special Brits Hits 30 award.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2009 ceremony here, and the 2011 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Tom Ford. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
  • Dizzee Rascal – Tongue ‘n’ Cheek
  • Florence + The Machine – Lungs
  • Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
  • Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

Winner: Florence + The Machine

British Single

Voted for by listeners of UK commercial radio and readers of The Sun, and presented by Alan Carr. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – The Fear
  • Alexandra Burke feat. Flo Rida – Bad Boys
  • Cheryl Cole – Fight for This Love
  • Taio Cruz – Break Your Heart
  • Alesha Dixon – Breathe Slow
  • JLS – Beat Again
  • La Roux – In for the Kill
  • Pixie Lott – Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)
  • Joe McElderry – The Climb
  • Tinchy Stryder feat. N-Dubz – Number 1

Winner: JLS

British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Andy Serkis. Nominees:

  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Calvin Harris
  • Mika
  • Paolo Nutini
  • Robbie Williams

Winner: Dizzee Rascal

British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Shirley Bassey. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen
  • Bat for Lashes
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Leona Lewis
  • Pixie Lott

Winner: Lily Allen

British Group

Presented by Idris Elba. Nominees:

  • Doves
  • Friendly Fires
  • JLS
  • Kasabian
  • Muse

Winner: Kasabian

British Breakthrough Act

Presented by Geri Halliwell. Nominees:

  • Florence + The Machine
  • Friendly Fires
  • JLS
  • La Roux
  • Pixie Lott

Winner: JLS

International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Melanie Brown. Nominees:

  • Michael Bublé
  • Eminem
  • Jay Z
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Seasick Steve

Winner: Jay Z

International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Jonathan Ross. Nominees:

  • Lady Gaga
  • Ladyhawke
  • Norah Jones
  • Rihanna
  • Shakira

Winner: Lady Gaga

International Breakthrough Act

Presented by Cat Deeley. Nominees:

  • Animal Collective
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Lady Gaga
  • Daniel Merriweather
  • Taylor Swift

Winner: Lady Gaga

International Album

Presented by Mika. Nominees:

  • Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • The Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D.
  • Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
  • Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
  • Lady Gaga – The Fame

Winner: Lady Gaga

Critics Choice

Presented by Courtney Love. Nominees:

  • Delphic
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Marina and the Diamonds

Winner: Ellie Goulding

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Winner: Robbie Williams

BRITs Hits 30 – Best Live Performance at the BRIT Awards

Voted for by viewers of GMTV, and presented by Samantha Fox. The year of each original performance is shown below. Nominees:

  • Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive / How Deep Is Your Love (1997)
  • Bros – I Owe You Nothing (1989)
  • Coldplay – Clocks (2003)
  • Eurythmics and Stevie Wonder – There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) (1999)
  • Girls Aloud – The Promise (2009)
  • Michael Jackson – Earth Song (1996)
  • Paul McCartney and Wings – Live and Let Die (2008)
  • Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2002)
  • Pet Shop Boys – Go West (1994)
  • Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama (2005)
  • Spice Girls – Wannabe / Who Do You Think You Are (1997)
  • Take That – The Beatles Medley (1994)
  • Kanye West – Gold Digger (2006)
  • The Who – Who Are You (1977)
  • Robbie Williams and Tom Jones – The Full Monty Medley (1998)

Winner: Spice Girls

BRITs Album of 30 Years

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 2, and presented by Noddy Holder from Slade. Nominees:

  • Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • Phil Collins – No Jacket Required
  • Dido – No Angel
  • Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
  • Duffy – Rockferry
  • Keane – Hopes and Fears
  • Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
  • Sade – Diamond Life
  • Travis – The Man Who
  • The Verve – Urban Hymns

Winner: Oasis

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 2006

Chris Evans hosted the 2006 BRIT Awards on 14th February at Earls Court in London.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2005 ceremony here, and the 2007 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Madonna. Nominees:

  • James Blunt – Back to Bedlam
  • Kate Bush – Aerial
  • Coldplay – X & Y
  • Gorillaz – Demon Days
  • Kaiser Chiefs – Employment

Winner: Coldplay

Best British Single

Presented by Morten Harket of a-ha. Nominees:

  • James Blunt – You’re Beautiful
  • Tony Christie feat. Peter Kay – (Is This The Way To) Amarillo
  • Coldplay – Speed of Sound
  • Sugababes – Push The Button
  • Shayne Ward – That’s My Goal

Winner: Coldplay

Best British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Wayne Coyne. Nominees:

  • Antony and the Johnsons
  • James Blunt
  • Ian Brown
  • Robbie Williams
  • Will Young

Winner: James Blunt

Best British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Jo Whiley. Nominees:

  • Natasha Bedingfield
  • Kate Bush
  • Charlotte Church
  • Katie Melua
  • KT Tunstall

Winner: KT Tunstall

Best British Group

Presented by Blondie‘s Debbie Harry. Nominees:

