10 ways to make the boring Brit Awards rock again

Maya Jama and Roman Kemp hosting the 2024 Brit Awards
Maya Jama and Roman Kemp hosting the 2024 Brit Awards - James Manning/PA Wire

Saturday night’s Brit Awards may have seen Tooting-born Raye sweep the board but the ceremony lacked pizzazz, stardust and controversy. Few international megastars turned up and the presenters were lumbered with a dire script. Anyone expecting the equivalent of Jarvis wiggling his bum at Jacko or Chumbawamba chucking water over John Prescott were in for a severe disappointment. So here are our tips on how to make the Brits rock again.

1. Get the stars to actually turn up

There was a noticeable dearth of star quality at this year’s Brits. None of the three winners in the international categories – Miley Cyrus, SZA and Boygenius – felt the need to show up, opting instead to send video acceptance messages. Taylor Swift is on her Eras Tour (currently in Singapore), but the jaunt takes a long break next week before the European leg starts in the spring. Couldn’t Brits organisers have waited a week to try to coordinate diaries with the biggest star on the planet, who was up for the international artist award?

There was also no sign of Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Foo Fighters or The Rolling Stones, all nominated. Beyoncé’s new album’s out later this month. She would have sprinkled some star dust on Greenwich for sure. Becky Hill and Ellie Goulding are fine. But they hardly scream “must-see global event”. The organisers of the Baftas cleverly rebooted the film awards by positioning them as a precursor to the Oscars. Could the Brits not do the same relative to the Grammys?

2. Bring in decent hosts

Capital FM DJ Roman Kemp made one decent gag, as far as I could tell. Roaming the floor, he said that it was “busier than team Red Bull’s press office”, in reference to the Christian Horner scandal. But aside from that, the hosting lacked pep and was singularly unfunny. The set-pieces with the musicians at the tables were toe-curlingly bad, from the roving Kisscam at the beginning to Kemp and Kylie drinking out of a shoe (a wacky Aussie tradition apparently called a “shoey”).

The worst moment came in a terrible Saltburn-themed skit with Calvin Harris, when Kemp made the DJ do shots of salty “Harry Styles Bath Water” (you’ll know if you’ve seen the film). Co-hosts Maya Jama and Clara Amfo were saddled with equally awful skits and pre-written links (especially a Traitors-themed one). The rest of the room didn’t care and couldn’t see, and parochial jokes leave international visitors (the few that show up) cold. If these awards want to be taken seriously, then they need a serious host or hosts famous beyond these shores.

3. Make the speeches dangerous again

The night – obviously – belonged to Raye, whose six Brit awards were the highest tally by any artist ever. However she arguably missed her moment. Raye’s backstory is that she was dropped by her label Polydor (part of Universal, the world’s biggest record company) after she claimed in 2021 that they’d been preventing her from releasing her debut album. So she went it alone to massive success and, now, huge acclaim.

This was her chance to skewer the industry that made her life such a misery from the stage. The execs were sitting just metres away from her. She could have delivered a massive “F--- you!” in what would have been a Brits speech for the ages. But she chose not to, perhaps – possibly – because she almost had too many opportunities to do so (she was up and down to the stage like a yo-yo). Industry insiders I’ve spoken to say she showed class by holding back. Perhaps they’re right, and Raye sweeping the board was a big enough “F--- you!” in itself.

4. Bring back the oldies

The Rolling Stones and Blur released two of 2023’s best albums and were among this year’s nominees. But neither of them won and neither of them performed. There’s a wider disconnect here: the average age of the award winners this year was 31, yet the average age of the artists behind the UK’s 10 best-selling albums of 2023 was 56. Yes, this latter list included ABBA, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac.

Kylie Minogue performing at the 2024 Brit Awards
Kylie Minogue performing at the 2024 Brit Awards - Getty

But this is the point: it’s not as if young people don’t like old music. Last year saw top 10 albums by PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode, Noel Gallagher, Alison Goldfrapp and Dexys. Peter Gabriel and Madness had number ones. And yet Global Icon-winner Kylie aside, the oldest winners last night were the dance music practitioners Calvin Harris and Chase & Status, who are in their early-40s. The Brits have to appeal to young people, obviously. But they’re ignoring much of what people actually listen to.

5. Remember that rock exists

There was no rock music among this year’s performances. The music on offer was fine, particularly Dua Lipa, Raye and Rema. But it was all within pretty narrow tram tracks. Where was the rock? It was baffling that The Last Dinner Party, winners of the Rising Star award, didn’t perform, given that they were sitting there and are a fantastic, match-fit live band. Green Day even presented an award and have a new album to plug. Why didn’t the US punk revivalists play?

