Image via the BRITs

Everything that happened at the BRIT Awards 2020

Ft. Stormzy's wet n wild performance, Billie Eilish's tears and Tyler's political shout-out.

by Douglas Greenwood
19 February 2020, 1:40pm

Image via the BRITs

The BRIT Awards are always a fairly civilised affair. Popstars show up, the host Jack Whitehall makes some semi-racy jokes, some popstars win (others don’t) and we all go home or hop to another channel once the whole thing is over. The past few years have seen it become a source of controversy too. Last year, their new music prize got dragged for only selecting white blokes, in a year where women and non-white male artists undeniably dominated the conversation. This time around, the voting board got slack for the lack of women nominees in the final categories. In the end, only one woman got more than one nomination this year: Mabel.

But if anything, last night’s glitzy ceremony at The O2 arena did a solid job of patching up those problematic parts of the show’s make-up. Five of the nine winners last night weren’t the usual white boys who’d dominated the conversation until then, and the performances -- everybody from Dave to Lizzo with a sliver of Billie Eilish in between -- were some of the most refreshing we’ve seen in years. Were you sleeping under a rock last night? Did you somehow manage to miss this? Fear not! Here’s everything great that happened at last night’s BRIT Awards.

Tyler, the Creator showed face

Since Tyler, the Creator’s ban was lifted and he was allowed back into the UK, the rap god has seldom stepped foot off the British isle. Last night, having absconded the red carpet in a strangely off-brand move, he suddenly appeared to pick up the Best International Male Solo prize, handed to him by Kiefer Sutherland and Paloma Faith because… of course? Dressed in some old-school GOLF WANG garbs (brown cap, leopard print vest and Chucks), he thanked the “UK boys who keep this place fun for me at night”, before signing off with a “special shout out” to someone he “holds dear to [his] heart”, Theresa May. Excellent.

Harry Styles looked iconique (obv)

Owner of the key to our hearts Harry Styles showed up to perform, and settled on no fewer than three outfit changes. He kicked it off on the red carpet with a full Gucci look, featuring an ostentatious peter pan-collar shirt and femme dolly school shoes, before going full lace and pearl in another Gucci look for his performance of “Falling”, as water cascaded out of a piano and pooled around his feet. The Gucci streak was broken as he lounged about during the ceremony, but for a good reason: he wore a daisy-yellow Marc Jacobs SS20 suit and lilac bow tie. Later, when Jack Whitehall slipped into the audience to get some one-on-one time with the star, things went a bit mad. A glass of neat tequila sat on his table was knocked back by Lizzo in one go; the crowd went wild like they were sat at a football match.

Mabel matched with her mum

The only woman nominee to earn recognition outside of the ‘Female Solo’ category, Mabel opened the night of her performance of “Don’t Call Me Up”, beaming throughout it; a real ‘pinch-me’ moment for the star. Later in the night, she won that aforementioned prize, and took to the stage to deliver an emotional speech in which she thanked her mum, the brilliant Neneh Cherry. “I had the honour today of walking the red carpet with my amazing mum,” she said. “And it’s exactly 30 years today since she took home two of these and performed on this stage, so it’s a very special night!”

Dave delivered the most piercing performance

The room froze over and sat in stunned silence for Dave’s performance of “Black”. Playing a piano with a screen embedded into its base, a series of searing images were projected through it as he reeled off the song’s piercing lyrics (“A kid dies, the blacker the killer, the sweeter the news/ And if he's white you give him a chance, he's ill and confused / If he's black he's probably armed, you see him and shoot”) and added new ones too, calling Boris Johnson “a real racist” and a verse dedicated to his late friend who died in the stabbing on London Bridge, Jack Merritt. It was a stunning insight into the injustices that exist in the UK today through the lens of a young artist who deserves the world. Dave had already picked up the Mercury Prize for the record late last year, but he added the prestigious ‘Album of the Year’ gong at the Brits for it too. The album has propelled back into the iTunes top three since the performance.

Lizzo was 100% that bitch

When she wasn’t flirting with Harry Styles, Lizzo was delivering an iconic medley of “I Love You”, “Truth Hurts”, “Good as Hell” and “Juice”, looking every bit the Greek Goddess surrounded by a dozen dancers and scantily clad men. She slipped into the crowd midway through and they all went wild, which is what we’d do if we were within six feet of the superstar. She didn’t take home the prize she was nominated for (that went to Billie instead, who showed the flute-toting singer love), but if anyone had the time of their life last night, it was this woman. We stan.

Billie Eilish cried

Having picked up no fewer than five Grammys just a few weeks prior, Billie Eilish rocked up to last night’s Brits dressed in a full Burberry look to rival the Gucci get-up she wore back then. Her big moment was the debut live performance of her flaw-free Bond theme “No Time to Die” accompanied by her brother Finneas on piano, Hans Zimmer who produced it, a huge orchestra and The Smiths’ Johnny Marr (because why not?) on guitar. It was the perfect set-up for her winning the Best International Female Solo prize, where she came out on top ahead of Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Lana del Rey and Camilla Cabello. Mel C, aka Sporty Spice, presented the prize, and as she ran up on stage to collect it, she B-lined for Mel’s arms, affectionately saying “Thanks Sporty!” as she held the prize. Shortly after, she spoke candidly about the hate she’s been receiving online lately, and how seeing the crowd react to her performance made her feel better. She started to well up mid-way through, and so thanked the audience, blew a kiss and said her goodbyes.

And Stormzy delivered too

Having picked up the Best Male Solo Artist prize early in the night, dressed head to toe in crisp white Dior, Stormzy spent much of the night gearing up for what was essentially the rousing closing performance of the night (Rod Stewart technically did that, but this felt like the crescendo moment). In a several-song medley that saw him move from one end of the arena to the other, Stormzy brought more dancers and on-stage performers than any of us could feasibly count. It started with a choir-lined rendition of “Don’t Forget to Breathe” before he was surrounded by a crowd of young men on a bridge that descended from the ceiling for “Wiley Flow”. Burna Boy shows up for the duo to tear through “Own It” with even more dancers joining them on-stage, before the whole thing comes to a huge, defiant conclusion with “Rainfall”. The entire group, by this point 50 or 60 strong, join in on a chorus of the song’s Mary Mary sample: “Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance / I just wanna praise ya”.

Paired with Dave’s performance, this is a brilliant sign that British music’s feature should and will be dominated by black voices. They’re the artists doing it best, and it’s taken the Brits a while to get to this point -- where they recognise a world outside of the straightforward white artist narrative -- but now the new gen has arrived, it’s unlikely they’ll have an excuse to revert back to the old days anytime soon. One word? Monumental.

billie Eilish