The Alternative Classic Brits

Boy Bland

Norman Lebrecht has been highlighting on the pages of his blog Slipped Disc the sad facts of the nominations for this year’s Classic Brits Awards (formerly the Classical Brits). I say “sad” because, as Norman says, the nominations and awards are going not to artists of genuine talent and true artistic integrity, but to manufactured “boy bands” (for band read “bland”) and an opera singer whose main claim to fame is his appearance on a reality tv show (‘From Popstar to Operastar’), the tenor Roland Villazon (he’s up for Best Male Artist of the Year). The Artist of the Decade award goes to “four young men from a barbershop on the wrong side of town” (NL), Il Divo, a group straight out of Simon Cowell’s stable.


Other nominations, for the ClassicFM Album of the Year (we kinda guessed ClassicFM would be “in” on this one!) include Russell ‘The Voice’ Watson, The Choirgirl Isabel (eeugh!), Aled’s Christmas Gift (sweet!), and The Band of the RAF (cue the theme from The Dambusters….).  The awards will be presented, also unsurprisingly, by “classically-trained” vacuous piano-babe Mylene Klass at the RAH on 14th May.

A quick Google of nominations for other categories was somewhat sparse, though an article on the BBC website revealed that pianist Mitsuko Uchida, trumpeter Alison Balsom and violinist Nicola Benedetti will be competing for the coveted title Female Artist of the Year. Well, that information does redeem these awards slightly – but only slightly….. And I suspect amid all the hoopla and medi-yar loviness, these artists, who really do display true commitment, integrity and talent, will be somewhat sidelined. I do hope not, but with Mr Cowell on the prowl, we can kinda guess the rest.

I don’t have a problem with awards, per se, but I do have a problem with manufactured artists and bands, especially those which serve only to line the already bulging pockets of Simon Cowell, and his ilk. I ranted extensively on this subject just before Christmas, when another of Simon Cowell’s progeny, a young man so forgettable I have forgotten his name, was up for the Christmas No. 1. I joined the campaign ‘Cage Against the Machine’ to have John Cage’s seminal work 4’33” take the Christmas 2010 No. 1 spot, because I just could not bear to see yet more Cowellness invading our music charts and tv screens, and the thought of all the millions he was making from the enterprise.

The other, more fundamental Problem with Cowell is that he peddles the idea that it is easy to make it in the music business, that success and celebrity are easily-won, without the many hours of training, study and discipline that real musicians – be they pop, jazz, world or classical – must undergo to achieve longevity and recognition.

So, as a challenge to The Classic Brits, may I suggest The Alternative Classic Brits? Nominations are invited for the following categories (genuine artists only please; reality-show participants need not apply):

Best Male Artist

Best Female Artist

Best Album

Best Newcomer

Best Ensemble/Orchestra

Best Opera

Best New Work

Lifetime Achievement Award

Critics’ Award


Please feel free to leave your nominations and additional award categories here – or follow me (and Norman Lebrecht) on Twitter. And if this takes off, I may even be announcing a Facebook campaign! Watch this space.