The BRIT Awards are important, there’s no denying that. Like it or not, it’s British music’s biggest night, a shop window that countries around the world gaze into.
What they saw last night was perhaps the truest depiction of British music the ceremony has ever achieved. The BRITs 2018 opened with Big Shaq and closed with Stormzy, lauded the outsider pop of Dua Lipa, and afforded Liam Gallagher the space to pay emotional tribute to those lost in the Manchester Arena attack.
It wasn’t perfect – very little is – but viewed in context, last night’s event represent a colossal step forward. It’s not that long ago that the only representation of grime at the BRIT Awards was when Kanye West invited a slew of MCs onstage during his 2015 performance.
A powerful co-sign, it was also shameful to watch an entire culture pushed to the background, a performance that undermined the ceremony’s claim to be truly representative of British music.
Stormzy was onstage that night, a figure clad in black but immediately recognisable to fans. Since then, he’s built a platform of his own, taking his music – pop-edged, definitely, but resolutely grime – to the upper echelons of the charts.
It’s been success, for sure, but on his own terms, a triumph of independence, a steely will. It was wonderful, then, to see the BRIT Awards recognise this. Winning Best British Male and Best Album, the South London artist swept aside competition, and was visibly moved in the process, repeatedly thanking God and his loved ones. It was the sound of a glass ceiling being smashed to pieces, the frame itself taken apart bolt by bolt.
His final performance perhaps summed the man up. Refusing to be swept away by the occasion Stormzy appeared stripped to the waist, demanding the country view him on his own terms.
It was a platform he used to help others, too; aware of the special pressures placed on him, Stormzy reacted by shouting out Grenfell tower, and the shameful treatment of the survivors by authorities in this country. It an electrifying moment, something few will ever forget.
But it wasn’t just about one man, and one performance. When Clash met Dua Lipa last year we found an artist only just coming into her own – since then, she has went stratospheric. Winning two awards, the singer’s outsider pop takes an incredibly individual stance, and she richly deserved to win British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Artist.
Not everything about the ceremony rang true, however. Kendrick Lamar scooped International Male, but his performance – an incredible sight in the arena – was heavily censored for home viewing, despite being well after the watershed.
The odd sound issue didn’t help either, but Kung Fu Kenny’s incredible poise shone through. Equally, it was a relatively poor night for Ed Sheeran. The ginger-haired colossus must be developing a phobia of awards ceremonies, after losing out in the Mercury and coming back with less gongs than expected from the Grammys.
Despite numerous nominations Ed Sheeran only took away one award last night – and Global Success is driven by sales, not by critical opinion. Add in Sir Elton’s bizarre pronunciation of his name and it’s fair to say Ed has had more beneficial awards ceremonies.
Ultimately, though, the BRIT Awards 2018 got more right than it got wrong. The spread of winners reflects the state of flux running through British music, while the performances saw big hitters and newcomers raise the bar still further.
So often out of step emotionally with the crux of British music, the BRITs seemed to allow space for something natural to come through. Dua Lipa’s effervescence, Stormzy’s incredible set, Jorja Smith’s incredible grace, it all made a kind of sense.
The tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack supplied one of the night’s more nakedly emotional sets. Ariana Grande had been due to take part, but stepped back after doctor’s told her not to travel.
Liam Gallagher stepped into the breach, and – after an introduction from Gary Barlow – he performed the classic Oasis single ‘Live Forever’, raw and unplugged, as the names of the victims passed by on-screen.
It was a heartbreaking moment, but one we’ll remember for years to come.
Liam Gallagher performing ‘Live Forever’ at the BRIT Awards on February 21, 2018.— oasis world (@myoasisworld) February 21, 2018
: BRIT Awards. pic.twitter.com/2SHUtVPnMs
British Female Solo Artist – Dua Lipa (presented by Millie Bobbie Brown and Kylie)
British Male Solo Artist – Stormzy (presented by Little Mix)
International Group – Foo Fighters (presented by Anna Friel and Damian Lewis)
British Single – Rag‘n’Bone Man ‘Human’ (presented by Dermot O’Leary and Emma Willis)
International Male Solo Artist – Kendrick Lamar (presented by Camila Cabello and Harry Kane)
British Breakthrough Act (Top 5 selected by Voting Academy. Winner identified by public vote promoted by brits.co.uk and BBC Radio 1) – Dua Lipa (presented by Clara Amfo and Alice Levine)
International Female Solo Artist – Lorde (on tape) (presented by Ellie Goulding and Adowa Aboah)
British Group – Gorillaz (presented by Hailey Baldwin and Luke Evans)
BRITs Global Success Award – Ed Sheeran (presented by Ronnie Wood, with a VT from Sir Elton John)
British Artist Video Award (Live Vote by Twitter) – Little Mix ‘Touch’ (presented by Sir Tom Jones, Jennifer Hudson, Olly Murs)
Mastercard British Album of The Year – Stormzy Gang Signs & Prayer (presented by Nile Rodgers)
Critics’ Choice – Jorja Smith
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.