Despite a noticeable lack of women in key categories, the 2020 BRIT Awards delivered a distinctly progressive show. But while we have you, justice for Charli, FKA twigs and Little Simz’s albums and please excuse us while we continue to rub our eyes and triple-check why Little Mix weren’t up for Best British Group.
That said, crystal clear anti-establishment statements, non-Western sounds and a focus on bold young talent felt like the most striking themes last night – if you’re able to look past the 12-minute Rod Stewart medley. Where the GRAMMYs struggle to balance the push-and-pull of the old and new – making themselves and their panel look very past it – the BRITs seem to be finding a new stride.
By affording artists that for too long weren’t treated like popstars a scale of platform and production value, age-old imbalances are beginning to be addressed while huge fanbases and unignorable cultural impact are being celebrated on their own terms.
We’ve tried to condense our thoughts into five key takeaways. Honourable mention to Jack Whitehall’s writers (far funnier than he’s been previously or has been, ever), Ronnie Wood’s marigolds and Keifer Sutherland’s scarf.
Dave’s breathtaking new verse on Black
The undisputed moment of the night. Following a performance of Black, from the Mercury-winning Psychodrama, former Crack Magazine cover star Dave delivered an urgent new verse while staring down the camera lens. Addressing our prime minister, the racist mistreatment of Meghan Markle, the Grenfell survivors still in need of proper rehousing, the climate crisis, the south London artist also delivered a moving tribute to the loss of Jack Merritt who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack.
It takes a lot to pull a room like that one into focus but Dave did it effortlessly with a political conscience that didn’t feel performative or strategic. Him walking away with the night’s biggest award was the confirmation – if we needed it – that we’re watching a British voice of a generation at work.
The African Giant sets the BRITs alight
In our current cover story, global superstar Burna Boy told us about his mission. “The world finally gets to experience Nigeria’s greatness – and this is just the beginning.” It felt like a new chapter for the BRITs – which traditionally platforms Western music – when he performed the infectious Anybody during Stormzy’s performance. Dressed immaculately, backed by an army of dancers and moving with the same joyful focus that permeates his music.
Tyler’s triumphant acceptance speech
Tyler, the Creator’s attendance was an unexpected treat. Dressed down but clearly happy to be there, he used his acceptance speech for Best International Male as an opportunity to send a message to Theresa May who banned him from the UK in 2015 when she was Home Secretary.
“I want to give a special shout out to someone who I hold dear to my heart,” he said, “who made it that I couldn’t come to this country five years ago. I know she’s sitting at home pissed off. Thank you Theresa May.” The crowd erupted and we were left with an image of Theresa May at home nursing a bottle of Echo Falls and wishing Bruce Springsteen had won. Yes, that’s correct, Bruce Springsteen was also nominated.
Stormzy’s dance in the rain
Using J Hus’ Fortune Teller as a transitional track and giving Burna Boy space to shine with his own music – Stormzy’s performance was the work of a true leader. Two years ago, he stood on-stage in the rain and delivered piercing political commentary. This year, the performance ended with more rainfall. But this time the focus was on celebration – a nice symbol of the place he’s reached as an artist and writer.
— BFBS Radio (@BFBSRadioHQ) February 19, 2020