The BRIT Awards (often simply called The BRITs) are the British Phonographic Industry's annual popular music awards. The name was originally a shortened form of "British", "Britain", or "Britannia" (in the early days the awards were sponsored by Britannia Music Club), but subsequently became a backronym for British Record Industry Trusts Show. In addition, an equivalent awards ceremony for classical music, called the Classic BRIT Awards, is held in the month of May. Robbie Williams holds the record for the most BRIT Awards, 13 as a solo artist and another five as part of Take That.
|The BRIT Awards|
|Current: 2020 Brit Awards|
|Awarded for||Excellence in music|
|Presented by||British Phonographic Industry (BPI)|
|First awarded||18 October 1977(as The BRITish Record Industry BRITannia Awards)|
The awards were first held in 1977 and originated as an annual event in 1982 under the auspices of the British record industry's trade association, the BPI. In 1989, they were renamed The BRIT Awards. Mastercard has been the long-term sponsor of the event. The highest profile music awards ceremony in the UK, the BRIT Awards have featured some of the most notable events in British popular culture, such as the final public appearance of Freddie Mercury, the Jarvis Cocker protest against Michael Jackson, the height of a high-profile feud between Oasis and fellow Britpop band Blur, the Union Jack dress worn by Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls, and a Chumbawamba member throwing a bucket of iced water over then-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. These moments took place in the 1990s when the ceremony had a reputation for being “a little shambolic, unpredictable and, at times, anarchic” with a criticism it has lost its edge since then and “evolved into a more polished, sanitised affair.”
The BRIT Awards were broadcast live until 1989, when Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood hosted a widely criticised show in which little went as rehearsed. From 1990 to 2006, the event was recorded and broadcast the following night. From 2007, The BRIT Awards reverted to a live broadcast on British television, on 14 February on ITV. That year, comedian Russell Brand was the host and three awards were dropped from the ceremony: Best British Rock Act, Best British Urban Act and Best Pop Act. For the last time, on 16 February 2010, the venue for The BRITs was the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. The BRIT Awards were held at the O2 Arena in London for the first time in 2011.
The BRIT Award statuette given to the winners features Britannia, the female personification of Britain. Since 2011, the statuette has been regularly redesigned by some of the best known British designers, stylists and artists, including Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor and David Adjaye. In 1992, KLF opened the show and invited extreme metal band Extreme Noise Terror on stage, complete with flame-throwers, and fired machine gun blanks over the crowd. The group sent a dead sheep to the aftershow party, and later buried their BRIT Award statuette at Stonehenge signifying their abhorrence of the music industry.
The first awards ceremony was in 1977, as "The BRITish Record Industry BRITannia Awards", to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee and was televised by Thames Television. There has been an annual ceremony since 1982.
The 1988 BPI Awards was the first of the ceremonies to be broadcast on live television. The BBC had previously broadcast the ceremony from 1985, with the shows from 1982 to 1984 not broadcast on television. The BBC continued to broadcast the renamed BRIT Awards, live in 1989 and pre-recorded from 1990 to 1992. ITV have broadcast the awards since 1993, pre-recorded until 2006 and live from 2007 onwards. BBC Radio 1 has provided backstage radio coverage since 2008.
Since 2014, ITV have aired a launch show in January called The BRITs Are Coming, which reveals some of the artists who have been nominated at the upcoming ceremony. The first host was Nick Grimshaw, followed by Reggie Yates (2015) and Laura Whitmore in 2016. Emma Willis has hosted the show in 2017 and again in 2018, which was broadcast live for the first time. Clara Amfo hosted the 2019 launch show. Alice Levine hosted the 2020 launch show.
Electricians' strike (1987)Edit
In 1987 the BPI Awards ceremony was held in the Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel. At the time there was a BBC electricians' strike in effect, and the organisers decided to use a non-TV events production company, called Upfront, to manage the show. Despite the show being picketed, the event was transmitted as intended. For a while, the outdoor broadcast scanner was rocked on its wheels by the protesters and they managed to shut off the power to one of the big GE video screen projectors. Upfront was then asked to organise the following year and persuaded the BPI to move the event to a larger venue, starting the trend that continues to this day, albeit at The O2, and with a different production company (MJK Productions).
Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood (1989)Edit
In 1989, the ceremony was broadcast live and presented by Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood and singer Samantha Fox. The inexperience of the hosts, an ineffective autocue, and little preparation combined to create an unprofessional show that was poorly received. The hosts continually got their lines mixed up, a pre-recorded message from Michael Jackson was never transmitted and several guest stars arrived late on stage or even at the wrong time, such as Boy George in place of The Four Tops.
