Calvin Harris and the 1975 lead winners at 2019 Brit awards

Scottish dance producer wins his first two Brits after 14 failed nominations, while the 1975 take British group and British album – and Beyoncé and Jay-Z show support for Meghan Markle

Scottish dance music producer Calvin Harris and soft rock band the 1975 were the biggest winners at the 2019 Brit awards, on a night in which no single act truly dominated – but Beyoncé and Jay-Z made headlines with an emphatic statement about Meghan Markle.

Harris may be the highest-paid DJ in the world, with a reported £37m in earnings last year and collaborations with Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Rihanna and Pharrell Williams, but Brit award success had eluded him until now.

Following 14 unsuccessful nominations, he finally triumphed with both British producer and British single for One Kiss, his UK No 1 with Dua Lipa. During the ceremony, presented by Jack Whitehall at London’s O2 Arena, he was anointed with the night’s cornerstone performance, a medley featuring a trio of previous Brits winners: Lipa, Sam Smith and Rag’n’Bone Man. Lipa’s recognition for One Kiss follows her success at the 2018 Brits, which named her British female and breakthrough artist.

Harris, 35, grew up in Dumfries, and worked as a shelf-stacker in Marks & Spencer before his music career gradually took off, with his first Top 10 hit coming in 2006. He has since had 31 solo Top 40 hits, eight of them reaching No 1, including two in 2018: One Kiss, and Sam Smith collaboration Promises. Although he is the winner of the producer prize, he is also a songwriter and performer in his own right, playing lucrative DJ sets and occasionally singing on his own tracks.

The 1975 took home the night’s most prestigious award for British album of the year, for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, a glossy, ambitious record that took stock of topics including Donald Trump, heroin addiction and 21st-century sex. They also won British group, having previously won in 2017, preventing Arctic Monkeys from winning the award for a fourth time – a tally that only Coldplay have achieved.

Hugh Jackman performs during the opening.
Hugh Jackman performs during the opening. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Beyoncé and Jay-Z threatened to steal their thunder, though, with a much-discussed statement as they accepted the award for best international group for their collaborative project The Carters. Replicating a scene from their video Apeshit, they posed in front of a portrait of Meghan Markle styled as Queen Victoria – an emphatic show of support for the duchess amid sustained press scrutiny.

Neo-soul singer Jorja Smith – one of the night’s only non-white British winners – underlined her rising-star status by winning British female, beating more established names such as Florence + the Machine and Lily Allen. She previously won the media-voted critics’ choice award in 2018, won this year by 24-year-old Tyneside singer-songwriter Sam Fender.

Smith lost the publicly voted breakthrough artist award to Scotland-born, Manchester-raised singer-songwriter Tom Walker, whose hit Leave a Light On is in its 46th week on the UK charts ahead of the release of his debut album next week. His success shows that soulful guitar-toting male singers remain one of the most popular types of pop star in the UK, following the huge popularity of Rag’n’Bone Man and Ed Sheeran, as well as newer artists such as Fender and Lewis Capaldi. Despite not releasing any new material in 2018, Sheeran won the global success award – awarded to the British artist with the biggest sales worldwide – for the second year in a row.

Essex pop singer Anne-Marie, whose hit song 2002 was co-written by Sheeran, had the joint highest number of nominations with Lipa on four, but couldn’t convert any into wins.

Another public vote, for British video, went to girl group Little Mix for their collaboration with Nicki Minaj, Woman Like Me. They were joined by British rapper Ms Banks for their own Brits performance, with Smith, the 1975, Jess Glynne, HER, and outstanding contribution award winner Pink among the other performers – the latter delivering a barnstorming, flamethrower-fringed medley of five songs.

Matthew Healy (centre) on stage during the 1975’s performance.
Matthew Healy (centre) on stage during the 1975’s performance. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Also performing live was George Ezra, whose album Staying at Tamara’s was the second biggest selling of 2018 behind the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman, whose star Hugh Jackman opened the ceremony. Some speculated Ezra would win all three of his nominations; in the end he made do with the British male award – an improvement on 2015, when he was nominated four times in his breakthrough year but lost out on all counts.

In the international categories, the aforementioned Beyoncé and Jay-Z project the Carters won best group, Ariana Grande won best female, and Drake best male.

Aside from the video and breakthrough categories, the awards are voted for by the Brits academy, a group of artists and professionals from the music and media industries. In 2016, following outcry over the almost entirely white winners of that year’s awards, the academy admitted 700 new members, bringing BAME representation to 24% and a near-equal gender split to the previously 70% male voting group.

Christine and the Queens, nominated for international female, said she was encouraged by the gender and racial diversity of the nominees this year, telling the Guardian: “It feels amazing. It feels like women rule this year and the spectrum is really broad. I’m nominated with Cardi B and Ariana Grande and we are all really different women in this industry, but we are trying to be fierce.”

She added that the industry was only scraping the surface when it came to women’s equality. “We are only just starting to understand be struggle. From sound engineers to the artists, positions should be occupied by women. There are still lots of things to do.”

The Guardian’s deputy music editor Laura Snapes was namechecked by Matty Healy of the 1975 in their acceptance speech. Healy quoted a line she had written about misogyny in the music industry: “I thought we should all really, really think about it. She said that in music, ‘male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and examined as traits of difficult artists while women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art.’”

Full list of winners

British male: George Ezra

British female: Jorja Smith

British single: Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss

British breakthrough: Tom Walker

British group: The 1975

British video: Little Mix – Woman Like Me (feat Nicki Minaj)

International group: The Carters

International male: Drake

International female: Ariana Grande

British album: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

British producer: Calvin Harris

Critics’ choice: Sam Fender

Global success award: Ed Sheeran

Outstanding contribution to music: Pink


Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Aamna Mohdin

The GuardianTramp

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