Dua Lipa, the Weeknd, Elton John and others play the biggest night in British music in front of thousands of spectators. Follow the red carpet and ceremony here
Tue 11 May 2021 22.38 BST
First published on May 11, 2021 6:27 p.m. BST
10:33 p.m. BST 10:33 p.m.
Thank you for following us tonight. We have a vintage crop of winners showing that the British can really be a showcase for diverse and high quality British pop, and a little lump in our throats with this NHS choir. Here are all of your 2021 winners – hope someone has chartered a boat on the Thames for all of these key workers.
British woman: Dua LipaBritish male: J HusBritish group: Little MixBreakthrough artist: Arlo ParksBritish single: Harry Styles – Watermelon SugarBritish Album: Dua Lipa – Future NostalgiaInternational Female: Billie EilishInternational Male: The WeekndInternational Group: Haim Global Icon: Taylor SwiftRising Star: Griff
10:25 p.m. BST 10:25 p.m.
I first heard Anywhere Away From Here when Rag’n’Bone Man played a purely acoustic performance before it was released, and it was really powerful: that rich, soulful voice and honest lyric need nothing more than a piano or a guitar. But with the many, many chefs surrounding a major label release, bags of cheese and sugar were dumped into the studio version’s production and then toasted with Vocal Fry by Pink, who beats the song’s emotional beats with the excitement of a boxing exercise met instructors who have to teach in the rain thanks to the pandemic.
But amid the context of the hopefully waning pandemic, amid an O2 arena full of frontline heroes and supported by the valued key workers of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, the song takes its power back – the extra chorus weight gives it the size it lacks in the recorded version, Rag’n’Bone Man’s voice moves reliably and the recordings that panning over the singing NHS staff are really moving.
A fitting climax for a show that repeatedly paid tribute to the exceptional work of key forces during the pandemic – a task the Briton forgives, and which caters to pop in its most universal and shameless emotional form, was so well placed to do it meet.
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A special speech from @ taylorswift13 when she received the BRITs Global Icon Award 💕 #BRITs pic.twitter.com/kZ7EGSIv7Y
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Tonight, women took home 85% of the mixed gender awards, a significant increase over the previous year of the 21st century when male artists always won at least half of the mixed categories.
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The last and biggest award of the night. Dua describes how the album « really taught me so much confidence and strength … and gave me so much love and friendship » and then dedicates the award to Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole, who died trying to save a woman , from which he fell from London Bridge in April and Joaquin Garcia, who also tried to save the woman:
Tragically, Jimi did not survive … they knowingly put themselves in danger, even though they were strangers to each other and the woman were. It would be fitting if they were honored with an award for bravery … you touched the hearts of an entire nation and we will never forget you.
Future nostalgia so, if the British ponder the constants of our pandemic year, we will reminiscent of festering glasses with sourdough slime, surrealistic rose garden performances, a mania of clapping and the omnipresent and not in the least undesirable throbbing of Dua’s disco opus. Many hands have been wrung over the return of the genre and what it all meant. (Disco for Dark Ages? Breakthrough.) Honestly, who cared: In a year with no new sensations, it was all about how it felt, and Dua’s second album was fun, sexy, and ruthlessly efficient. It’s almost scary to think about how devastatingly big it would have been if it had stepped into a more normal world.
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An unrecognizable blonde Maisie Williams presented the award, calling Swift « one of the greatest names in music history … an inspiration to people around the world ». In a VT, Selena Gomez says she is « the same girl I met when I was 15 … generous, kind and cares so much about her fans. » Ed Sheeran says, « The fans get a different side of her all the time and it’s very difficult to do that over and over again. » Zoe Kravitz says, « Nobody works harder »; Annie Lennox calls her « exceptional and I really love the way she uses her platform to advocate for women and the LGBT community. »
And here she is, delighted with the presence of Maisie Williams (« Everyone, who knows me at all, knows that Game of Thrones is my life « ) and Annie Lennox from VT ( » my soul has left my body « ).
» I want to thank the British and everyone who decided to that I am ready for this incredible honor. I’m really proud to be part of this music community, especially in a year where we needed so much music – and what we needed even more was the help and support from the NHS and the key forces that are there for us tonight. Thank you for all you have done for us. «
She thanks her UK fans and is following her live journey here – from the Shepherds Bush Empire, the O2 and Wembley – and almost Glastonbury.
