Apart from the politics, 2018's Brit awards were business as usual | Alexis Petridis

Damon Albarn was cut off after talking about Brexit, Stormzy attacked Theresa May – but as far as the winners go, there were few surprises. At least Jack Whitehall remembered to be funny

Every year, the media attempts to generate advance excitement about the Brit awards, almost invariably with reference to stuff that happened in an era before some of this year’s nominees were born: journey with us into Olde England of yore and hear tell of Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood and the most lamentable tragedie of the autocue.

This year, however, the Huffington Post broke from the usual protocol with an intriguing feature that suggested that 2008 was a vintage year for the Brits, packed with incident and epoch-defining excitement. It adduced as evidence a cavalcade of moments indelibly emblazoned on the brains of all who witnessed them: who among us will ever forget Kate Nash winning best British female, Girls Aloud attending without Nadine Coyle or indeed Kaiser Chiefs’ legendary live performance of Ruby, the latter very much the Jimi-Hendrix-doing-The-Star-Spangled-Banner-at-Woodstock moment de nos jours?

Damon Albarn, centre, and his group Gorillaz, collecting the best British band award.
Cutting it short … Damon Albarn, centre, and his group Gorillaz, collecting the best British band award. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

No, no one actually remembers what happens at the Brits, unless the show degenerates into a shambles of one kind or another. The only time that threatened to happen this year was when Gorillaz’s acceptance speech for their best British band award was cut off – curiously just after Damon Albarn started talking about Brexit – but there’s always the chance that the 2018 event will go down in history as The Year the Brits Stopped Ignoring Grime. It began with an introduction based around comedian Big Shaq’s novelty hit Man’s Not Hot, ended with Stormzy attacking Theresa May over the Grenfell Tower fire, while in between, he snatched the best British male and best British album awards from under the nose of their expected recipient, Ed Sheeran: the latter had to make do with something called the global success award, a gong that always carries the air of a hastily invented consolation prize doled out someone too popular to ignore.

Without wishing to take anything away from Stormzy’s well-deserved win, there’s an argument that the Brits finally getting around to acknowledging a grime artist four years after its commercial resurgence began carries a distinct hint of your great aunt loudly announcing she’s heard some of that modern rap music and quite likes it. Still, it’s an improvement on the years when people felt impelled to start hashtag campaigns to protest at the racial makeup of Brits nominees, and grime MCs only got a look-in at the ceremony if other artists invited them to be their special guests.

Dua Lipa accepts the award for British solo female artist – the only woman to win in a category where she was pitted against all-male nominees.
Dua Lipa accepts the award for British solo female artist. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Elsewhere, it was business as usual, although Jack Whitehall was a marked improvement on his predecessor James Corden, having apparently failed to get the memo that Brits hosts are required to be rigidly unfunny throughout. Most of the artists who won weren’t at all undeserving: Lorde’s Melodrama was one of the year’s best albums; Dua Lipa’s take on mainstream pop is well-made and naggingly effective; Kendrick Lamar is at the top of his game, although you have to question the wisdom of inviting him to perform live if ITV are just going to mute almost the entire performance lest the nation’s delicate become offended by language used in modern rap music. But surprises were thin on the ground.

Indeed, the only vague sense of an upset was the bizarre judgment in the best British single category, where New Rules (a billion views on YouTube) and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You (a No 1 in 113 countries and the bestselling song of 2017 in both Britain and the US) were overlooked in favour of Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human, a single released in 2016. Odd, but not the stuff of earth-shattering controversy.

For all the loud touting of the fact that 47% of this year’s nominees were women and the self-congratulatory guff about it being the most inclusive and diverse Brits to date, only one female artist – Dua Lipa – won in a category where she was pitted against her male counterparts. If the 2018 Brits is remembered at all in 10 years’ time, it certainly won’t be for that.

The one lingering recollection will probably be Stormzy’s Grenfell freestyle – after all, it’s not every day you hear a pop star on primetime ITV tell the Daily Mail where to stick it.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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