Awards shows are weird aren’t they? This whole culture that’s grown up around them so that the show outweighs the meaning. I watched two last week: the BAFTAs, hosted by Stephen Fry – a man smarter and more British than Stephen Hawking’s stiff upper lip in a tux and the Grammys, hosted by LL Cool J (‘Ladies Love Cool James’… that’s honestly what it stands for) – who’s incredibly earnest and forceful hosting style gives him the demeanour of a 19th Century Hip Hop missionary.
What was most striking was the style of the two shows. Fry conducted proceedings in an unapologetically tongue-in-cheek and cerebral fashion, delivering his renowned verbal tongue-twisters and seemingly drawing from a bottomless vocabulary. Most of it was at the expense of the American guests, who seemed to take it quite well – there was an extremely eerie silence following a Tom Cruise/’Scientology is bonkers’ gag – while the Brits thought it was all rather funny. The go-to close-up of the night (bar George Clooney looking good-humoured, unruffled and dishy in the front row) was of Tom Hiddleston pissing himself at every one of Fry’s gags and fair enough, they were funny. So when I watched the Grammys a couple of days later the difference between the hosts couldn’t have been more pronounced. LL Cool J began the Los Angeles show with a long and righteous piece to camera about how the Grammys belonged not only to the attendant stars and those actually in the theatre but to us watching at home and everyone in the world! What even us shitty non-famous people, sitting around picking our bums while wanking over Backstreet Boys album covers? Thanks LL! I’m sure the fact that FUN. Won Song of the Year cheered the subversive Chinese prisoner no end as he glimpsed the ceremony reflected in a dirty piece of broken glass outside his cell, as his captors watched, out of breath from thrashing him… Maybe that’s a bit heavy but my point is that anyone watching who isn’t American must have done the same squirm and shudder that I did and that the rest of the world employs for American schmaltz. LL Cool J appeared to piss off for the remainder of the ceremony and the guest hosts did that thing that famous people do when handing out awards and that’s to look like a couple of Year7s giving a sex education Powerpoint presentation to their Nan, incidentally they are all world-famous performers so why are they shit at this? The same was true of the actors handing out awards at the BAFTAs, why get these people to do it if their shit at it? The exceptions between the two shows were Samuel L. Jackson (cool), Prince (weird), Katy Perry (tits/I admire her forthright and confident nature/tits).
However the most important distinction for me was that the Grammys looked like a right bloody laugh! For all Fry’s wit, charm and subversive jokes at the BAFTAs, the Grammy’s looked really fun. Jay-Z was in the front row swaying to the tunes and drinking what looked like Budgens own brand whisky but I’m sure was $10,000 a bottle quadruple-distilled unicorn jizz or something and every time there was a performance, most of which (especially Bruno Mars and Sting’s collaboration) were thoroughly entertaining, there was a myriad of close-ups on various stars (Adele, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Nicole Kidman, even Neil Patrick-Harris off How I Met Your Mother) all boogying away. Imagine if you’d gone to watch musical smash hit Mamma Mia! with your Mum, your aunties and your nan and they were all proper pissed and singing along to ABBA’s catchiest hits. It was like that but instead of your Mum it’s Kelly Clarkson and instead of your Nan it was Beyonce! Good it was.
This got me thinking that for all their faults, our cousins across the pond like what they like and they don’t care what anyone else thinks. Maybe the self-awareness and self-deprecation that we Brits are so proud of is not such a good thing. Yes the BAFTAs was classier, yes Fry is a more erudite and in many ways more admirable host than LL Cool J and yes being able to take the piss out of an industry that so often lacks perspective is a good thing but I tell you what, if you’d have asked me to choose which ceremony I’d like to attend I’d much rather be drinking horny-horse muck with Jay-Z and trying to take surreptitious snaps down Katy Perry’s top… that sounds like a party.
On another note, I should probably mention a couple of awards actually given at each ceremony. Argo took Best Film, Director and Editing at the BAFTAs, undoubtedly more well-deserved recognition for the oft-dismissed Ben Affleck. Meanwhile at the Grammys British beard enthusiasts Mumford and Sons won two prizes including Album of the Year for Babel. However, the travesty of the evening was that Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe failed to pick up a single award! You bastards. I don’t mean that in an ironic ‘Hey, we’re music journalists, let’s pretend not to like mainstream Pop music’ way but in a ‘That is the single greatest song ever written and anyone who disagrees is a throbbing bell end’ sort of way… Still at least Drake won Best Rap Album and Chris Brown didn’t get a sausage, so the world’s not all bad.
First published on IAmMusic.TV, 15th Feb 2013