  • Coldplay
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Gorillaz
  • Hard-Fi
  • Kaiser Chiefs

Winner: Kaiser Chiefs

Best British Breakthrough Act

Presented by Chris O’Dowd. Nominees:

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • James Blunt
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • The Magic Numbers
  • KT Tunstall

Winner: Arctic Monkeys

Best British Rock Act

Presented by Tamsin Greig. Nominees:

  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Hard-Fi
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • Kasabian
  • Oasis

Winner: Kaiser Chiefs

Best British Urban Act

Nominees:

  • Craig David
  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Kano
  • Lemar
  • Ms. Dynamite

Winner: Lemar

Best British Live Act

Presented by Thandie Newton. Nominees:

  • Coldplay
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • Oasis
  • KT Tunstall

Winner: Kaiser Chiefs

Best Pop Act

Presented by Harry Hill. Nominees:

  • James Blunt
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Madonna
  • Katie Melua
  • Westlife

Winner: James Blunt

Best International Album

Presented by Paris Hilton. Nominees:

  • Arcade Fire – Funeral
  • Green Day – American Idiot
  • Madonna – Confessions on a Dancefloor
  • U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  • Kanye West – Late Registration

Winner: Green Day

Best International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Boy George. Nominees:

  • Beck
  • Jack Johnson
  • John Legend
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Kanye West

Winner: Kanye West

Best International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. Nominees:

  • Björk
  • Mariah Carey
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Missy Elliott
  • Madonna

Winner: Madonna

Best International Group

Nominees:

  • Arcade Fire
  • The Black Eyed Peas
  • Green Day
  • U2
  • The White Stripes

Winner: Green Day

Best International Breakthrough Act

Presented by Beth Orton. Nominees:

  • Arcade Fire
  • Jack Johnson
  • John Legend
  • Daniel Powter
  • The Pussycat Dolls

Winner: Jack Johnson

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Presented by Ray Winstone.

Winner: Paul Weller

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 2004

Finally, our journey through the history of the BRITs ends, and we’re only a decade behind now! The 2004 BRIT Awards ceremony took place at Earls Court in London on February 17th, where the host was Cat Deeley.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2003 ceremony here, and the 2005 ceremony next time.

Mastercard British Album

Presented by Scarlett Johansson. Nominees:

  • Daniel Bedingfield – Gotta Get Thru This
  • Blur – Think Tank
  • The Coral – Magic and Medicine
  • The Darkness – Permission to Land
  • Dido – Life for Rent

Winner: The Darkness

Best British Dance Act

Presented by Demot O’Leary. Nominees:

  • Basement Jaxx
  • Goldfrapp
  • Groove Armada
  • Kosheen
  • Lemon Jelly

Winner: Basement Jaxx

Best British Female

Presented by Ronan Keating. Nominees:

  • Dido
  • Sophie Ellis Bextor
  • Jamelia
  • Annie Lennox
  • Amy Winehouse

Winner: Dido

Best British Group

Presented by Martin Kemp from Spandau Ballet. Nominees:

  • Busted
  • The Coral
  • The Darkness
  • Radiohead
  • Sugababes

Winner: The Darkness

Best British Male

Presented by Kerry Katona from Atomic Kitten. Nominees:

  • Badly Drawn Boy
  • Daniel Bedingfield
  • David Bowie
  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Will Young

Winner: Daniel Bedingfield

Best British Breakthrough Artist

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1. Presented by Chris Moyles. Nominees:

  • Busted
  • Jamie Cullum
  • The Darkness
  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Lemar

Winner: Busted

Best British Rock Act

Voted for by viewers of Kerrang TV. Presented by legendary heavy rocker Jamelia. Nominees:

  • The Darkness
  • Feeder
  • Muse
  • Primal Scream
  • Stereophonics

Winner: The Darkness

Best British Single

Voted for by listeners of independent radio. Presented by Neil “Doctor” Fox. Nominees:

  • Dido – White Flag
  • Gareth Gates feat. The Kumars – Spirit in the Sky
  • Jamelia – Superstar
  • Mis-Teeq – Scandalous
  • Rachel Stevens – Sweet Dreams My LA Ex

Winner: Dido

Best British Urban Act

Presented by N.E.R.D. Nominees:

  • Big Brovaz
  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Lemar
  • Mis-Teeq
  • Amy Winehouse

Winner: Lemar

Best International Album

Presented by Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal from No Doubt. Nominees:

  • Christina Aguilera – Stripped
  • Beyoncé – Dangerously in Love
  • Outkast – Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
  • Justin Timberlake – Justified
  • The White Stripes – Elephant

Winner: Justin Timberlake

Best International Female

Presented by LL Cool J. Nominees:

  • Christina Aguilera
  • Beyoncé
  • Missy Elliott
  • Alicia Keys
  • Kylie Minogue

