The 42nd BRIT Awards – Analysis and Review by EJ Scanlan
The BRIT Awards are one of the biggest nights in the music calendar. Famous for its bizarre collaborations, controversy and everything else, the BRITs are arguably one of the greatest awards any musician can have. 14 awards are being handed out tonight, with 14 acts receiving the specially designed trophies. But who is going to win? And what will the Awards feel like?
Last night, I was told that I’d be off to the BRITs on the cuff, and I’ve never been more excited. TotalNtertainment has got me into London’s iconic O2 Arena to report on anything and everything happening inside the arena. The scale of the event is the biggest thing I’ve ever done, but with the amount of research I’ve been doing all day and will continue to do until I take my seat inside the O2, and with the BRITs’ being very well known for “anything can happen at any time”, this is the biggest journalism job I’ve ever done. My expectations of the night are that presenter, Mo Gilligan is going to be a far less controversial host than predecessor, Jack Whitehall, but slightly less serious than Emma Willis and Dermot O’Leary. I’m expecting Little Simz to be the best performance of the night and for Adele to pick up awards for categories she isn’t even nominated for, but I know that no matter what happens, tonight is going to be incredible.
The feeling inside the main part of the O2 was electric. The general public was dressed to impress, with bow-ties, elegant dresses and outfits covered in glitter, proving that this was a night that was going incredibly special to a lot of people. As I took my seat, the lights went down as we saw a wonderful VT of presenter, Mo Gilligan pitching to “organisers” how he was going to head to the arena, which was probably the funniest he was all night. We then see him riding a bike to the BRITs, alongside the “mandem” and it was great. I personally would have wanted to see that on the stage with the tricks that the bikers did inside the O2 (or for one night only: The Mo2 Arena, but unfortunately we didn’t).
We then get our opening act… Ed Sheeran, with Sheffield rock band, Bring Me The Horizon, which came as a real shock to anyone and everyone, not just because Bring Me The Horizon had finally made it to the BRITs 16 years after their debut album was released, but because they were performing with Ed Sheeran of all artists. The performance inside the arena was electric, with pyrotechnics filling up the whole space and the entire song providing us with bucket loads of energy. Unfortunately, the whole thing felt a bit TOO mismatched. The reason why Florence + The Machine and Dizzee Rascal’s “You Got The Dirtee Love” and many others worked is that they blend together so well, this felt like a Bring Me The Horizon show with a guy named Ed in it. Sheeran felt so out of place that it was laughable, but regardless of my criticism, it was a fantastic opening to the show.
We then had the first award of the night given out, and this was for Song Of The Year, and it was presented by Ted Lasso stars Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein, and for this one, I predicted that Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran would win, but I was wrong, as Adele picked up the award for “Easy On Me”, a surprise to me at the very least because as Adele puts it, “I can’t believe that a piano ballad won up against that many bangers” and that was my thoughts exactly. It deserved the win, but because it wasn’t something I predicted, I knew from that very moment that she was going to win everything, again.
Moving onto International Single, which was presented by Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid for some reason and Friends star, Courtney Cox, which got everyone incredibly excited, including me (who isn’t a Friends fan at all, but just loves Courtney Cox!) and they presented the award to Olivia Rodrigo for her Paramore inspired track “good 4 u”, which despite me not being a big fan of the song, it was certainly deserving of its win. Rodrigo came onto the stage to collect her award (thankfully, not performing, as her performance last year wasn’t great at all) and did a lovely acceptance speech and I was very happy for her!
So every BRIT Awards has one thing everyone talks about, and we definitely got that tonight, as ANNE-MARIE FELL OFF THE STAGE! So let’s address that part first, and I have to admit, it was both as funny and awkward in the arena as it was on television. Having said that, she recovered INCREDIBLY well! You could tell throughout the performance that it did affect her, but she had this attitude of “let’s just get through this as fast as possible” so even though she was good and her vocals were very strong, that accident did affect her performance as a whole. Taking a closer look at the overall performance, it didn’t make a lot of sense: her randomly pushing a button to set off some pyrotechnics came out of nowhere, the karate guy had no relevance to the actual performance (before the Anne-Marie fans come at me, yes I know she was previously a karate champion, but it made no sense to include a karate guy in a performance unless that’s the specific theming), and it wasn’t particularly great to watch. After performing a short section of “Kiss My (Uh Oh)”, Digital Farm Animals joins her as she performs “Don’t Play” and he basically does nothing at all. But the worst part of the whole performance was KSI and his terrible vocals and stage presence. And then, Anne-Marie and Digital Farm Animals stay on the stage as KSI randomly blurts out his track “Holiday”, which is a bad enough song on its own, but with KSI performing it incredibly poorly, it was a waste of time and two minutes that I’ll never get back. It wasn’t a great performance overall, which is really disappointing, because it could have been fantastic, but its cluttered nature and the addition of KSI made it just terrible, though I will commend Anne-Marie for carrying on singing the second she fell, that was seriously impressive.
