Madonna takes a tumble at 2015 Brit awards

Sam Smith follows up success at Grammys with two awards, while Taylor Swift takes home the statuette for best international female artist

It was her first performance at the Brit awards in 20 years but veteran pop star Madonna’s return was one marked more by tragedy than triumph.

Taking to the stage at London’s O2 arena to perform her latest single Living For Love, the 56-year-old – clad in a long sparkly cape – took a backwards tumble down a flight of steps on stage. Ever the show-woman, she carried on the Spanish matador-inspired routine for a few more minutes but the performance was cut short soon after.

Hosts Ant and Dec did not remark on the accident during the finale of this year’s Brit awards, but the ceremony came to a swift close following the fall.

Apart from Madonna’s mishap on the stairs, this year’s ceremony went relatively smoothly, with bookies and fan favourites Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran emerging as the victors of the evening.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith performs at the O2 Arena Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Smith, 22, followed on from his domination at the Grammy’s last week, where he picked up four prizes, to be named British breakthrough act and global success.

Born in Cambridgeshire, Smith rose to fame in 2012 as the vocalist on electronic duo Disclosure’s track Latch, and his breakthrough song, Stay With Me, went to No 1 in the UK and No 2 in the US. He has since sold more than 5million copies of his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, and recently played to a sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Picking up his award for global success, Smith said: “Since I was little, I have dreamed of people all over the world singing my songs. There’s so much more for me to say and do but this shows me I’m taking steps in the right direction.”

Smith was also among the evening’s performers, taking to the stage to perform ballad Lay Me Down, backed by a grand piano and an orchestra of around 50 violinists dressed entirely in white.

Also making his first appearance on the Brits stage since 2006 was Kanye West, who performed a track from his as-yet-untitled seventh album. He was introduced by his wife Kim Kardashian who, after taking a selfie with Ant and Dec, urged the crowd to get to their feet as her husband took the stage. Foppr his 2006 performance, he was joined by 77 dancers spray-painted in gold; this year saw him flanked by a mob of 100 hooded dancers and a large flame thrower, shooting sporadic bursts of fire into the air.

Sheeran won best British album and British male solo artist, three years after winning the same accolade for his debut album. Sheeran’s second album, X, went straight to No 1 in the UK and the US and its success has meant that Sheeran is now the most streamed artist in the world, accumulating more than 860m streams in 2014.

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith performs. Photograph: David M. Benett/Getty Images

Picking up the award for best album from actor Russell Crowe, Sheeran said: “Thank you so much for this. I was really worried about this album and it took a long time to make and I didn’t expect this. What I want to say though is that it’s been a very, very good year for British music.”

Soul singer-songwriter Paloma Faith, who also performed at the glitzy ceremony beneath a cascade of theatrical rain, won the award for British female solo artist but admitted she was “miffed” her third album A Perfect Contradiction was not nominated, despite her being the only female to feature in the ranking of 2014’s biggest selling albums.

Faith dedicated her award to “all the underdogs and all the grafters”. She said: “It’s been a long time coming. I’m a big fan of Tracey Emin and women all over the world. It’s taken me 14 years to stand up here and accept this award and it means so much to me. I used to flypost my posters in Hackney and I’ve been arrested twice for doing that and now I’m seeing my pictures all over Greenwich tube station, legally, and that’s amazing.”

This year’s Brits did little to dispel criticism of a lack of diversity with the list of winners dominated by white males. Women only won in the two female-only categories. Pharrell Williams was named best international solo artist. He was one of only two non-white musicians among the winners, alongside Bruno Mars, who won the award for best British single for his collaboration with Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk. There were a few leftfield artists among the nominees – such as FKA twigs, St Vincent and Beck – but they all went away empty handed.

The Brit for best international female went to Taylor Swift, who also took to the stage to perform. She kicked off the ceremony in glitzy style performing her hit song Blank Space in a black minidress flanked by a dozen backing dancers in bowler hats before being doused in a shower of silver confetti.

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams collects the international male solo artist award. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Swift’s fifth studio album, 1989, released last year, ensured her place as one of the world’s biggest pop stars and made her the only act on record to have three albums that sold more than one million copies in their first week. Swift dedicated the prize to fellow winner Sheeran who she said was “one of my best friends and took me to pubs and taught me how to make a cup of tea and taught me everything I know about the UK”.

She said: “I’ve been coming to England and doing shows for eight years and this is my first Brit award. I’m so happy and I’m very lucky to have British fans who have changed my life. I love you.”

The award for best group went to guitar band Royal Blood, who beat competition from Coldplay and One Direction, while best international group went to veteran Americans Foo Fighters, disproving Kasabian’s theory that the reason they failed to pick up any nominations this year was because the Brit awards have a “conspiracy to shut out rock’n’roll”.

Picking up their award from rock legend Jimmy Page, Royal Blood said it was a “huge surprise for us but probably more of a surprise for everyone here as you may not even know who we are”.

In an attempt to freshen up the ceremony, which has been presented by James Corden for the past three years with varying degrees of success, Ant and Dec hosted for the first time since 2001. The pair kept the affair controversy-free, sitting down for chats with old friend Simon Cowell, Sam Smith and Cara Delevingne throughout the ceremony.

In the only publicly voted award of the evening, best British video, the winner was One Direction. Cowell collected their prize and said he was “absolutely thrilled”.


Hannah Ellis-Petersen

The GuardianTramp

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