Winner: Beyoncé

Best International Group

Presented by Lionel Richie. Nominees:

  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Kings of Leon
  • Outkast
  • The Strokes
  • The White Stripes

Winner: The White Stripes

Best International Male

Presented by Shania Twain. Nominees:

  • Beck
  • 50 Cent
  • Sean Paul
  • Damien Rice
  • Justin Timberlake

Winner: Justin Timberlake

Best International Breakthrough Artist

Presented by Alicia Keys. Nominees:

  • Evanescence
  • 50 Cent
  • Kings of Leon
  • Sean Paul
  • The Thrills

Winner: 50 Cent

Best Pop Act

Voted for by viewers of CD:UK. Presented by Bo Selecta‘s Leigh Francis in character as Mel B from Spice Girls. Nominees:

  • Christina Aguilera
  • Daniel Bedingfield
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Busted
  • Justin Timberlake

Winner: Busted

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Justin Timberlake.

Winner: Duran Duran

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

Autotune

Autotune – more popularly known as “the Cher effect” – is perhaps one of the most controversial effects ever to be used in music. Practically every music fan will have an opinion on it, even if they haven’t entirely managed to put it into words.

What it does is difficult to explain, and so I’ll leave that to the experts. There’s a more detailed article about the specific plug-in and how it came about here. It’s very clever stuff, but essentially it corrects tuning on singers’ voices to put them closer to where the correct note should be.

I’ll also admit at this point that we’re probably talking about a whole group of similar plug-ins rather than one specific one. But anyway, if used sparingly, it’s remarkably effective. If used too much, it sounds awful. Which is actually true for most effects in the world of music.

But where does that line actually lie? In recent years I’ve heard a lot of people say things like “It’s fine when it’s used as an effect, but I don’t like it being used to make bad singers into good ones.” This is, of course, nonsense, but figuring out why isn’t too easy.

As the article linked above explains, it wasn’t long after Cher had done it that the likes of Daft Punk and Black Eyed Peas were throwing it all over their records; T-Pain was making it his trademark; and even non-electronic acts such as Maroon 5 and Avril Lavigne were making use of it. It’s pretty much everywhere now – try listening to the UK top 40 countdown some time if you don’t believe me.

For me, it is perhaps most familiar from Pet Shop Boys‘ 2002 album Release, and honestly it’s the thing that really ruins the album. There are some pretty good songs on there, and some lovely acoustic guitars, but even on some of the best tracks (London is a great example), Neil Tennant‘s vocals are backed up with a hideous electronic howling sound from the effect.

At the time, Pet Shop Boys were extremely excited by it, talking at length about how it turned the voice into another musical instrument which could become an organic part of the song. Which I can see as an argument, and I think partly my dislike of the effect on Release is actually tempered by the fact that it didn’t take long for absolutely everybody, good or bad, to use it with the same aim in mind. Daft Punk used it pretty well, but that was in conjunction with other effects. And did Andy Bell really need autotune on Tomorrow’s World? Well, we’ve discussed that previously.

In a way, part of the problem is actually the dehumanising effect that it has on the vocal performance. Particularly a decade or so ago, when artists were constantly telling us that we shouldn’t download mp3s because they were lower quality, they were quite happy to reduce the fidelity of their own vocal performances to practically nothing by running them through autotune. Surely that doesn’t make sense, does it?

But if using autotune as an intentional effect is an annoying trend, is it wrong to correct vocalists’ performances by using it gently? Well, actually, no. Not in my opinion.

I suppose the first argument is that a good singer doesn’t need autotune. Yes, except I’m not sure there are any singers who are that good. Everyone sings the odd duff note from time to time, and some more than others.

Well that’s fine, so why not just accept that this is true, and leave the duff notes in? It works for The Human League, and actually for whole swathes of rock music. Yes, great, except a lot of gentler songs in particular will sound a lot better if the singer is actually in tune. Accept that your vocalist won’t always be pitch perfect, but that the song requires something more than they can give, and there’s really only one conclusion that you can reach.

So why all the hostility to autotune? Well, apart from the fact that everyone is using it for artistic reasons – still, over a decade after Cher popularised it – there are whole swathes of artists who are relying on it, particularly in the manufactured pop market.

But I don’t think the problem lies with autotune – it lies with the artists. It’s still not turning people into good singers, even when it’s only used to put them in tune. If we stop buying the sort of nonsense that Simon Cowell tells us to, then we will be a whole lot less worried about autotune. Get rid of him, not than the vocal effects.

So where does this leave us? Well, I’d argue that autotune has its place. For the average singer who has something to say but can’t quite do it justice, it’s fine. For the avant-garde Daft Punk wannabe, it also serves a purpose. But it’s with the everyday X-Factor reject, and everyone else who makes up the Top 40 right now, that the problem lies, not with the effect that they’ve come to rely on.

And so on balance I’m going to say this now, and it will probably come back to haunt me: long live autotune.