After that disaster, we move onto Best Pop / R&B Act, and presenting was actor Jaime Winstone and Formula 1 driver, Lando Norris, who announced Dua Lipa as the winner, which shook everyone in the crowd, as Adele lost an award for what seemed like the first time ever. Dua Lipa was someone that I never even considered to win in this category, but I’m very glad she did. It was a real surprise and also showed me that the people of TikTok have a solid taste.
One of the best rappers of the 21st century, Little Simz then came onto the stage to perform a melody of “Introvert” and “Woman” from her fourth album, “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” and my god, I got goosebumps. This was by far the best performance of the night, as THAT IS HOW YOU DO THE BRIT AWARDS! The rawness, the empowerment, the elegance, the guest appearance of The Crown’s Emma Corrin performing spoken word midway through, this is a performance that is going to stay with a lot of people for many years as it will with me – I couldn’t take my mind off it. It was sensational and I fell in love with it. This performance showcases the very best of black British female rappers in the industry, and will hopefully bring them more into the commercial music scene, paving the way for artists such as ENNY and FLOHIO. This performance was perfect and will go down in history.
Straight after that, The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood surprised everyone by presenting the award for Best Alternative/Indie Act, which went to Sam Fender, as it quite rightfully should have done. “Seventeen Going Under” spoke to so many people last year and he deserved another BRIT, even if it is going to his local pub!
Best Dance Act now, and we had two dance music legends in the form of Pete Tong and David Guetta giving out the award, which went to the wonderful Becky Hill. In April, it will be ten years since Hill came onto our screens appearing on the first series of The Voice UK, and after the career she’s had since, this had her name written all over it. She deserves this award more than anyone else, and her acceptance speech was beautiful and powerful in every single way. It was worthy of the win.
Indie music legend, Liam Gallagher then took to the stage to perform his latest single, “Everything’s Electric”, one of the better songs in his solo discography, and it went off. From flares to lasers, the performance had it all, with Gallagher’s vocals and attitude being remarkable and completely on-brand. It was a great performance from the get-go.
Then, the sexiest band on the planet, Måneskin came onto the stage to present the award for Group of the Year, and I was certain that Coldplay or Little Mix was going to take this, but I was completely wrong… as finally, Wolf Alice won their first BRIT Award, and I was beyond proud of them. They never deserved it more and I’m so glad they did. Their album “Blue Weekend” was my favourite album of 2021 and after the phenomenal year they’ve had, this is the cherry on top.
When I thought the BRITs had reached their peak of award presenters with Måneskin, Courtney Cox and Ronnie Wood, they go and bring out Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who) who I’m a massive fan of and Vicky McClure (Line of Duty), who’s from my home city of Nottingham, out to present the winner of International Artist, which was won by Billie Eilish for the third year in a row, and for good reason. Billie has had a sensational year and was the strongest out of the nominated artists, so this is very much well deserved.
Griff then introduced the winner of this year’s Rising Star Award, Holly Humberstone, who performed “London Is Lonely” beautifully, with some great vocals and a beautiful stage presence throughout, proving why she has won this prestigious award. I’m disappointed however that she didn’t give an acceptance speech like Griff did last year.
Moving onto the award for Best New Artist, presented by BRIT Award winner Celeste and Olympic diving champion, Tom Daley, who presented the award to the phenomenal Little Simz, whose acceptance speech was the best of the whole night. Bringing her mum on stage, she said: “anyone that is watching this at home, I am living proof that if you work hard at something, no matter where you come from, no matter your background, no matter your race, you can do something extraordinary. … This is for all the kids dreaming, keep dreaming, keep pushing, I am you, you are me.” Goosebumps ran down my back, this whole speech was incredibly powerful and Little Simz is very much deserving of this award.
Then, of course, Adele performed, and this had the whole arena excited and ready to hear her voice in her first public UK performance in six years. She performed “I Drink Wine” in an incredibly elegant and powerful way, with the whole crowd getting out their phone lights without being prompted, the energy in the room was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, it was wonderful. Her vocals were excellent and it proves why she’s now won 12 BRIT Awards over her 14-year career.
Best Hip-Hop/Grime/Rap Act now, which was hosted by Football legends Ian Wright and Bukayo Saka, and this was won by Dave, and understandably so. His album, “We’re All Alone In This Together” is excellent and his debut “Psychodrama” is one of the best debuts out there. I’m beyond glad he won this! Meanwhile, BBC Radio 1’s Clara Amfo presented International Group, which went to Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s project, Silk Sonic, and they were a great band to win. They’re fantastic and their debut album, “An Evening With Silk Sonic” is funky, nostalgic and just wonderful. I’m very happy with the result.
Sam Fender then performed his famous track, “Seventeen Going Under” which had the entire arena on its feet. Fender’s vocals were through the roof and the band chemistry was the strongest of the night, the crowds were singing along, it was a magical moment to see this man perform such an iconic track from where he was four and a half years ago when I first discovered him. It was magical to witness.
