Saturday, February 20, 2016

NME Awards 2016: What the pop papers say

This week, the NME awards were doled out; this week's print edition of the magazine tries to make sense of them.

The awards are possibly a transitional moment, covering a period where the weekly went free, and took on an editorial direction ever less about music; moving closer to the mainstream. Last year, prizes went to Royal Blood, Foo Fighters, Alex Turner and Kasabian. There was a clear sense of what an NME band sounded like.

This year's winners... well, they're a little different:

Best British Band: The Maccabees
Best International Band: Run The Jewels
Best New Artist: Rat Boy
Best British Solo Artist: Charli XCX
Best International Solo Artist: Taylor Swift
Best Live Band: Wolf Alice
Best Album: What Went Down - Foals
Best Track: Giant Peach - Wolf Alice
Best TV: This Is England '90
Best Film: Beasts Of No Nation
Best Music Film: Blur: New World Towers
Best Music Video: Cheer Up London - Slaves
Best Actor: Idris Elba
Best Actress: Vicky McClure
Best Reissue: Five Years - David Bowie
Best Book - M Train - Patti Smith
Best Festival - Glastonbury
Best Small Festival - End Of The Road
Music Moment Of The Year - The Libertines "secret" Glastonbury set
Best Fan Community - The Libertines
Worst Bad: 5 Seconds Of Summer
Villain Of The Year: Donald Trump
Hero Of The Year: Dave Grohl
Vlogger Of The Year: KSI

(Just in passing, how come actors are split into categories based on gender and solo artists aren't?)

It's the solo artists who stick out - in a month where NME's covers have run through James Bay, Kanye West and Coldplay, Charli and Taylor seem much more in keeping with where the title is heading than Wolf Alice and Foals. They feel like an echo of where the title was before, when it charged an entry fee that few were interested in paying.

This makes for difficulties for the awards, though - remember, these used to be styled the Brats and positioned themselves as an alternative to the Brits. Even before NME became the sort of magazine which would put James Bay on the cover, the distinction was blurred, but if the endeavour survives another twelve months it's likely the NME Awards/Brits relationship will become more like the BAFTAs/Oscars one - the former a lower budget version of the latter, taking place a couple of weeks before, and serving no real purpose other than letting bookies set the odds for the main events.

This year, though, we find ourselves in the awkward position of the magazine having to send a prize designed for rebellious shouty rock upstarts to Taylor Swift. Her reaction:

I got the award in the mail and I gotta be honest with you about this, when you first open up the box this feels a little aggressive.
Yeah. That's the sound of worlds colliding.

Coldplay picked up the Godlike Genius award - I know, I know - and in the accompanying interview, Chris Martin shares his favourite moment of being a popstar. This was playing Michael J Fox's Parkinson Benefit, and getting Fox to join them onstage to recreate the moment from Back To The Future when Marty plays guitar at the 1950s prom.

That's telling. The worst part of the entire Back To The Future trilogy is the point where the invention of the boisterous, brilliant cacophony of rock is taken away from Chuck Berry and reassigned to a pasty-faced white kid from the suburbs. And the peak of Chris Martin's musical career has been recreating the creation myth of a deracinated rock music.