British grime star Stormzy and pop singer Dua Lipa were the big winners on a night of shock surprises, political protest and somber reflection at the 2018 Brit Awards, held at London's O2 arena on Wednesday.
Both artistes took home two awards apiece, with Stormzy generating one of the show's biggest upsets by beating firm favorite Ed Sheeran to the best album award for his debut “Gang Signs & Prayer”. The artiste, whose real name is Michael Omari, also collected British male solo artiste, which Sheeran was also widely expected to win given the all-conquering global success of his third studio album “Divide”, according to Billboard.
Stormzy collected the coveted best album prize from Nile Rodgers, before closing the show with an electric three-song medley that ended with a boisterous rendition of “Big for Your Boots” that saw the topless MC bounce around the stage to wild applause from the 15,000-strong crowd.
Earlier in the evening, Dua Lipa collected the awards for British breakthrough act and British female solo artiste. She made an indirect reference to the #MeToo movement in her acceptance speech, and delivered one of the night's standout performances with a lively rendition of her hit single “New Rules”.
Prior to the awards taking place, Brits organizers had said that they would be asking all guests to wear a white rose pin as a sign of solidarity with the fight against sexual harassment. Nearly everyone in attendance appeared to do so, with Sheeran, Camila Cabello, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and Rita Ora among the high-profile names showing their support by either wearing the pins or carrying white roses.
There was commiseration for Ed Sheeran -- who was famously snubbed in the main categories at this year's Grammys -- in the form of the global success prize. Midway through the Jack Whitehall-hosted show, Sheeran played a plaintive rendition of “Supermarket Flowers”, accompanied by piano, guitar and a vocal choir.
There were also prizes for Foo Fighters (international group), Gorillaz (British group) and last year's Brit Critics' Choice award winner Rag'n'Bone Man, who took home the trophy for British single for his breakthrough track “Human”.
Kendrick Lamar was a previously unannounced surprise guest at the awards show and collected the award for international male solo artiste for his efforts. Lamar also produced one of the night's more memorable and unique performances, beginning with him lying on top of a glass box containing a high-end sports car as the instrumental of “FEEL” paused and restarted several times before he finally stood up and began rapping. The words “This Is Another Satire by Kendrick Lamar” subsequently appeared on a screen behind him, leading into a fiery run through “New Freezer” while Rich the Kid energetically smashed the car with a baseball bat.
More conventional live thrills were provided by Justin Timberlake, who opened the show with a crowd-pleasing medley of “Midnight Summer Jam” and “Say Something”, joined by country singer Chris Stapleton.
Sam Smith, Rag'n'Bone Man and Rita Ora also delivered performances, with Liam Payne joining Ora for “For You” from the “Fifty Shades Freed” soundtrack. The Foo Fighters also made their Brits live debut belting out “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”.
One of the night's most moving moments occurred when Take That singer Gary Barlow made a heartfelt speech paying tribute to the victims of May's Manchester bomb attack following an Ariana Grande concert.
Brits organizers said Grande was planned to perform at this year's Brits, but “was not able to travel on doctor's orders.” In her place, Liam Gallagher was a last-minute addition to the bill, performing a stirring take of Oasis classic “Live Forever” in honor of those who lost their lives.