Brit awards 2021: the ceremony as it happened, with Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and more

Last modified: 09: 38 PM GMT+0

Dua Lipa, the Weeknd, Elton John and more performed at the biggest night in British music to an indoor crowd of thousands of key workers

The full Brit award winners

Thanks for following along with us tonight. We’re left with a vintage crop of winners who show the Brits really can be a showcase of diverse and quality British pop, and a little lump in our throats at that NHS choir. Here are all your 2021 winners – hope someone’s chartered a boat down the Thames for all those key workers.

British female: Dua Lipa
British male: J Hus
British group: Little Mix
Breakthrough artist: Arlo Parks
British single: Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
British album: Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
International female: Billie Eilish
International male: The Weeknd
International group: Haim
Global icon: Taylor Swift
Rising star: Griff

Rag'n'Bone Man & Pink's performance with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir

Pink and Rag’n’Bone Man perform with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir.
Pink and Rag’n’Bone Man perform with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

I first heard Anywhere Away From Here when Rag’n’Bone Man did a bare-bones acoustic performance prior to release, and it was really powerful: that richly soulful voice and honest lyricism doesn’t need anything more than a piano or guitar. But with the many, many cooks that surround a major label release, bags of cheese and sugar were emptied into the production on the studio version, then toasted with vocal fry from Pink, who hit the song’s emotional beats with all the enthusiasm of a boxercise instructor having to teach in the rain thanks to the pandemic.

But set amid the context of the hopefully waning pandemic, amid an O2 Arena full of frontline heroes, and backed by the estimable key workers of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, the song wrenches back its power – the extra choral heft gives it the grandeur it lacks in the recorded version, Rag’n’Bone Man’s voice is reliably stirring, and the shots panning across the singing NHS staff are truly moving.

A fitting climax to a show that repeatedly acknowledged the extraordinary work done by key workers during the pandemic – a task that the Brit awards, hosting pop at its most universal and shamelessly emotional, was so well placed to deliver on.


Here's Taylor Swift's speech in full

An extra special speech from @taylorswift13 as she receives the BRITs Global Icon Award 💕 #BRITs

— BRIT Awards (@BRITs) May 11, 2021

An historic night for women

Tonight women took home 85% of the mixed-gender awards, a significant increase on any prior year of the 21st century when male artists have always won at least half of the mixed categories.

British album: Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

The final and biggest award of the night. Dua describes how the album “really has taught me so much confidence and strength ... and has given me so much love and friendship” and then dedicates this award to Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole, who died trying to rescue a woman who had fallen from London Bridge in April, and Joaquin Garcia, who also attempted to save the woman:

Jimi tragically did not survive ... they knowingly put themselves in danger even though they were strangers to each other and to the woman. It would be fitting if they were recognised with a bravery award ... you have touched the hearts of a whole nation and we will never forget you.

Future Nostalgia, then: when Brits reflect on the constants of our pandemic year, we will remember festering jars of sourdough slime, surrealist Rose Garden performances, a mania for clapping and the omnipresent and not in the least bit unwelcome throb of Dua’s disco opus. Many hands were wrung over the return of the genre and what it all meant. (Disco for dark times? Groundbreaking.) Frankly, who cared: in a year short on new sensations, it was all about how it felt, and Dua’s second album was fun, sexy and ruthlessly efficient. It’s almost scary to think about how annihilatingly big it might have been had it entered into a more normal world.


Lewis Capaldi's pre-amble to presenting best British album

[muted swear words]

Global icon: Taylor Swift

An unrecognisable, blonde Maisie Williams presents this award, naming Swift “one of the biggest names in the history of music ... an inspiration to people all around the world”. In a VT, Selena Gomez says she’s “the same girl I met when I was 15 ... generous, kind and cares so deeply about her fans.” Ed Sheeran says “fans are constantly getting a different side of her and it’s a very difficult thing to do time and time again”; Zoe Kravitz says “nobody works harder”; Annie Lennox calls her “exceptional and I truly love how she uses her platform to advocate for women and the LGBT community.”