Freddie Mercury's final public appearance (1990)Edit
The 1990 awards ceremony saw the last public appearance of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Queen appeared at the ceremony to receive the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Mercury (who had been suffering from AIDS since 1987 but had not disclosed it to the public) did not make a speech, as Brian May did the talking on behalf of the other members, but his gaunt appearance was noticeable.
The KLF (1992)Edit
In 1992, dance/art band The KLF was awarded Best British Group (shared with Simply Red) and were booked to open the show. In an attempt to hijack the event, the duo collaborated with grindcore metal band Extreme Noise Terror to perform a death metal version of the dance song "3 a.m. Eternal", a performance that prompted conductor Sir Georg Solti to walk out in disgust. The performance ended with Bill Drummond firing blanks from a vintage machine gun over the audience and KLF publicist/announcer Scott Piering stating "Ladies and gentlemen, The KLF have now left the music business". Producers of the show then refused to let a motorcycle courier collect the award on behalf of the band. Later that evening, the KLF dumped a dead sheep outside the venue of an after-show party, whilst their Brit Award was reportedly found buried in a field near Stonehenge in 1993.
Michael Jackson and Jarvis Cocker (1996)Edit
In 1996, Michael Jackson was given a special Artist of a Generation award. At the ceremony he accompanied his single "Earth Song" with a stage show, culminating with Jackson as a 'Christ-like figure' surrounded by children. Jarvis Cocker, of the band Pulp, mounted the stage in what he would later claim as a protest at this portion of the performance. Cocker ran across the stage, lifting his shirt and pointing his (clothed) backside in Jackson's direction. Cocker was subsequently questioned by the police on suspicion of causing injury towards three of the children in Jackson's performance, who were now on stage.
Regarding his actions, Cocker said, "My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing. I just ran on the stage. I didn't make any contact with anyone as far as I recall."
Oasis and Blur rivalry (1996)Edit
1996 saw the height of a well-documented feud between Oasis and fellow Britpop band Blur. The differing styles of the bands, coupled with their prominence within the Britpop movement, led the British media to seize upon the rivalry between the bands. Both factions played along, with the Gallaghers taunting Blur at the 1996 BRIT Awards by singing a rendition of "Parklife" when they collected their "Best British Band" award (with Liam changing the lyrics to "Shite-life" and Noel changing them to "Marmite").
Chumbawamba and John Prescott (1998)Edit
In 1998, Danbert Nobacon of the politically active band Chumbawamba threw a bucket of iced water over then-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Despite apologies on behalf of the band from EMI Europe, Chumbawamba were unrepentant saying "If John Prescott has the nerve to turn up at events like the Brit Awards in a vain attempt to make Labour seem cool and trendy, then he deserves all we can throw at him."
Belle and Sebastian (1999)Edit
In 1999, the Indie band Belle & Sebastian were nominated for Best British Newcomers, despite having released three albums before the 1999 Awards. The award was sponsored by Radio One and voted for online by their listeners. At the time, Steps were arguably Britain's biggest boy/girl pop group and were also nominated. Despite this, the award was won by Belle & Sebastian. On the Saturday after the awards, a story appeared in the press alleging that the group had rigged the vote in their favour, encouraging students from two universities to vote online. However, fans argued that the band had a predominantly large student following, that band member Isobel Campbell had attended one of the universities in question, and in particular, the award ought to be given on artistic merit as opposed to popularity or CD sales.
Ronnie Wood and Brandon Block confrontation (2000)Edit
Dance DJ Brandon Block was told by his friends that he had won an award and had been summoned to the stage to collect it. Because of his advanced state of intoxication, he believed them and walked on to the stage, eventually ending up next to a bemused Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and actress Thora Birch, who were about to present the award for Best Soundtrack Album. After Block was removed from the stage by security, Wood aimed an insult in his direction. A series of insults were then traded between the two, both of which were audible through the stage microphone, causing claims that the whole event may have been staged. Wood then threw his drink into Block's face, and the DJ was ejected from the event. Sometime after the incident, Block claimed that he had subsequently apologised to Wood for his behaviour, and Wood had merely brushed it off.
Geri Halliwell vs. the Spice Girls (2000)Edit
The Spice Girls were set to receive the Outstanding Contribution To Music award at the 2000 BRIT Awards. There was much media speculation before and even during the event as to whether or not former Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell would accept the award with the four remaining members of the group. On the night, however, Halliwell declined to join her former bandmates and instead ensured front-page coverage the following day by performing her solo number 1 single "Bag It Up" straddling a pole between a pair of giant inflatable legs.