Liam Gallagher and John Squire
Liam Gallagher and John Squire

Or how about drafting Liam Gallagher and John Squire in? Their publicity round for their self-titled new album has been comprehensive to say the least (they’ve been inescapable, frankly). The former Oasis and Stone Roses duo would have added a dose of swagger to proceedings. In terms of broadening out the genres, Rod Stewart and Jools Holland are currently number one in the album charts. A touch of swing music might have been just what the O2 needed.

6. Draft in presenters who mean something to the music industry

We all loved Mr Bates vs The Post Office. But there was something surreal about the first award of the night being handed out by wronged subpostmistress Jo Hamilton and the actress who played her Monica Dolan. Quite what this had to do with the music industry was beyond me. Other awards presenters included Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt. Hmm. Both Mr Bates and Downton are ITV shows, which just happened to be the channel on which the Brits was transmitted.

Jo Hamilton and Monica Dolan presenting at the Brit Awards
Jo Hamilton and Monica Dolan presenting at the Brit Awards - Shutterstock

You were stuck with the inescapable feeling that ITV was using the Brits to advertise itself. To be fair, other networks were represented. Jonathan Bailey from Bridgerton and Joe Keery from Stranger Things (both Netflix) were among other presenters. But the whole thing felt odd. Musicians should have out music awards to their peers, surely? Ironically, on a night short of controversy, it was Hamilton who provided the most controversial moment when she slated the Government for still not paying compensation to postmasters.

7. Lose the odd ad break

This is hardly the Brits fault. But the endless ad breaks due to the show being on ITV killed any momentum stone dead. It’s vaguely tolerable if you’re watching at home – you can go and stick the kettle on – but when you’re in the room it means vast chasms of dead time every 15 minutes or so. The show loses all impetus. And the ad breaks were regular and long (I think I counted seven in total).

The chatter rises, the attention wanders, the wine glasses get filled, the chatter rises even more… and by the time the show comes back on air you’re deep into a fascinating conversation about industry gossip/ your summer holiday plans/ the aftershow parties that you don’t care that Jungle have just taken to the stage. Even artists there looked bored, particularly Little Simz and Young Fathers, who seemed perplexed every time the camera came near them.

8. Introduce an award for the best small gig venue

Grassroots music venues are in crisis, with 125 closing in the UK in 2023 alone. Introducing a Brit award for the best small venue would give the sector a boost and a barrowload of free publicity to boot. Tiny venues are where all these artists started their careers anyway. Let’s hear it for the sticky floors.

Best Small Venue? Working Men's Club perform at YES, Manchester
Best Small Venue? Working Men's Club perform at YES, Manchester - Gary Mather / Alamy Stock Photo

And how about this? The winner of the flagship Album of the Year award should then go and do a concert there. Perhaps in the name of balance there should also be an award for the best large venue too. This might even serve to introduce an element of competition among the bland corporate arenas who think it’s fine to charge almost a tenner a pint.

9. Bring back the live music award

Everyone knows that the money in the music industry lies in live music. Albums, so the thinking goes, are only really released these days to give artists an excuse to tour. But the award for Best Live Act has been missing from the Brits for years, having existed between 2005 and 2009 and popping back for a single year in 2013. The Brits should bring this category back.

Taylor Swift performing in Singapore as part of her Eras Tour
Taylor Swift performing in Singapore as part of her Eras Tour - Getty

Last year promoter Live Nation reported its biggest ever year, with 145 million fans attending concerts and ticket sales up 13 per cent on the year before. Live music is a hotbed of innovation. Swift’s Eras tour has broken box office records, U2’s show at Las Vegas’s Sphere has taken screen technology into a whole new, futuristic direction, while ABBA’s so-called ABBA-tar show in east London has to be seen to be believed. Why is the industry ignoring its own cash cow?

10. Hire the Winston-Corden dream team

From 2011 to 2014 the Brits was hosted by James Corden and produced by Ben Winston, the founding partner of their production company Fulwell 73. The pair then headed off to the US, where Corden became globally famous thanks to The Late Late Show with James Corden, which was executive produced by Winston. The latter has also since gone on to produce the Grammy awards – and actually made it watchable.

James Corden and Ben Winston at the 2019 Emmys
James Corden and Ben Winston at the 2019 Emmys - WireImage

The pair know what makes great television, and music is something of a speciality for them (Fulwell 73 have also made films about Adele, Harry Styles, Bros and Ed Sheeran). Plus, Corden and Winston’s contact books are second-to-none. They have every celebrity under the sun on speed dial. Bringing them back – Corden may be a divisive host, but at least he gets a reaction and is known outside the UK  – would give the Brits a shot in the arm and act as a magnet for big names. Maybe it could also return to the illustrious Royal Albert Hall and a midweek slot. The recent move to a Saturday makes limited sense.