We all know what happened next – changed the world I and myself released three albums instead. Making folklore and evermore was one of the most unique, cathartic and extraordinary experiences I have ever had. «
She thanks her staff from Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff and her friend Joe Alwyn (AKA William Bowery) at Bon Iver and Haim and then goes into the gist of their speech:
I want to thank my friends and family who know exactly who they are and whose opinions of me have never changed whether my inventory has increased or decreased. When I’ve learned one thing, there is one thing you need to look around every day and take note of the people who have always believed in you … never take them for granted. There are so many incredible artists in this room tonight and a lot of people watching and having goals and ambitions to themselves. You need to hear me: there is no such thing as a career path that is free from negativity. If you encounter resistance, it likely means you are doing something new. If you are experiencing turbulence or pressure it likely means you are getting up and there may be times when you put all your heart and soul into something and it meets with cynicism or skepticism. You can’t let it crush you: you have to let it fuel you because we live in a world where everyone has the right to say whatever they want about you at any time, but please remember that you are have the right to prove otherwise. I love you all. Thank you so much for this beautiful honor, thank you very much to the British, that’s incredible.
As she points out, entire courses could (and will) be devoted to the fluctuating public favor around Taylor Alison Swift. Four years ago it was downgraded for being « calculating » for enjoying the marketing side of a pop star. Now her joyously vengeful conspiracy to re-record her first six albums and devalue the investment of the nemesis she bought under her has been widely celebrated. The general public! Who would have it? Either way, Swift is the first woman to win that award (British again, seriously?) And given her fondness for clues and code, fans will no doubt already be browsing her speech for clues as to her next move. For my money, this look was extremely red!
9:59 p.m. BST 9:59 p.m.
With an outfit that hints at its Ghanaian heritage and headline headline set designed by Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director Virgil Abloh, Headie continues the recent tradition of rap artists becoming high profile anti-authoritarian at the Brit Awards Testify – Witness Dave calls Boris Johnson a « real racist » or Stormzy asks, « Where’s the money for Grenfell? » News reporter-style voices criticize drill rap, perhaps a nod to Skepta using similar voices in a track after the critically acclaimed Kanye West performance of All Day at the British in 2015, which saw Central England moving uncomfortably on their couches. </ AJ Tracey appears in a lighted corridor and delivers his verse to the point, and the two then swap freestyled bars for verse three in place of an absent Stormzy. "The government says go out to eat to help, but Rashford won't help if he feeds the youngsters" – another piece of Boris bashing and Rashford promotion, alongside AJ's similar verse in his track with Digga D Bringing It Back to submit – and "Two black Britons are here with the British, but we are still not considered British." It's not quite as clear and emphatic as the examples above, but they still use the British stage as a space, to question racism and government decisions during the pandemic – inconceivably different and better than the sheer lairy energy of the British in decades past.
Then with Young T & Bugsey for Don’t Rush, it’s a transition to a brighter one , wilder tariff, and Headie even smiles one of his rare, slightly enigmatic smiles. A great showcase of all sides of his art.
9.49 p.m. BST 9:49 p.m.
This teases Harry Styles, who is disguised as Dairy Milk’s Big Taste Triple Choc Bar, when my live blogging snacks have long been gone.
9.46 p.m. BST 9:46 p.m.
Jack Whitehall is muted to call the « company wankers » sitting in the swanky boxes over the key workers and says this is the moment ITV won’t ask him back for the next year. At first I thought it was a planned gag, but then some of the Headie One’s performance was muted and the screen showed the same « audio mute » graphic … Hmm.
9:38 p.m. BST21: 38
Strong suit! Unusually clean cut! So far the only person wearing a mask? Anyway: pretty straightforward acceptance speech (thanks: fans, friends, key workers) from – Dua’s Olivia Newton John tribute aside – the most musically traditional act in a category that is otherwise populated by (rather anonymous) producer / singer connections, and arguably more exciting rap collaborations. But who am I to argue with the BPI, which recognizes Styles’ sun-baked, brassy, appropriately cheering ode to oral sex and / or Richard Brautigan’s 1964 novel In Watermelon Sugar and his post-apocalyptic concept of Eden? In any case, no fruits are forbidden here.
9:38 p.m. BST21: 38
It is perhaps a measure of the work yet to be done on race and equality that pop stars of East Asian heritage, either from the region itself or from the UK, are almost never successful here. The hugely successful BTS are often discussed by the British media in terms normally reserved for British Museum wall text, although their music is as straightforwardly appealing as pop can get.