Russell Brand (2007)Edit
Some controversy was caused by the host of the 2007 awards ceremony, comedian Russell Brand, who made several quips relating to news stories of the time including Robbie Williams entering rehab for addiction to prescription drugs, the Queen's 'naughty bits' and a fatal friendly fire incident involving a British soldier killed by American armed forces in Iraq. ITV received over 300 complaint calls from viewers. He would again instigate controversy the following year at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.
Vic Reeves and Sharon Osbourne (2008)Edit
After Vic Reeves appeared to forget which award he was presenting, Sharon Osbourne attempted to wrestle the microphone from him, insisted he was drunk and called him a "pissed bastard". She proceeded to make the full announcement herself. The next day it was reported that Reeves was not intoxicated and was hurt by Osbourne's behaviour. The incident has since been ascribed to an autocue malfunction, but Reeves said in his defence that he was trying to read the autocue screen, but he couldn't read it because Osbourne was pushing him out of the way.
Adele speech cut short (2012)Edit
Adele won the award for 'British Album of the Year', widely regarded as the most important award. Less than half a minute into her acceptance speech, host James Corden was forced to cut Adele off in order to introduce Blur who were due to perform an eleven-minute set as they had won the 'Outstanding Contribution to Music' award and the ceremony was running over its allotted time. Adele was visibly annoyed and proceeded to raise her middle finger and the producers of the show came under fire on Twitter for the decision. Following the incident Adele said "I got cut off during my speech for Best Album and I flung the middle finger. But that finger was to the suits at The BRIT Awards, not to my fans". Adele received an apology from the show's organisers, who stated; "We send our deepest apologies to Adele that her big moment was cut short. We don't want this to undermine her incredible achievement in winning our night's biggest award. It tops off what's been an incredible year for her." Due to the tight schedule, only three of the five songs Blur played were broadcast on ITV.
David Bowie enters Scottish independence debate (2014)Edit
At 67 years of age, the influential musician David Bowie became the oldest recipient to date of the Best British Male Solo Artist Award. Bowie used his acceptance speech, delivered in his absence by Kate Moss, to urge Scotland to remain part of the UK in the September 2014 Scottish independence referendum. His speech read: "I'm completely delighted to have a Brit for being the best male – but I am, aren't I Kate? Yes. I think it's a great way to end the day. Thank you very, very much and Scotland stay with us." Bowie's unusual intervention in British politics garnered a significant reaction throughout the UK on social media.
Damon Albarn's slurred anti-Brexit speech and Jack Whitehall's response (2018)Edit
When picking up the Best British Group award for Gorillaz, Albarn appeared to be drunk in his speech, slurring his words and starting a rant about Brexit. Taking the microphone while his bandmates hung back, he began: "This country is, believe it or not, quite a small little thing right. "It's a lovely place and it's part of a beautiful world but don’t let it become isolated and don't let yourselves become cut off." The speech appeared to go on for a while and at one point, the camera cut back to Jack Whitehall, who was supposed to continue presenting although it quickly went back to the speech as Albarn carried on speaking. Once the speech was over, Whitehall responded by saying, "I really didn’t want this to be an Adele moment" referring back to 2012 when Adele was cut off and swore at the audience.
British Video of the Year controversy (2018)Edit
The 2018 ceremony garnered controversy when Harry Styles was announced as the winner of the British Video of the Year. The official Brits leaderboard for these votes showed Little Mix consistently maintaining the number one spot each week, followed by Styles at number two. During the final voting event on the night of the ceremony Little Mix and Styles alternated between the top spot on numerous occasions. The last leaderboard update placed Little Mix at the top spot, with Styles at number two. After the announcement of Styles as a winner, the Brit Awards were accused by Little Mix fans of rigging the votes for this category. The Brits responded to the claim, saying: "The final leaderboard was displayed on The BRITs website prior to the final count being checked and verified independently by the Electoral Reform Services, the company that independently run all BRITs voting processes. The leaderboard doesn’t work in real time and the vote was incredibly tight at the top. Fans can have complete confidence in the BRITs public vote." The Electoral Reform Services added: "Robust vote-counting rules and filters are in place which are in accordance with ITV's voting regulations, and agreed and tested prior to any vote taking place. We are confident that the vote integrity has not been compromised".
