The BRIT Awards 2012

Tuesday 21st February 2012 saw James Corden hosting the BRIT Awards, for the second time at The O2 Arena in London.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2011 ceremony here, and the 2013 ceremony here.

British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Plan B. Nominees:

  • James Blake
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  • James Morrison
  • Professor Green
  • Ed Sheeran

Winner: Ed Sheeran

British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Kylie Minogue. Nominees:

  • Adele
  • Kate Bush
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Jessie J
  • Laura Marling

Winner: Adele

British Breakthrough Act

Presented by Cesc Fàbregas and Nicole Scherzinger. Nominees:

  • Anna Calvi
  • Jessie J
  • Emeli Sandé
  • Ed Sheeran
  • The Vaccines

Winner: Ed Sheeran

British Group

Presented by Jo Whiley and Huey Morgan. Nominees:

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Chase & Status
  • Coldplay
  • Elbow
  • Kasabian

Winner: Coldplay

British Single

Presented by Tinie Tempah. Nominees:

  • Adele – Someone Like You
  • Ed Sheeran – The A Team
  • Example – Changed the Way You Kiss Me
  • Jessie J feat. B.o.B – Price Tag
  • JLS featuring Dev – She Makes Me Wanna
  • Pixie Lott – All About Tonight
  • Military Wives / Gareth Malone – Wherever You Are
  • Olly Murs feat. Rizzle Kicks – Heart Skips a Beat
  • One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
  • The Wanted – Glad You Came

Winner: One Direction

MasterCard British Album of the Year

Presented by George Michael. Nominees:

  • Adele – 21
  • Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
  • Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials
  • PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  • Ed Sheeran – +

Winner: Adele. Famously she banged on for a bit too long without really saying anything and got cut off without warning.

International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Jessie J and Jack Whitehall. Nominees:

  • Ryan Adams
  • Aloe Blacc
  • David Guetta
  • Bon Iver
  • Bruno Mars

Winner: Bruno Mars

International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Jenson Button. Nominees:

  • Beyoncé
  • Björk
  • Feist
  • Lady Gaga
  • Rihanna

Winner: Rihanna

International Group

Presented by Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen. Nominees:

  • Fleet Foxes
  • Foo Fighters
  • Jay Z and Kanye West
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Maroon 5

Winner: Foo Fighters

International Breakthrough Act

Presented by will.i.am and Rob Brydon. Nominees:

  • Aloe Blacc
  • Bon Iver
  • Lana del Rey
  • Foster The People
  • Nicki Minaj

Winner: Lana del Rey

Critics’ Choice

Presented by James Corden and Jessie J. Nominees:

  • Michael Kiwanuka
  • Maverick Sabre
  • Emeli Sandé

Maverick Sabre came in second place. Winner: Emeli Sandé

British Producer

Presented by Laura Marling. Nominees:

  • Paul Epworth
  • Flood
  • Ethan Johns

Winner: Ethan Johns

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Presented by Ray Winstone.

Winner: Blur

You should be able to watch the entire show here.

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 2005

On 9th February 2005, Chris Evans hosted what was billed as the 25th anniversary BRIT Awards show (history seems to prefer to pretend that the first show was in 1981, rather than 1977). The venue was Earls Court in London, and an average of 6.3 million people watched the coverage the following day on ITV.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2004 ceremony here, and the 2006 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Clive Owen. Nominees:

  • Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
  • Keane – Hopes and Fears
  • Muse – Absolution
  • Snow Patrol – Final Straw
  • The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free

Winner: Keane

Best British Single

Voted for by listeners of independent radio, and presented by Minnie Driver. Nominees:

  • Band Aid 20 – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
  • Jamelia – Thank You
  • LMC vs. U2 – Take Me to the Clouds Above
  • Shapeshifters – Lola’s Theme
  • Will Young – Your Game

Winner: Will Young

Best British Male

Presented by Naomi Harris. Nominees:

