The Grammys bills itself as “music’s biggest night” but the UK’s own BRIT Awards might have something to say about that when they roll into London’s O2 Arena on February 21.
We don’t know the full line-up for the UK ceremony just yet – although the likes of Stormzy, the Foo Fighters, Rita Ora and Ed Sheeran (curiously absent from the Grammys after being snubbed for the big awards) will all be on stage.
So, as the full impact of Grammys 2018 continues to sink in and the winners decide where to keep their trophies, Music Week runs the rule over how the two big awards shows stack up against each other…
Madison Square Garden is a huge, iconic arena more usually used for sport. The O2 is a huge, iconic arena occasionally used for sport. So far so, um, fairly similar. The Garden’s location in the middle of Manhattan certainly helped create a city-wide buzz ahead of the event, but also added to the sense of chaos for anyone actually trying to get in. Let’s call this a tie.
James Corden never quite got the hang of managing the notoriously tricky BRITs gig, but seems much more at ease in the US bearpit. His touch was surprisingly light – ceding much of the early spotlight to the acts and/or comedian Dave Chappelle – but delivering the lolz later on, especially via his anti-Trump ‘stars narrate Fire And Fury’ skit. The Subway Carpool Karaoke sketch with Sting and Shaggy was not worth the inevitable “It wasn’t me” kiss-off, however. BRITs 2018 host, comedian Jack Whitehall, will not get as much freedom you suspect, but that might not be a bad thing. If 40 years of the BRIT Awards have taught us anything, it’s that you’re better off just introducing the bands and hoping you escape with your dignity intact (and maybe a huge US chatshow gig a few years down the line).
The 2018 Grammys were marred by snubs from artists (Ed Sheeran notably absent) and Academy alike (seriously, no room for Lorde?). Yet the castlist was still suitably stellar: when Lady Gaga sneaks in as second act and Camila Cabello (the most spectacular awards ceremony performer of the past few months, bar none) only gets to perform as a backing singer, you know there’s some serious star wattage involved. The BRITs line-up thus far is more British, as it should be, though dripping with every bit as much potential. Its trump card, however, will be getting Ed Sheeran up on stage. The Grammys’ snub will surely be the BRITs’ gain.
When even TV host James Corden’s Dad is making jokes about how long your awards ceremony goes on for (“We went to see Hamilton and then got back for the last three hours of the Grammys”), then you know it probably should be cut back a little. The Grammys' longer format allows the show to highlight more acts but, while that meant, say, Childish Gambino got to give a spine-tingling performance, the swathe of acts following him meant that, by the end, his moment had lost a little of its initial impact. And it meant that Sting and U2 were on the show three times while Album Of The Year nominee Lorde, curiously, didn’t feature once. Sometimes, less is more. Especially when it comes to Sting/Shaggy collaborations.
Time was when Grammys performances would make the BRITs show look a little parochial. That gap has narrowed considerably in recent years, although it’s still a little hard to imagine anything as downright vivacious as Bruno Mars/Cardi B’s effervescent Finesse going down in Greenwich. But as Mars himself pointed out, the Grammys’ ballad-heavy approach occasionally dragged, while the BRITs tends to limit such moments so that they have a real impact when they do arrive.
The Grammys features theatre seating and very little drinking. The BRITs features table seating and a fair proportion of the crowd are smashed out of their minds by the time the host’s first gag falls flat. That’s why the BRITS feels like a live show that happens to be filmed and the Grammys – with its seat-fillers, audience instructions and constant ad breaks – feels like a TV show that just happens to be live. Ours is a pint, thanks.
BIG TALKING POINTS
The BRITs’ past ‘controversies’ have generally arisen because a musician had a few drinks and did/said something daft, or spontaneously decided to make a point. The Grammys, however, tried to inject some righteous political charge into the event at source and – while Kesha’s performance; Janelle Monáe’s #TimesUp-inspired address; Logic and Cabello’s speeches; and the Trump video were some of the night’s most memorable moments – it made the Recording Academy’s inability/unwillingness to turn positive thought into affirmative action all the more glaring. The lack of female winners (aggravated by Academy president Neil Portnow’s subsequent comments to Variety about women needing to “step up”) was compounded by hip-hop’s shutout in the major categories, with Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar missing out on the biggest prizes. After all, why go to the trouble of snubbing Ed Sheeran if Bruno Mars is going to win everything?