Spice Girls' performance of "Wannabe" and "Who Do You Think You Are" (1997)Edit
Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, wore a Union Jack dress. Spicemania was at its height in the UK and the Spice Girls had just cracked the US as well, reaching number 1 with their debut single and album. Halliwell was originally going to wear an all-black dress, but she thought it was too boring so her sister sewed on a Union Jack tea towel, with a 'peace' sign on the back. The now iconic red, white and blue mini-dress was worn during the Spice Girls' performance of their number one song "Who Do You Think You Are". In 1998 she sold her dress in a charity auction to Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas for a record £41,320, giving Halliwell the Guinness World Record for the most expensive piece of pop star clothing ever sold. This performance won the award for "BRITs Hits 30 – Best Live Performance at The BRIT Awards" at the 2010 BRIT Awards.
Geri Halliwell's performance of "Bag It Up" (2000)Edit
Three years following the iconic Spice Girls performance, Halliwell, now a solo artist, performed her new single "Bag It Up" at the 2000 BRIT Awards. The performance featured Halliwell emerging, whilst dancing on with a pole, from a pair of large inflatable female legs. As the performance continued, her male backing dancers stripped to their pink briefs whilst dancing with the Union Jack flag. It is widely believed that Halliwell lip-synced her performance. In addition to all this, the performance is famous for being performed on the same night that the Spice Girls received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, which Halliwell declined to accept with her former bandmates.
Gorillaz's performance of "Clint Eastwood" (2002)Edit
When it was announced that past Brit Award recipient Damon Albarn, and his project Gorillaz, would be taking the stage at the 2002 Brit Awards, no one knew what to expect. The four cartoon members of the band performed the song on giant life size screens (an early version of a hologram) without the Blur frontman being present at all. The band performed their hit single "Clint Eastwood" alongside UK underground rap group Phi Life Cypher and a group of silhouetted female dancers mimicking the zombies from the band's music video. The performance received rapturous cheers and applause.
Justin Timberlake and Kylie Minogue (2003)Edit
At the 2003 BRIT Awards, Timberlake performed a three-part medley which comprised two of his hit singles, "Cry Me a River" and "Like I Love You", and a cover of Blondie's "Rapture". In addition to Timberlake beat-boxing during the interlude between "Cry Me a River" and "Like I Love You", the performance is most famous for a photo published by the Tabloids the following day which showed Timberlake pinching Minogue's bum. Minogue's appearance was a surprise guest for Timberlake's performance and this performance is regarded one of the best at the BRITs.
Girls Aloud's performance of "The Promise" (2009)Edit
English-Irish girl group Girls Aloud marked their first ever performance at the 2009 ceremony, by performing their single "The Promise". The performance saw the members, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts and Nadine Coyle appear as though they were naked, with their modesty being covered by pink feather fans. This performance was nominated in the 2010 ceremony for the "BRITs Hits 30 – Best Live Performance at The BRIT Awards", alongside Oasis and The Who, which the Spice Girls eventually went on to win.
Cheryl's performance of "Fight for This Love" (2010)Edit
Cheryl performed her debut single "Fight for This Love" at the 2010 BRIT Awards. The performance featured two costumes (one in a white trench coat and another in a black hooded leotard) and sampled the song "Be" by Rowetta Satchell. The performance was mainly noted for being the first time Cheryl had performed without her wedding ring. At the time of the performance, her marriage with footballer Ashley Cole was rumoured to be over following a second round of allegations of infidelity on behalf of Ashley. Whilst at the time she passed this off as a fashion statement rather than a reflection of her personal life, it was later revealed in Cheryl's autobiography that she had broken off the marriage with Ashley by the performance at the BRITs. Despite allegations of lip-syncing, which was later clarified to be an ITV technical problem in the broadcast of the performance, Cheryl received strong applause from the audience. Following the performance, host Peter Kay commented "Fight for This Love, never a truer word spoken", believed to be in reference to the breakdown of their marriage.
Adele performed her song "Someone like You" at the 2011 Brits with only a piano accompanying her. Her emotional performance was received with a standing ovation at the O2 Arena and the video received 160 million views on YouTube. The performance launched "Someone Like You" 46 spots up the UK charts to number one, and in the process, made Adele the first artist in the UK since The Beatles to have two top five singles and two top five albums at the same time. The performance had all lights down and focused on Adele and her piano.
On the date of the 2015 BRIT Awards, Kanye West was announced as a surprise performer following reports of Rihanna performing at the ceremony proven to be false. He performed his new single "All Day" during the live broadcast for the very first time: large sections of the performance were muted by ITV due to explicit language, causing outrage from viewers at home who felt they couldn't enjoy the performance.