Mo Farah came out onto the stage to present the newly formed Artist Of The Year category, which of course went to Adele, who has had a sensational comeback year, despite only being relevant in the final three months. It was her second award of the night, and her second of the big three (album, artist and song), and she said she genuinely didn’t think she’d get this, which surprised me! Adele was a worthy winner here.
Then, surprisingly, Brian Cox came onto the stage to present a brand new award that no one even knew about until presenter, Mo Gilligan told us about it moments earlier: Songwriter Of The Year, but this one didn’t have any nominees, this just had a winner, and that was Ed Sheeran. A VT of a video essay explaining why Ed was chosen as the winner for this “special” award, and all of the reasons stated, while being true to Ed, didn’t particularly add up with me. Some way better British songwriters that were nominated for BRIT Awards this year include Arlo Parks, Little Simz, Self Esteem, Sam Fender, Ellie Rowsell among many more. All of those songwriters have a sincere heart and passion while writing, and while I’m not saying that Sheeran’s songs don’t have those things, they do, but those artists bring a new modern edge to them, looking at political and personal issues rather than just about how much they love their partner and children. This award felt like a desperate attempt for the BRITs to be like “we wanna give Ed something, but he’s not good enough for the four categories he’s in, so let’s make up an award for him on the cuff”. This is then further proved as Sheeran performs AGAIN immediately after, making history as probably the first artist to perform TWICE at the same award ceremony. This time, he performed “The Joker and the Queen”, which sounds like a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory rip-off, and while the performance was very good, it came across as a lazy attempt for the BRITs to suck up to Sheeran’s ego. I’m aware that they probably needed an extra performer since Doja Cat dropped out last week due to their crew testing positive for COVID-19, but why not get another act who was nominated to perform instead? Wolf Alice, London Grammar, Olivia Rodrigo, Tom Grennan, Becky Hill, anyone who has the potential to perform. I know there’s a lot to organise in the space of a week, but it’s certainly doable. The BRITs very much shot themselves in the foot there in my eyes.
And then we come to the final award of the night: the MasterCard Album of the Year (MasterCard, if you’re reading, please sponsor my work so I can do stuff like this every day!), and my brief breakdown of each of the nominated albums is in last week’s article, but I did say that I didn’t think that Adele’s 30 was that special compared to the other records nominated, but that didn’t stop her from winning, because, let’s face it, it’s Adele. The album definitely has some very strong points, with “My Little Love” being the real highlight of the record, with me saying in my 2021 Songs of The Year list: “Adele has created one of her greatest songs in the form of “My Little Love”. As reported on BBC News, Adele’s fourth album “30” is written to explain to her son the impact of her divorce to ex-husband and father to her child, Simon Konecki, and this song encapsulates that message perfectly. From dubs of her conversations with her son to her conversations with other people explaining her feelings, this is the first time we see her real vulnerabilities in a real beautiful ballad that defies what ballads are. This song is a real masterpiece, and it’s fantastic all the way through.” That’s the only song that really stands out on the album, same with “Bad Habits” on Ed Sheeran’s “=“, whereas the other three records have countless tracks and deep-cuts that are exquisite. For an award that celebrates the album and what it is, I believe it’s an insanely weak decision.
And we’ve now reached the final act of the night: Dave, who performed all seven minutes of “In The Fire”, featuring Ghetts, Giggs, James Blake and many more. The track is my favourite from his sophomore record, “We’re All Alone In This Together” and so was exciting to watch. The performance, filled to the brim with pyrotechnics and gospel singers, the performance was a real celebration of UK rap and poetry and even included Dave playing electric guitar, adequately, but still great to see, which then had fire coming from the ends of the guitars towards the end. It was a good way to end the show, but it did feel quite anticlimactic.
At the time of writing, it’s been six hours since I left the O2 and started my review, and there’s a lot to say. First of all, as much as I love and appreciate him, Mo Gilligan felt flat and his comedy wasn’t great tonight. Maya Jama, who guest presented with him was genuinely more captivating during one section of her screen time than Gilligan’s links throughout the show (I’m starting a campaign to get Maya Jama to host the BRITs solo next year.) The performances, despite some pretty bad ones (cough KSI cough), were fantastic, the winners were mostly worthy, and the whole event was brilliant. It was great to see the BRITs in action, and after tonight, it’s cemented in my head as to why it’s the biggest night in the British Music calendar.
On a more personal note, Monday evening, I was planning on watching the BRITs at home, in my pyjamas with a Chinese for one. Within 24 hours, I was on a coach to London to be there in person, and I have never felt more honoured and appreciated as a journalist. Tonight was one of the biggest jobs I have ever done, not just in terms of the event as a whole, but the amount of research I had to do in a very short amount of time to complete this article. At seven hours, this has the longest time taken to write a review of an event, and it was incredibly worth it. I’d like to thank Jo, Julie, Amarae, all the amazing people I’ve met tonight, all of the wonderful people at The O2, and the incredible people at the BRITs for looking after me, feeding me and making me feel safe and secure while doing my job.