Ahead of the BRIT Awards Ceremony, I thought I’d take a look at the nominees, giving you my rundown on the frontrunners, the dust-eaters and the no-chance-in-hells.
We start this year’s BRIT nominees with a diverse selection – eclectic indie act Rina Sawayama, upbeat indie-pop artist Griff, and tastefully gritty UK rapper Pa Salieu. Apart from her catchy single “Black Hole”, Griff’s sound is somewhat repetitive, while Rina suffers from the opposite problem; her sound ranges so far between songs like “LUCID” and “STFU!” that it is difficult for me to maintain a coherent sense of her as an artist. Pa Salieu, on the other hand, seems to be bringing a whole new sound to UK rap music which sets him apart from both grime and drill, exciting as it is dangerous, so I think this award is going to have to go to him.
International Male Solo Artist
Upon clearing up my initial confusion about Tame Impala not being a group (it’s apparently just Kevin Parker split into 5), I decided this would be a more difficult category. The Weeknd’s After Hours’ infectious anthems of “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” offer stern competition to Childish Gambino’s experimental 3.15.20, which gave us the ethereal dance hits of “19.10” and “42.26”, feeling like a cross between his 2018 single “This Is America” and his 2016 Awaken, My Love!. Personally, however, I want to put my money on Tame Impala – the simultaneously retro and futuristic atmosphere of The Slow Rush makes me feel nostalgic about a life I’ve never had, and I love it. (Also, Bruce Springsteen? Really? Is he still making music?)
International Female Solo Artist
This category has an easy winner (or should, at least). Billie Eilish stands out in the monotony of contemporary pop music like a summer dress at a funeral, bringing a refreshing authenticity and originality to a genre which feels to me as if it’s been on life support for the last 20 years. While Ariana Grande performs her high-pitched vocal gymnastics, and Taylor Swift rehashes the same tales of her previous relationships, Billie and her brother FINNEAS push the pop genre towards a darker, more introverted, but equally stylish and listenable sound.
The Foo Fighters are pretty boring, aren’t they? Sorry to start like this but I personally feel that there is something incessantly bland about them and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I hit shuffle on their latest album Medicine at Midnight and I thought “Waiting On A War” was “Best of You”, that’s how samey their production is. Every song is played well and put together correctly but the end result just feels tired and artificial. They remind me somewhat of a Land Rover owned by a farmer – very practical and efficient, but infinitely boring. To be honest, I don’t really mind who wins this category as long as it’s not the Foo’s – maybe Run the Jewels or HAIM.
British Single with Mastercard
There are a lot of options for this category which I feel strongly about. I’m not a fan of “Don’t Need love”, “Head & Heart” or “Secrets” because I’m not a teenage girl and don’t drive a Fiat 500. Equally, not “Lighter” because it physically pains me to see KSI as a name in the music industry. There are a few singles which, as much as I love them, just don’t have a diverse enough sound: “Rain”, “Don’t Rush”, “Rover” and “Ain’t It Different”. To me, “Physical” is just boring. I honestly never thought I’d say this, but Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” is probably the best of the bunch – a surprisingly well put together summery bop from the ex-One Directioner.
To avoid settling on Celeste or Arlo Parks in this category (who will almost definitely take Best UK Album or Solo Artist), we should turn our attention to some of the dance and rap artists. Young T & Bugsey have been consistently dropping club bangers and collaborating with some of the biggest names in UK rap, while Joel Corry has been annexing the airwaves with his epic, sing-along brand of house music. Both, however, feel somewhat monotonous as far as their sound goes. Bicep, on the other hand, are redefining the genre in their approach to dance music, bringing an experimental edge to the typical ‘intro-build-drop’ formula we’ve come to expect. The only thing I’m confused about is why they’re being called a breakthrough artist, as their biggest song “Glue” came out in 2017.
The nominees for this category make me wonder if these are the only groups they could find. The 1975 makes me feel like I’m slipping into a coma, Biffy Clyro is what would happen if you gave Mumford and Sons electric guitars, and I thought Little Mix were around when Vine was still popular. Again, that leaves Bicep and Young T & Bugsey, who I feel are pushing the definition of “group” (they are both two people). What about Foals? Everything Everything? Blossoms? Catfish and the Bottlemen? WHERE ARE THE REAL BANDS?
Male Solo Artist
A healthy helping of hip-hop in this category, with AJ Tracey, Headie One and J Hus pitted against each other. All three have dropped huge albums within the last year (Flu Game, Edna and Big Conspiracy respectively), but I’d probably have to give it to Headie – where AJ’s sound has become a bit predictable, and J Hus’ has become a bit confused, Headie has given us a consistently evolving and exciting take on UK drill music. Certainly, he’s also given us a more diverse range of music than Joel Corry (and if you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned YUNGBLUD it’s because, in my opinion, he’s terrible).
Female Solo Artist
It’s a tough selection in the female category for solo artist. Arlo Parks’ dulcet tones have had me grooving hard since I found her, and Celeste feels like our generation’s much-needed answer to the glorious Amy Winehouse. Lianne La Havas has certainly got her own silky smooth style as well, making it by all accounts a three-horse race. By comparison Dua Lipa (though I adore her) just isn’t quite in the same ballpark, and I can’t help but find Jessie Ware a tad boring.
I wish I could say Future Nostalgia, I really do. Out of the albums on the list it’s definitely the one I’ve streamed the most, with Dua’s wonderfully funky cross between 70’s/80’s dance music and modern production giving me a much-needed boost of serotonin in almost any situation. Also, I have a very minor crush on her. However, being fair and prioritising musical significance and quality over my own guilty pleasure, it’s going to have to go to Not Your Muse by Celeste. It could perhaps just as easily be Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo, but personally I find Celeste’s voice and production that bit more engaging and listenable – at times it can be difficult to tell songs apart on Collapsed in Sunbeams, but I’m not sure the same can be said for Celeste’s debut album.