The Brit Awards 2013: a masterclass in politeness, pleasant behaviour, modesty, good old formulaic pop music and accomplished banjo strumming for anyone over 21. Their mother's would have been proud. But that's precisely the point, their mothers shouldn't be proud. Their mothers should be downright ashamed of their behaviour, or at the very least they should be banging on the door shouting at them to keep the noise down. For where have all our rock stars gone? Why isn't Marcus Mumford scrapping with Ben Howard over the last bottle of Crabbies on table nine, why isn't Emilie Sande telling James Corden he is vastly overweight and even more overrated, and why oh why isn't little Harry Styles bellowing 'WHO ARE YOU?' in the faces of Alt-J whilst simultaneously trying to sleep with their manager?
Depressingly the most watchable thing about this year's Brits was One Direction leaping around like cartoon puppy dogs in giant sneakers whilst collecting an award to recognise their 'huge global success'. An award, somewhat tellingly, that was created this year to ensure they were given some air time. It requires only basic thinking to connect the inception of this inaugural award with the band's creator, Frankenstein himself Simon Cowell. Cowell certainly has his part to play in the emergence of this insipid modern day pop culture and his representation of music as throwaway entertainment is dangerous in encouraging the 'shortcut' attitude of today's youth. This is the kind of attitude that considers One Direction at the Brit Awards and concludes two things; I want to be famous like them (unhealthy) and I will apply for X-Factor because that is the easiest way to do it (very unhealthy). Not only is the plan painfully unrealistic in terms of scope and career direction but it doesn't even consider the music at all, let alone acknowledge the dedication, unbridled passion and years of practice that should be a prerequisite for any career musician. The music in this situation is at best a vehicle to fame and fortune and for many young people Cowell is driving with one hand whilst effectively writing the songs with his other.
However the real concern and the root of the issue here is the almost total absence of 'credible' artists publicly kicking against everything Simon Cowell, X-Factor and reality television culture stands for, either through their art or via their opinions that accompany the art. Cowell's brand of highly stylised, clean cut, disposable pop music is engulfing Britain's entire musical climate and the best we can hope for is that Ed Sheeran says a naughty word live on BBC Breakfast News whilst wearing a hoody. The best alternative music has always embraced rebellion, but what are its flag flyers fighting against today? Religion is so passé and we are becoming immune to the daily horrors of war. Maybe the dire financial climate is squeezing young working class bands, with their energy and swagger, out of the game and into responsible employment from a younger age, leaving only the middle class, financially supported, head nodders (or shoe gazers) holding onto the guitars? Or did Noel and Liam Gallagher both hold down various jobs, including guitar technician and builder respectively, whilst writing and recording their breakthrough debut album? And if they can do it, well...
The truth is, on a subconscious level, every alternative musical genre from rock to dubstep is going soft around the edges to comply with industry standards for success set by the likes of Simon Cowell, his record executive cronies and the sycophants that sit on the BBC Radio One playlist meeting each week. Artists of all genres are being told what to look like, who to sound like and who to write with to ensure a chance of career success and they are gobbling it up because they are also told the other option is failure. Those artists willing to comply with such standards have already sacrificed their art for the chance of being Scott Mills' next record of the week. Playing the game may get you as far as the big stage at the Brits but what's the point if you've got nothing left to say when you get there?