Fortunately, this year’s shortlist of rising stars included two East Asian singers, the Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama, and the winner, Griff, who is of Chinese and Jamaican descent. Sawayama’s mash-up of nu-metal, shiny pop and influences from deconstructed club music is progressive and exciting. Griff is a sure, very big label prospect who has so far delivered more bland songwriting than real pop magic. She gives Black Hole everything in an apocalyptic wilderness Weeknd style, and her sharp voice in the choir has real character. It’s hard to miss, however, that this is a bit like « a third single from Rita Ora’s comeback album ».
9:32 p.m. BST 9:32 p.m.
The UK’s current reigning pop star Dua Lipa meets his future reigning pop star the brilliant Rina Sawayama who may not be taking home tonight but has left her mark on the awards by winning for the BPI Uses To Expand His Definition Of What Makes You The British artist was banned from the Mercury competition after her debut album Sawayama because – although she spent most of her life in the UK – she was born in Japan. Now everyone is entitled to the British and Mercury as long as they were either born in the UK, have a UK passport or have been a permanent UK resident for more than five years.
9:27 p.m. BST21: 27
This is her third nomination and her first win! Alana hits the table, Este looks amazed and takes the lead in her acceptance speech:
Sisters! This is incredible … the UK was the first place we were hugged in the whole world and for that we will honestly be forever grateful.
The last time a group of instrument slingin laypeople Won that award were the Corrs in 1999. And before that the Bangles in 1987. What a line! All shadows on the British for being so unimaginative (the Foo Fighters have won this four times) and absolutely no shadows on Haim, whose third album Women in Music Part III was another important companion. It has become a matter of course for artists to release records that switch between a dozen different genres, but no one has done it as great or convincingly as Danielle, Este and Alana, who specialize in Twangy Rock, UK Garage, G-Funk and more based to color the best songwriting of her career.
9:22 p.m. BST 9:22 p.m.
9:20 p.m. BST21: 20
MICHELLE OBAMA PRESENTS THIS AWARD ?! WHAT! Amazing. It not only sheds light on Abel Tesfaye’s influence as a musician and performer, but also his charitable donations for Covid Relief, Black Lives Matter, food aid in Ethiopia and much more. « In a difficult year, he delivered a light that is pretty dazzling and gave us all a reason to dance, » concluded Obama.
And here he is, taking his award with some rain on the stage and a beautiful southwest. He thanks his fans and pays tribute to “my people in Ethiopia who are suffering – you are deep in my heart. Please help all viewers where you can. “
Yes, six months after the Grammys unveiled their 2021 nominations, it’s no less confusing that they didn’t realize the huge impact and gripping pop plays of Tesfaye’s fourth album that led him to choose one Promise permanent boycott of the Recording Academy. So here the British are doing the right thing (and showing with his presence as a performer that artists are still interested in awards despite their protests).
9:20 p.m. BST21: 20
There’s usually a guilty glee to see stars smashing dreams of fame – all those pursed lips after their names aren’t read out add a special treat and show that A-listers are just as vulnerable for the same little insecurities as everyone else are us. But the Grammys nudge of the week and this year was just amazingly wrong. Although he had the biggest album and single of 2020, which were also ice cold pop classics, he wasn’t even nominated. The sharp fishiness of it all has meant that the Grammys have since abolished the secret nominations-making committees, leading to this wonderfully dramatic counter-speech from the Weeknd: « Hopefully the Grammys’ most recent admission of being corruption will be a positive step for the future of this troubled award. “
Instead, he has a winning round at the Brit Awards and plays Save Your Tears via video in a thoroughly waterproof outfit – a reference for J Hus-Fischer, we hope – with Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, and continues on its improbable path from super. Underground electronic producer for the impresario of highly theatrical weekend appearances (he was also musical director of the Superbowl halftime show). This is a much more ambitious spectacle than the usual video call over the phone, where the Weeknd leaves a concrete performance box to enter a rainy apocalypse believed to be full of rainfall that has sprung from the tears of its spurned lovers. As always, his voice is extremely confident, studio quality, but still live. World class.
9:14 p.m. BST21: 14
As you may know, the Weeknd boycotted the Grammys after failing to recognize its mammoth and very worthy 2020 album After Hours this year. I would like to believe that this performance is his homage to another artist who makes the Jamiroquai Virtual Insanity video stand out – who was amazingly nominated for 15 Brit Awards and won absolutely none of them! Justice to Jay Kay !!!
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