2018 Ivor Novello awards: Dave track attacking Theresa May wins best song

Ed Sheeran was named songwriter of the year, but lost the album prize to Stormzy, with another rapper, Dave, winning best contemporary song for Question Time

British rap music has triumphed at the 2018 Ivor Novello songwriting awards, with Stormzy and Dave picking up prestigious prizes.

Dave, the Streatham rapper who at just 19 has already guested with US superstar Drake, was awarded best contemporary song for Question Time, a seven-minute hip-hop track that criticises Theresa May over lack of NHS funding, military involvement in Syria, wage stagnation and more. The track also castigates David Cameron over Brexit (“You fucked us, resigned, then sneaked out the firing line”) and ponders whether Jeremy Corbyn can be an effective, honest politician.

One particularly heartfelt verse attacks May over her handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster. “You look like a robot and you don’t speak with any life / It feels to me like any guy in press could’ve said them lines,” Dave raps, before arguing for jail time for the contractors and councillors responsible for the tower’s flammable cladding.

The Ivor Novello awards, held at Grosvenor House in London and given to works that have “a British or Irish songwriting or composing contribution of at least one third”, are voted for by fellow musicians in the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca). In a statement accompanying the awards, the judges argued that Question Time “captures the personal and political landscape” of 2017 and praised the “truth and execution of the lyrics”.

Ed Sheeran, named songwriter of the year at the Ivor Novello awards.
Ed Sheeran, named songwriter of the year at the Ivor Novello awards. Photograph: Richard Isaac/Rex/Shutterstock

Ed Sheeran, whose album ÷ was 2017’s biggest-selling in the UK and US, won two major awards: songwriter of the year, presented for “an exceptional body of work”, and the most performed work award for his single Shape of You. It is another garland for the singer-songwriter, who also scored 2017’s Christmas No 1, won two Grammys and a Brit award earlier this year, and is currently on a stadium tour of the UK.

But just as at this year’s Brit awards, Sheeran lost the Ivor Novellos’ album category – awarded for “exceptional songwriting and consistency across an album as a whole” – to Croydon rapper Stormzy, for his LP Gang Signs & Prayer. The judges described the winning album as “an astonishing open-hearted body of work that fully captures the spirit of 2017”. The album saw Stormzy move beyond his core grime sound to also embrace R&B, gospel and more; he delivered his own scathing attack on May and the Grenfell response from the Brit awards stage in March, saying: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?”

Another prestigious award, for best song musically and lyrically, was presented to the Manchester band Elbow for their song Magnificent (She Says), which “succeeded structurally, musically and with heartfelt, beautiful imagery” according to the judges.

A symphonic track based over a breakbeat rhythm, the band’s singer Guy Garvey has said the lyrics, which depict an optimistic young girl, were inspired by hearing depressing world news during his Sardinian honeymoon. “I love the idea of this innocence: a little girl with all of her goodwill intact, the naivety we’re all born with that leads you to hug somebody, and leads you to trust strangers,” he said in a 2017 interview. “The stuff the world could really do with a big dose of.”

Cathy Dennis
Cathy Dennis, who was awarded outstanding song collection, at the Ivor Novello awards 2018. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Experimental composer Mica Levi may have missed out on an Oscar for her score for Pablo Larraín’s Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie, but she won the best original film score award here – her work was described as “an uncompromising, brave and definitive part of an extraordinary film.” Joris de Man, Joe Henson and Alexis Smith won the award for best video game score, for Horizon: Zero Dawn, while Dan Jones won the best television soundtrack award for The Miniaturist, the BBC period drama set in 1600s Amsterdam.

A number of other awards recognise entire bodies of work. Billy Bragg was awarded the outstanding contribution to British music award, while namesake Billy Ocean won the international achievement award, and Lionel Richie the special international award. The Ivors Inspiration award was presented to Shane McGowan of the Pogues, “in recognition of the power of his songwriting to inspire the creative talents of others”, and Scottish composer Thea Musgrave took home the classical music award.

The outstanding song collection award went to Cathy Dennis, who has previously won five Ivor Novello awards. The Norfolk-born songwriter followed her own dance-pop hits in the early 1990s with a hugely successful series of songs written for other stars, including Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Kylie Minogue, Toxic by Britney Spears, and I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry.

Basca chair Crispin Hunt said that British and Irish composers and songwriters “prove, again and again, that they are some of the best in the world ... you are spectacular and a credit to our amazing industry”.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ivor Novello awards 2020: Dave, Kate Tempest and Stormzy among nominees
Behind-the-scenes talents Dan Carey, Jimmy Napes and Jamie Hartman join Kate Tempest with a pair of nominations each in UK songwriting awards

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

19, Jul, 2020 @11:01 PM

Article image
Dave, Little Simz and Jamie Cullum win at 2020 Ivor Novello awards
Songwriting and composition awards herald politically conscious work including Dave’s Black, described as ‘important and eloquent’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

02, Sep, 2020 @12:00 PM

Article image
Stormzy and Ed Sheeran up for two Ivor Novello awards
The difference in the nominees should be celebrated but number of women is still too low, says presenter Paul Gambaccini

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

24, Apr, 2018 @1:15 PM

Article image
Brits awards 2018: Stormzy and Dua Lipa beat elders to snatch top prizes
London grime MC honoured on night when artists carry white roses in protest against sexual harassment

Nadia Khomami and Ben Beaumont-Thomas

21, Feb, 2018 @10:30 PM

Article image
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

Alexis Petridis

22, Feb, 2018 @12:06 AM

Article image
Ed Sheeran: No 6 Collaborations Project review – smarm, charm and a watertight winning formula
The affable everyman dabbles in grime, hip-hop, balladry and Latino love songs as he zooms down the middle of the road to world domination

Alexis Petridis

12, Jul, 2019 @2:34 PM

Article image
Brit awards 2020: who will win every award … and who should
Lewis Capaldi could sweep the board in his breakthrough year, but he faces strong competition from Stormzy, Dave and Michael Kiwanuka

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

18, Feb, 2020 @11:01 AM

Article image
Skepta wins songwriter of the year at Ivor Novello awards
Star also won best contemporary song as rise of grime was seen at ceremony previously dominated by white artists

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

18, May, 2017 @6:28 PM

Article image
Dave crowned songwriter of the year at Ivor Novello awards
Rapper wins fourth Ivor in five years after album We’re All Alone in This Together topped UK charts

Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

19, May, 2022 @4:13 PM

Article image
Grime once again dominates Ivor Novello awards nominations
Politically charged work well represented but female songwriters miss out

Lanre Bakare Arts and culture correspondent

24, Apr, 2019 @1:22 PM