Madonna's live return to BRIT Awards after 20 years was widely promoted in the media in the days leading up to the ceremony and during the show itself. During the performance of "Living for Love", she walked onstage wearing an oversized cape. When standing on stairs situated on the stage, the cape's cord failed to separate, so when Madonna's backing dancer pulled the cape behind her, she fell down the stairs and noticeably hit the stage hard. She paused momentarily as her backing music continued, before she managed to separate herself from the cape and then continued performing. In an interview on The Jonathan Ross Show, Madonna blamed her fall on a wardrobe malfunction as her cape had been tied too tightly so it could not be unfastened in time, before adding: "I had a little bit of whiplash, I smacked the back of my head. And I had a man standing over me with a flashlight until about 3am to make sure I was compos mentis. I know how to fall, I have fallen off my horse many times."
In the leadup to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Katy Perry was a major endorsement for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, performing at many of her rallies and speaking at public events. After Donald Trump won the election, Perry returned to recording her fifth studio album and in February 2017 released "Chained to the Rhythm". During the performance, she was joined onstage by two large skeletal puppets dressed as Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. The performance was also notable as a backing dancer fell offstage at the end of the performance whilst wearing a house costume.
Kendrick Lamar's performance (2018)Edit
The performance was notable as there was an apparent technical issue before it began, leading to Kendrick Lamar laying on a glass roof for over a minute before he started singing. However, fans of Lamar claimed that this was part of the performance and was misinterpreted as the backing music kept stopping and starting, also leading to moments of silence, which meant that viewers took to social media in order to see what was going on.
Stormzy's performance (2018)Edit
Stormzy, who had won British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year for Gang Signs & Prayer closed the 2018 ceremony. Performing under an indoor shower, he opened with "Blinded by Your Grace, Pt. 2" with masked figures praying behind him before going into a freestyle rap. In his freestyle, he called out Prime Minister Theresa May over the handling of the Grenfell Tower fire. In the performance, he rapped "Theresa May, where's the money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages. We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this." He also hit out at tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail asking someone to tell them they can "suck [his] dick". The performance garnered much media attention, with many lauding it the highlight of the night. The following day, a spokesperson for May defended the Prime Minister's response to the disaster, stating that "the PM has been clear that what happened at Grenfell was an unimaginable tragedy, which should never be allowed to happen again. She is determined the public inquiry will discover not just what went wrong but why the voices of the people of Grenfell had been ignored for so many years."
Dave's performance (2020)Edit
Rapper and classically-trained pianist Santan Dave, who won Album of the Year for Pyschodrama, performed his song "Black" whilst playing the piano onstage. Halfway through, he was accompanied by his producer Fraser T Smith, also playing the piano. He added an additional verse at the end, calling Prime Minister Boris Johnson 'a real racist', and referencing the Windrush scandal and Grenfell Tower fire by finishing his performance with "“We want rehabilitation, now that would be amazing, but Grenfell victims still need accommodation, And we still need support for the Windrush Generation, Reparations for the time our people spent on plantations.” In addition, he paid tribute to victims of the London Bridge Attack, including Jack Merrit who had worked with Dave's jailed older brother in prison rehabilition. The performance garnered much media attention, with many praising it for its message for racial equality, calling it 'the best political speech ... of the decade'. However, it also was subject to 257 of the 307 Ofcom complaints made that night, due to its political nature.
According to The BRIT Awards website, the list of eligible artists, albums, and singles is compiled by the Official Charts Company and submitted to the voting academy, which consists of over 1,000 members of the music industry, including the previous year's nominees and winners. The voters use a secure online website to vote, and the voting is scrutinized by Electoral Reform Services. The concept of fan voting was abolished after the 2019 Brit Awards.
Take That, band member Robbie Williams and Coldplay have performed the most number of ceremonies, performing seven times each. Rihanna and Adele have performed at four ceremonies each, with all four performances taking place on the same evenings (2008, 2011, 2012 and 2016).
Most successful actsEdit
|Number of awards||British acts||Notes|
5 with Take That
1 with Eurythmics
7 with One Direction
4 with The Beatles
4 with The Beatles
2 with Wham!
2 with The Police
|Manic Street Preachers||
3 with Queen
|Number of awards||International acts||Notes|
2 with The Revolution
5 with Foo Fighters
1 with Nirvana
1 with Destiny's Child
1 with The Carters
|Lana Del Rey||
1 with The Carters
|Kings of Leon||
1 with Simon & Garfunkel
|Year||Air date||Official ratings
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