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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 00:58 GMT
Brits have that familiar feeling
Westlife
Westlife fans are keen for them to win
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters

The UK music industry's annual back-slapping festival known as the Brits takes place on Wednesday - with the only surefire winners the record executives.

After more than 20 years of ceremonies, the Brits have yet to convince many commentators that the whole event is much more than navel-gazing, despite efforts to imbue the awards with more credibility.

Craig David
Craig David has a second chance to win
In the 1980s and early 1990s the Brits were a standing joke among those in the music press.

As an attempt to rival the Grammys, the Brits were a poor second with low production values as an event, little awareness among music buyers and little credibility from serious music fans.

In the 1980s, artists such as Cliff Richard, Tracey Ullman and Barbra Streisand walked off with awards.

The Brits seemed stuck in a time warp with an amateurish feel to the whole affair, reinforced when, famously, Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood presented the ceremony.

Music sales

Since then a great deal of effort has gone into making the Brits a much slicker and appealing awards event and accordingly interest in the ceremony has risen.

Dido
Dido: Not a newcomer
But the suspicion remains that the ceremony is less about musical achievement than music sales.

Indeed, the best British single award remains an unashamed reflection of sales, with songs by Bob the Builder in the running.

For every winner such as the Manic Street Preachers there have always been victors such as Natalie Imbruglia and the Spice Girls.

Last year, the Brits organisers had to squirm as music giants such as U2 and Elton John publicly berated the awards body for completely failing to recognise the talents of R&B sensation Craig David who left empty-handed.

Dropped

This year the ceremony is already under fire, with a nominations list lambasted by the tabloid press as tepid, tame and uninspiring.

Robbie Williams
Robbie is tipped for yet more Brits
Atomic Kitten and Dido were initially nominated for best newcomer for the second year in a row.

Dido was later dropped from the category after organisers admitted she had been wrongly included, although Atomic Kitten, whose first single was released in 1999, remain in the running.

Both Craig David and Dido have a second chance to win for best album because their records, Born To Do It and No Angel, fall inside the long eligibility period.

Over-familiarity

It is either a sad indictment on the lack of good releases in the last 12 months or the lack of imagination on behalf of the Brits organisers that such a thing can happen.

Chumbawamba
Chumbawamba provided controversy in 1998
The only guarantee is that the whole affair on Wednesday will be one of distinct over-familiarity.

Already, newspapers are reporting that Robbie Williams will be the runaway winner for the second year in a row, which would surprise no-one.

British band So Solid Crew will provide the dollop of controversy that Eminem brought with him last year.

When the awards themselves are so predictable controversy always guarantees coverage.

Pop Idol

In 1996 Jarvis Cocker grabbed the headlines for his one-man protest at Michael Jackson and two years later one-hit wonders Chumbawamba poured cold water over deputy prime minister John Prescott.

It will also be interesting to see if Pop Idol winner Will Young follows the lead of Hear'Say and gives a performance at the event.

Last year, the Popstars winners were booed by some record executives in the audience.

The best advice for this year's Brits would be to expect the expected.

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