The 2020 Brits winners in full
Rod Stewart and the reunited Faces reviewed
Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are now on stage. This feels like being trapped on a cruise ship that is slowly sinking. Please send help – or Jane McDonald at the least.
Best British album: Dave – Psychodrama
After shouting out the legends in the building – Harry Styles, Stormzy, Lewis Capaldi, Billie Eilish and Hans Zimmer – Dave continues the work he started with his incredible performance earlier on, using his platform to celebrate “everyone that comes from the place I come from” – cue a big cheer from Stormzy – and the “young kings and queens that are chasing their dreams.”
“I am no different from you,” he says. “I am just a guy. Everything I’m saying is a fact: you can do anything you put your mind to.”
He finishes with an acknowledgment of “anyone who is inside doing their time” – including his brother, Christopher: “Hold it down, I love you guys.”
I’m not sorry to keep talking about it: it’s still a travesty that there were no female artists in this category.
Best song: Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved
In what world is Someone You Loved better than Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’s ALL-TIME CLASSIC Nothing Breaks Like a Heart? This endlessly disappointing one, apparently. Stormzy, AJ Tracey and Sam Smith all had better songs than Capaldi’s winning track too, but there’s no denying that he was the biggest UK success story of the past 12 months. Apparently this song has been streamed A BILLION times. That’s a lot of heartbreak.
He sets his bottle of Bucky on the stand and embarks on a fittingly chaotic speech to cap the night: “A lot of people think this song is about my ex-girlfriend who you can now see every night on Love Island,” he says ruefully, “but it is actually about my grandmother, who sadly passed away a few years ago, and I hope to god that ITV don’t contact her to be on a reality TV dating show.”
Anyway, he says, it’s been the best year of his life. “Thanks to my label, thanks to my mum and dad for, I don’t know, making love? Thanks to my grandmother for… dying? I don’t know!”
Stormzy’s performance reviewed
The mystery of the evening’s maddest outfits is solved: Bring Me the Horizon came as the Spice Girls! I know this phrase is wildly overused but I’ve been working since 6am and my personal standards are slipping: genuinely iconic.
ITV are missing a trick if they don’t invite these two chaotic flirts back to host the 2021 show with Jack Whitehall. The chemistry!
Best international female: Billie Eilish
Come and ’ave a go if you think you’re ’ard enough! It’s Brits legend Mel C giving the award for best international female artist to Billie Eilish, a noted Spice Girls fan – albeit one so young she initially thought they were a pretend band invented for Spice World the movie.
It’s Billie’s first Brit award, though she looks as pleased to meet Mel C – “thank you, Sporty!” – as she does to get the award itself. She shouts out her competition – “the only reason I exist” – and gets candid for a moment. “I’ve felt very hated recently, and when I was on the stage and I saw you guys all smiling at me” – she pauses to catch her breath – “it genuinely made me wanna cry. I wanna cry right now, so thank you.” And cry she does, and lovely Sporty leads her off stage.
Presumably Billie is referring to the backlash against some comments she made about hip-hop in her recent US Vogue cover, which Vulture’s Craig Jenkins distilled here.
Celeste’s performance reviewed
Celeste is the winner of the rising star award, formerly the critics’ choice award, given to those anointed for future greatness by the industry. A certain kind of female vocal, edges cracking and flaking like old paint, has been used to evoke a dilapidated heart ever since Billie Holiday slowed down the blues into indigo decades ago. It was this audible damage that made Amy Winehouse such a sensation, and now Celeste, who sings her spellbinding ballad Strange, a song about the disbelief at someone you loved reverting back to just another human going about their business. Having seen her live last year, up close her voice is truly devastating and it does feel like it belongs in a room where smoke is gathering around the table lamps, but nevertheless she projects it right to the back of the arena here. What a moment, and a really excellent decision by the Brits to push forward the next generation of British performers by giving them access to the country’s biggest stage.
Billie Eilish’s performance reviewed
This is the live debut for No Time to Die, Billie Eilish’s theme for the James Bond film of the same name – a real coup for the Brits. Her brother Finneas plays brooding piano – quite the musical theme of this year’s ceremony – and Johnny Marr plays substantial, malevolent guitar licks, including an exceptionally Bond-style imperfect cadence at the end. Hans Zimmer, Bond score composer, conducts the orchestra. But despite the pedigree surrounding her, Eilish is utterly riveting. Her vocal control, swooping between breathy depth, lung-busting mid-range notes and expertly swooping top range is immaculate, but then a lot of blue-chip singers can do that. Her particular genius is to climb right inside your head, with every doleful creak and crack in her voice. Bond, a man nursing a busted stiff upper lip, has his perfect musical foil.
Group of the year: Foals
As Ben mentioned in his Brits preview, Foals stood a double chance in this category – they released two albums in the past 12 months, which meant that voters could nominate them twice for this category, should they so wish. Not to take away from what’s been a big year for them – as most of their 2000s indie peers have died away, they’ve reinvented themselves with two ambitious albums, cementing their legacy in the British rock pantheon.
Here’s Yannis Philippakis, never a man lost for words, who seems genuinely bowled over. As well as the standard label/manager/fans stuff, he shouts out his dad for lending them the money to buy the Royal Mail van that they used to tour the country in their earliest days, and winds up his remarks by saying: “Hopefully next year we’ll see some more women in this category.” Given that Foals have been talking up the importance of gender equality in the music industry and at festivals all week, I’d hoped for a much stronger statement from them.
Dave’s performance reviewed
Playing piano against blocks of black is a performance of Black, Dave’s ode to needing to work twice as hard, as a black person, to get half as far in life. If Harry Styles had two pianos, Dave one-ups him with a single piano with two keyboards. He plays it himself in the opening half of the endlessly unspooling freestyle, but is joined by a second pianist to allow him to ratchet up the vocal intensity; pain and speed gradually reaching a climax of sheer anger at institutional and historic racism.
And what a climax. Dave gets off his piano stool to deliver a newly written final freestyle verse that ranks alongside – no, outpaces – the similarly electric and political statement from Stormzy when he shouted “where’s the money for Grenfell?” in 2018. “The truth is our prime minister is a real racist” gets aired in the opening lines. He pays tribute to Jack Merritt, a victim of the London Bridge terror attack, but argues “victims of as a tougher sentences that’s just papering cracks”; spits fire about the treatment of Meghan Markle, calls out the government regarding Grenfell; calls for “reparations for the time our people spent on plantations”; and even gets in a nod for “more conservation, less deforestation”. This is what the Brits stage is made for: forthright political statements that can hopefully move the dial in millions of living rooms nationwide.
Best international male: Tyler, the Creator
“We’re here to announce a very under represented group tonight, the men!” says co-presenter Paloma Faith, before getting on her knees to hand the award to Tyler, the Creator – his first Brit award, and the first real left-of-centre winner tonight.
Following Dave’s incendiary performance, Tyler injects another shot of politics into the night’s proceedings, with a special shoutout to “someone who I hold dear to my heart, who made it so I couldn’t come to this country five years ago, and I hope she’s at home pissed off: thank you, Theresa May.”