Black culture was a dominant force that refused to take a backseat at the 40th anniversary BRIT awards show.
Whether it was Lizzo stealing the show from host Jack Whitehall, Stormzy‘s amazing multi-stage performance with an impromptu Burna Boy set, or the man of the show Dave – Black culture took centre stage at the BRIT’s, quite literally too. Where racial diversity was apparent gender diversity fell short. As much as there was a wide array of diversity amongst the crowd, it was pointed out several times that amongst the nominees women were sorely underrepresented. Despite this, the show was good fun and it felt like a pretty good account of UK music on the whole.
One thing you probably won’t know about the BRIT’s is that they operate a private red carpet for the artists and celebrities attending. So unless you have a press pass no chance of getting any cheeky celebrity snaps. There is however a red carpet laid out leading guests into the O2 Arena where the awards took place. There was even a nice area set up with a branded background so members of the public could take a picture looking like they were the stars entering the show.
But onto the show itself. The main show was hosted by Jack Whitehall and parts of the non-televised show were hosted by Greg James – who didn’t make it into his Radio 1 show the morning after. The show, televised on ITV, started with a touching tribute to the late Caroline Flack before the awards got underway. Jack did a good job on stage, but the segments he did off it were stolen by the contagiously energetic Lizzo. On more than one occasion she made what would have otherwise been bog-standard moments into something more entertaining. The ‘Juice’ singer also graced the stage to perform a medley of tracks for a performance which had most of the audience singing along at points.
Mabel opened the ceremony with a performance of ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ with a troop of dancers and a whole heap of stage production. The performance was a great spectacle to kick off the show with but there have been some lip-syncing claims going around which slightly spoil the performance in my eyes. Despite this or maybe because of it the energy from Mabel was high with her getting fully into the choreography for the track. The pop songstress also picked up the award for Best British Female artist and in her speech dedicated it to the amazing women in her life. There was a special mention to her mum and superstar Neneh Cherry who 30 years prior picked up 2 BRIT awards herself as well as performed on the main stage.
When we look back on the 2020 BRIT awards we should think Dave. South London as it always does made its presence known making up quite a few of the nomination spots. Between Joy Crookes, D Block Europe, the aforementioned Stormzy and Dave, as well as FKA Twigs (she moved to South when she was 17), a whole host of categories at the awards were covered by South London. Stormzy and Dave took home the Best British Male and Album of the Year awards respectively and undoubtedly had the best performances of the night. Stormzy had an energetic performance which brought out Burna Boy and over 100 other backing performers including a Gospel choir. He proved once again he is the people’s champion having the biggest reception of the night.
Dave is a hero for the scene. He took home the biggest award of the night and delivered a performance that has the media and social media alike in a frenzy. He made the admirable choice of performing his previously criticised track ‘Black’ and took his typical humble approach and optied for simple production. It was him and a piano that had changing graphics to match the lyrics he was saying. Midway through he was joined by a secondary pianist to take over as he stood up to deliver a special extended verse. What a verse it was in under 30 seconds he called out Boris Johnson as racist, highlighted that Grenfell victims still haven’t been rehoused 2 years on, the tabloids that slated Meghan Markle, and paid tribute to Jack Merritt.
He stole the show and has of course faced backlash from media and members of the public, but that’s to be expected in Brexit Britain. In a country where just this week Downing Street has refused to deny claims that the Prime Minister supports the view that Black people are mentally inferior, it’s no surprise. Just like the media tears down Meghan Markle and Stormzy, they want to make an example of Dave. It seems that being Black and successful is one of the greatest threats to the British media as their agenda is very clear and harmful for all Black people who have made Britain their home. Dave has called out injustice and asked for change but is being demonised by the same media outlets that just days ago had to delete some of their material in the light of Caroline Flack‘s passing. It’s a shame, but will not take anything away from the greatness Dave has achieved and asks of us as a country, all at only 21 years old.
Billie Eilish performed the powerful new Bond theme to an eager crowd as well as taking home the Best International Female award to sit alongside the 5 Grammy‘s she’s picked up this year. Lewis Capaldi , Red Stripe in tow, also took home 2 awards and performed as well as the show being closed out Rod Stewart.
All in all the 2020 BRIT awards were great for what was previously exclusively referred to as the ‘urban scene’. With big wins, incredible performances as well as a strong number of nominations this was a BRIT’s to remember for the country not just our scene. It marked progress on some fronts and highlighted some areas that still need to be worked on in terms of inclusivity. But most importantly good music was celebrated.