  • Jamie Cullum
  • Lemar
  • Morrissey
  • The Streets
  • Will Young

Winner: The Streets

Best British Female

Presented by Lisa Stansfield. Nominees:

  • Natasha Bedingfield
  • Jamelia
  • PJ Harvey
  • Joss Stone
  • Amy Winehouse

Winner: Joss Stone

Best British Group

Presented by Sharon and Kelly Osbourne. Nominees:

  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Kasabian
  • Keane
  • Muse
  • Snow Patrol

Winner: Franz Ferdinand

Best British Breakthrough Act

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1, and presented by Jo Whiley. Nominees:

  • Natasha Bedingfield
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Keane
  • Joss Stone
  • The Zutons

Winner: Keane

Best British Rock Act

Voted for by viewers of Kerrang TV, and presented by Brian May. Nominees:

  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Kasabian
  • The Libertines
  • Muse
  • Snow Patrol

Winner: Franz Ferdinand

Best British Urban Act

Voted for by viewers of MTV Base, and presented by Jazzy B. Nominees:

  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Jamelia
  • Lemar
  • Joss Stone
  • The Streets

Winner: Joss Stone

Best British Live Act

Voted for by The Live Music Forum, and presented by Shirley Manson from Garbage. Nominees:

  • Jamie Cullum
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Kasabian
  • The Libertines
  • Muse

Winner: Muse

Best Pop Act

Voted for by viewers of CD:UK and readers of The Sun, and presented by Jodie Kidd. Nominees:

  • Natasha Bedingfield
  • Girls Aloud
  • Avril Lavigne
  • McFly
  • Westlife

Winner: McFly

Best International Album

Presented by Siouxsie Sioux. Nominees:

  • The Killers – Hot Fuss
  • Maroon 5 – Songs About Jane
  • Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
  • Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters
  • U2 – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

Winner: Scissor Sisters

Best International Male

Presented by Natalie Imbruglia. Nominees:

  • Eminem
  • Usher
  • Tom Waits
  • Kanye West
  • Brian Wilson

Winner: Eminem

Best International Female

Presented by Charlie Creed Miles. Nominees:

  • Anastacia
  • Kelis
  • Alicia Keys
  • Kylie Minogue
  • Gwen Stefani

Winner: Gwen Stefani

Best International Group

Nominees:

  • Green Day
  • Maroon 5
  • Outkast
  • Scissor Sisters
  • U2

Winner: Scissor Sisters

Best International Breakthrough Act

Presented by Simon Pegg. Nominees:

  • Jet
  • The Killers
  • Maroon 5
  • Scissor Sisters
  • Kanye West

Winner: Scissor Sisters

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Presented by Jools Holland.

Winner: Bob Geldof

BRITS 25 Best Song Award

Chosen by listeners of BBC Radio 2. Presented by Matt Lucas and David Walliams in character as Mark Owen and Howard Donald from Take That respectively. Nominees:

  • ABC – The Look of Love
  • Bee Gees – Night Fever
  • David Bowie – Heroes
  • Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
  • The Clash – London Calling
  • Coldplay – Yellow
  • Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
  • David Gray – Babylon
  • The Jam – That’s Entertainment
  • Elton John – Sacrifice
  • Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • Annie Lennox – Why?
  • Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
  • George Michael – Careless Whisper
  • Oasis – Wonderwall
  • Queen – We are the Champions
  • Seal – Kiss from a Rose
  • Simply Red – Holding Back the Years
  • Spandau Ballet – True
  • Rod Stewart – I Don’t Want to Talk About it
  • Sting – Fields of Gold
  • The Stranglers – Golden Brown
  • The Streets – Dry Your Eyes
  • Robbie Williams – Angels
  • Will Young – Leave Right Now

The top five entries made it from round 1 to the final list of nominees, leaving:

  • Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
  • Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  • Queen – We are the Champions
  • Robbie Williams – Angels
  • Will Young – Leave Right Now

Winner: Robbie Williams

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.