She started off playing the Three Tuns, at Bishop’s Castle, and Pizza Express, in Shrewsbury and last night Ellie Goulding was named the best female artist at the Brit Awards.
The former Lady Hawkins School pupil, from Kington, on the north Herefordshire and south Shropshire border, enjoyed a glorious coronation at the BRIT Awards.
She was named the best female artist, beating Birdy, Jessie J, Laura Marling the former Birmingham receptionist-turned-torch singer Laura Mvula.
Her success was all the more remarkable give that she didn’t release a record last year. Her 2012 album Halycon came out in 2012 – even though it returned to the top of the charts earlier this year. Goulding appeared shell-shocked by her victory – though in the past two years she’s grown used to the big time.
In 2010 she won her first BRIT, a Critics’ Choice award. A year later she performed the Elton John track Your Song at the wedding reception of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Buckingham Palace. She’s gone on to sell more than three million albums. Not bad for a girl who used to play gigs for beer money at pubs and pizza joints in Shropshire.
The big winners last night were Arctic Monkeys, whose album AM sold 100,000 copies in its first two days of release. They swept the board and provided the evening’s highlight, with a ‘rock’n’roll will never die’ acceptance speech.
While the majority of artists collected their gongs with dull ‘I’d-like-to-thank-my-manager’ platitudes, Arctic Monkeys followed a different path. They told the audience that rock’n’roll couldn’t be beaten, before dropping the microphone on the floor and telling organisers to invoice them for it.
David Bowie provided another highlight – by not turning up. The genius performer, responsible for some of music’s greatest albums, enjoyed a remarkable return in 2013 with his The Next Day album. He was named Best British Male by former Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher. Bowie was too cool to show and instead dispatched supermodel Kate Moss to collect his trophy. He wrote a short speech for her to deliver, which ended with a plea for Scotland to remain part of the UK.
There were few highlights beyond those moments, however.
Last night’s BRITS was all about one thing: money. For the first time ever, downloads account for a greater percentage of earnings than cds and the ceremony set tills jingling. It made new stars – Rudimental, Disclosure, Bastille et al – created favourite tunes - Pharrell Williams’ Lucky-Happy medley and Beyonce’s XO – and sent record company bigwigs laughing all the way to the bank.
So here’s your starter for ten.
Was the BRITS:
A) A celebration of our finest tunes and brightest stars, or,
B) A putrid orgy of corporate backslapping.
Before we decide, let’s weigh up the evidence.
We’ll start with an international category for Best Female, a section in which you might reasonably assume dominance by Beyonce. She didn’t get a look in.
Yes, Queen B wasn’t nominaated, which is bonkers. It’s not as though she’s not been busy. Last year, you couldn’t move without bumping into the all-singing, all-dancing Mrs Carter. There were headline performances at V Festival, a new self-titled album, which became one of the fastest-selling of all time and a plethora of live shows. She’s picked up where she left off in 2014 and this weekend heads straight to Birmingham for shows on Sunday and Monday.
Music good: check. Live shows amazing: check. Album phenomenally successful: check. BRIT Nomination – don’t be so silly. Why would the BRITS nominate the world’s uber-female when it’s got Katy Perry, Lorde and P!nk?
Missing Beyonce from the BRITS nominee list was like leaving Santa off your Christmas Gift List. There were bands whose nominations beggared belief. Kings of Leon released one of their dullest albums but were featured in Best International Group. The high-kicking, gym-kit wearing Jessie J was notable more for the clothes that she wore than the songs she sang during a disappointing 2013, but also featured.
In truth, it’s been worse. There were diamonds in the rough at last night’s bash. Birmingham’s own Laura Mvula and Elton John-in-waiting Tom Odell were deserving of the Breakthrough nominations while Bastille, Arctic Monkeys and Rudimental were ahead of the game.
Exciting talents emerged during the past 12 months. John Newman brought Northern Soul to a new audience. His revivalist concept was one of the highlights of the past year. Sam Smith was a popular winner of the Critics’ Choice award and it was heartening to see a victory for the brilliant David Bowie, the authentically gritty Jake Bugg, the culturally significant Rudimental and a category win for Daft Punk.
But the BRITS finds it impossible to shake off its reputation that it’s a bigwig-on-bigwig opportunity to dip into the ever-filling porridge pot of music industry cash. And last night’s ceremony was little more than a trade fair for the movers and shakers who run the British music industry.