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The Brit Awards 2011: Folk is Back in Vogue

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The Brit Awards Ceremony, broadcast on UK channel ITV1 last night February 15, 2011 was predictable in its award for the people who had the most media hype leading up to the awards (Tinie Tempah and Jessie J), but after this, it became wonderfully unpredictable.

I was genuinely but pleasantly surprised that Laura Marling won the award for best female artist (she looked almost as surprised herself!), and Mumford & Sons’s win for best album (Sigh No More).

I think many people were sure that best female artist was going to Ellie Goulding, mainly because of how visible she has been in British music recently, especially on Radio 1. She was also very visible in the show’s proceedings. That, coupled with the fact that the Brits are vigorously promoted on Radio 1, and folk music, such as Laura Marling is known for, is rarely played on that station, made it seem like quite a surreal moment when they called Laura’s name. It was a shame that she didn’t get to perform at the show.

But there are signs that folk music is creeping into the playlist of Britain’s top popular music station (or ‘new music’ station as it has cunningly renamed itself). Mumford & Sons have been on the playlist ever since Jo Whiley (we miss you Jo!) took a shine to them on her show. Well done to Mumford & Sons as well though, for their part in bringing folk to a new generation, and for their award for best album.

Over on the jazzier, more soulful side, Adele (who has been a winner of the Critics Choice award previously), performed her song Someone Like You” with only a piano to accompany her beautifully clear and powerful voice. She looked genuinely moved at the end and you could feel the emotion that she put into that performance. It was stunning.

The winner of the Critics Choice award this year however, Jessie J was not an unpredictable one. She, like Tinie Tempah has been at the centre of a lot of hype recently and it was no surprise when her name was called for this special award.

This is what I love about the Brit Awards, they reward a couple of special chosen people for seemingly springing up out of nowhere (Tinie himself said this in his interview that he had ‘come from nowhere’; Jessie has been around for a while longer and has written music for other artists).
But usually you will see your favourite artists rewarded after their second or third album; you need to have slogged a bit to get a reward from the Brits. Like in life; hard work pays off in the end. Well, for some at least!

This may seem obvious, but I didn’t used to see the Brits like this. I used to think that it was unfavourably skewed in the direction of mainstream pop music and ignored other types of music, but now it does try to mix it up a bit. Last night’s performances were a clear example of the wonderful mix of genres we have in popular music at the moment: Rhianna, Plan B, Adele, Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire, Tinie Tempah.

The Folk sound of Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons is blending with the Jazz and 60’s sound of Ceelo Green, Amy Winehouse, Plan B, Adele, Duffy, and the soul/jazz/rock/folk of Arcade Fire and Florence & the Machine. Then you’ve got the electronic sounds of La Roux, The XX, and the new Hip Hop artists rounding things off. At the moment nothing seems out of bounds, but the development of a new folk sound, mixed with jazz and soul and rock is what I’m really excited about.

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