Who was she? That’s what I want to know. The Brits had many lowlights – One Direction, Olly Murs, One Direction – but a particular highlight was the disembodied female voice that boomed across the ferry-like O2 arena. She would say things like, “What a fantastic evening we have planned!” and “Coming up: Rihanna!” before the show cut to ad breaks.
I suppose she was meant to cover the links as James Corden traversed the floor to tell One Direction how beautiful and underage they were. Or the fist-chewingly awkward pause after the blink-and-you-miss-it tribute to Whitney Houston. But it felt like being at an airport. Any second now she was going to warn Kylie not to leave her luggage unattended.
The voice provided welcome relief, though, from the images. It was all so shiny. The X Factor has had more than a musical effect on the pop industry: it has changed the aesthetic of the arena spectacle. Of course Rihanna was going to perform with a small-town population of paint- weilding dancers. There is now no other way. Coldplay, in their matching but individually customised khaki boiler suits, were dressed like one of Louis Walsh’s boy bands. Even Noel Gallagher had the look of a man who had been primped into a cartoon version of himself.
Thank God for Ed Sheeran and George Michael, who were, respectively, shabby and pissed and ably scuffed the metallic sheen of the event. When ex-Pussycat Doll (the epitaph of epitaphs) Nicole Scherzinger gave Sheeran one of his awards she looked like a woman whose understanding of the world (looks and money win) was being overturned. In Scherzinger-land, Sheeran is the kind of guy you expect to pick up the sweet wrappers from around your chair, not someone who wins an award. The disembodied voice didn’t know what to make of Sheeran either, introducing him to the crowd by citing the number of his Twitter followers, Facebook fans and YouTube subscribers. Forget the album, Sheeran, check out those social media stats!
There were other sources of light relief in the form of Rob Brydon and Alex James (unwittingly), but the big prize for the night should go to the blokes who nonchalantly walked in front of the camera as James Corden pattered away into the ether. Never mind the dancers, the lights, the outfits: nothing reveals the true, shoddy heart of a show than the back of a suit jacket obscuring the view.