Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Brits

Time flies, doesn't it?  Especially at my age.  I'm 37 now, and I can feel 40 looming on the horizon beckoning me towards it with promise of expanding waistline and grey hairs.  Although I've found a few of the latter already.

It doesn't seem like four years since I last wrote about the Brit Awards.  Back then I wrote about how they had become "safe" to such an extent that they were now boring.  Last night, we had the 2013 awards and I watched - as I always do - thinking that this year may be different.  This year may be edgy.  This year may be fun.

And so it started.  Rizzle Kicks attempting to interview people on the red carpet on their way in for an hour on ITV2 trying to build the excitement.  Muse promised a huge spectacle, Robbie Williams was his usual self and various winners of talent shows walked past wearing next-to-nothing complaining how cold it was.  Maybe it would've been less cold if they'd bothered to actually wear clothes suitable for a February evening in London.

So 8pm came around, and on came Muse.  Behind them was a scaffolding affair with an orchestra perched upon it.  The orchestra had face paint on.  That was the most exciting thing about the performance.  The song itself was dull.  Muse seemed a bit bored.  There were a few pyros going off in the background, but even that couldn't raise it above a dull cabaret performance.

And then on bounced James Corden.  He's not a bad presenter and to be fair he does hold the show together pretty well.  But anyone is only as good as what they are given to work with, and he was given a joke-free script to rattle through, and even though he rattled through it effectively and affably, the jokes just didn't come.  The only parts of the evening which looked as though they may turn interesting where the parts when he visited the tables and spoke to the celebrities.  Robbie Williams implied that Taylor Swift had slept with a lot of men.  Rizzle Kicks talked about drinking. James Corden called Simon Cowell a "beautiful bastard" and Nick Grimshaw kissed James Corden on the lips.  But if the most exciting the Brits gets these days is a jokey homosexual kiss and a smattering of pre-watershed swearing, then no wonder I was falling asleep.

There were the obligatory presenters who walked awkwardly up a wavy catwalk and then read out a few words from a piece of paper.  They mostly looked slightly embarrassed to be there, and quite a few of them struggled to even manage those few words effectively. "The nominiations are...".   Sharon Osborne made a slightly creepy reference to Harry Styles' penis and Tom Daley actually wore more than a skimpy pair of speedos.  But nobody had a fight, threw anything or appeared to be seriously troubling the running order.  Where's the sense of adventure gone?

The performances after Muse ranged from "disappointing" (Justin Timberlake doing his mumble singing thing behind a curtain whilst a man brandishes a tuba) to "OK" (Robbie Williams with men in camouflage, also brandishing tubas).  It's a shame that some of the acts chose to sing live over a studio backing track though.  It always sounds disjointed, and I'm sure that they could stretch to a band of session musicians for the night.  Yes, Robbie, I mean you.  Taylor Swift had a catchy song at least - and a clever trick with her dress.  But where are t the "once-in-a-lifetime" duets of yesteryear.  A trick with a dress doesn't really make up for that.

And then the awards themselves.  Unlike the Grammys, where they give out so many awards that I think somewhere in an arena in LA there are still Z-list celebrities walking up to a podium doling out the award for "Best Enunciation in a Country-Pop Crossover Single by a Woman under Five Feet Tall", the Brits keeps it snappy.  There aren't many awards to give out.  Yet there were a few extra this year.

Some people have had an extraordinary year.  Emeli Sandé has gone from unknown to ubiquitous.  But she's done so on the back of some serious songwriting talent and a cracking album.  She won a couple of things.  Adele bounced back from being cut off last year to be given an award remotely (she's in LA for the Oscars) but the promised "righting of the wrong" of cutting her off last year never materialised.  Ben Howard (I'm not sure that's even how you spell it) won some things.  I've heard a single by him on Radio 2, but I know nothing about him.  But at least he appears to write songs.

Then the big one.  A new award.  An award invented specifically so that One Direction can be rewarded for their global success.  That's right - the global success of their marketing and publicity machine was rewarded by giving the award to the five pretty-boy mediocre singers who take all the credit.  Adele was in LA preparing to sing a song she co-wrote (that's properly co-wrote - not just changing a word and taking half the songwriting royalties - step forward the Spice Girls...) at the Oscars off the back of a couple of great albums and several years work.  These five clowns were rewarded simply for saying what they had been told to say, singing a few songs written for them and learning how to apply hair product.  They are undoubtedly big stars (when I'm in the US, they are everywhere...) but musicians they are not.

And so there it was.  Emeli Sandé closed the show with true class.  But even that could've wipe the stain of 1D from my mind.  There's rumour of the Brits being extended into a week of concerts and events next week.  If that is the case, then please can we put some of the fun back into it; I don't think I could take a week of the current drivel.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Nothing Ever Happens

It's that thing.  The thing where I don't have anything to say, but feel as though I have to write something in here.  So here is something.

I went to Seattle again recently.  My job is taking me there relatively often at the moment, meaning I'm going to set to see the place in all seasons.  This season isn't a flattering one for Seattle.  It's cold and wet and rather grey.  My time there was pretty much all spent working; I was there to work after all; but I did get to a bar one night.

Bars are like airports, when you're inside one, you could be anywhere in the world.  Then you walk outside and it hits you.  "I'm in America, I'd forgotten that".

There is one way to tell country from country, and that's the toilets.  Don't laugh.  Genuinely, different countries have different shaped toilets and urinals.  In some places they are wide and shallow, in other places they are small and deep.  In some places, then flush automatically, in other places there are buttons.  And in Japan there are washlets (Google it!) with a whole button panel next to you which must be deciphered before you can leave the bathroom.  Urinals are square in some places, too.

Despite all my travels over the years, Seattle is the only US city I've visited.  It's quite a nice one, actually. Quite relaxed and laid back, and European-feeling in some respects.  I can't complain too much that I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time there.

Of course, London isn't all sunshine and tropical breezes at this time of year.  It's slightly colder than Seattle if anything.  I discovered recently that Seattle is actually slightly further south than London.  Surprising, but true.  Well other people have said they weren't that surprised, but I certainly was.

So there you go - that was "nothing". I promise I'll write "something" soon.