And here she is, thrilled by the presence of Maisie Williams (“anyone who knows me at all knows that Game of Thrones is my life”) and Annie Lennox on the VT (“my soul left my body”).

“I wanna thank the Brits and anyone who decided that I would be up for this incredible honour. i’m really proud to be part of this musical community especially in a year where we needed music so much – and what we needed even more was the help and support of the NHS and the key workers that are here for us tonight. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us.”

She thanks her British fans and traces her live journey here – from Shepherds Bush Empire, the O2 and Wembley – and almost Glastonbury.

We all know what happened next – the world changed and I ended up putting out three albums instead. Making Folklore and Evermore was one of the most unique, cathartic, extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had.”

She thanks her collaborators from Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff and boyfriend Joe Alwyn (AKA William Bowery) to Bon Iver and Haim, then gets into the meat of her speech:

I wanna thank my friends and family, who know exactly who they are, whose opinion of me never changed whether my stock was up or down. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned it’s that you have to look around you every day and take note of the people who’ve always believed in you ... Never take them for granted. There are so many incredible artists in this room tonight and a lot of people watching who have goals and ambitions for yourselves. I need you to hear me: there is no career path that comes free of negativity. If you’re met with resistance that probably means that you’re doing something new. If you’re experiencing turbulence or pressure that probably means you’re rising and there might be times where you put your whole heart and soul into something and it is met with cynicism or scepticism. You cannot let it crush you: you have to let it fuel you because we live in a world where anyone has the right to say anything about you that they want at any time but please remember that you have the right to prove them wrong. I love you all. Thank you so much for this beautiful honour, thank you to the Brits, this is amazing.

As she highlights, entire degree courses could be (and probably are) dedicated to the fluctuating public favour surrounding Taylor Alison Swift. Just four years ago, she was disparaged for being “calculating” for relishing the marketing side of being a pop star. Now, her gleefully vengeful plot to re-record her first six albums, devaluing the investment of the nemesis who bought them out from under her, has been widely celebrated. The general public! Who’d have ‘em! Anyway, Swift is the first ever woman to win this award (again, Brits, seriously?) and given her penchant for clues and code, doubtless the fans will already be scouring her speech for hints as to her next move. For my money, that look was extremely Red-era!

Headie One, AJ Tracey and Young T & Bugsey's performance

Headie One.
Headie One. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

With an outfit referencing his Ghanaian heritage and a stage set fringed with news headlines, all of it designed by Louis Vuitton’s artistic director Virgil Abloh, Headie continues the recent tradition of rap artists making high-profile anti-authoritarian statements at the Brit awards – witness Dave calling Boris Johnson a “real racist”, or Stormzy asking: “where’s the money for Grenfell?” News reporter-style voices are heard criticising drill rap, perhaps a nod to Skepta, who used similar voices in a track following the criticised Kanye West performance of All Day at the 2015 Brits, that had middle England shifting uncomfortably on their sofas.

AJ Tracey appears in a light-up corridor and delivers his verse on point, and the two then trade freestyled bars in lieu of an absent Stormzy for verse three. “The government is saying eat out to help out but won’t help out Rashford when he’s feeding the youths” – another bit of Boris bashing and Rashford promotion to file alongside AJ’s similar verse in his track with Digga D Bringing It Back – and “two black Brits stand here at the Brits but still we ain’t seen as British”. It’s not quite as clear and emphatic as those aforementioned examples, but nevertheless they’re still using the Brits stage as a space to question racism and government decisions during the pandemic – unimaginably different, and better, than the purely lairy energy of the Brits in previous decades.

Young T & Bugsey.
Young T & Bugsey. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Then it’s a segue into brighter, wavier fare with Young T & Bugsey for Don’t Rush, with Headie even cracking one of his rare, slightly enigmatic smiles. A great showcase of all sides of his artistry.


That tease Harry Styles dressed as Dairy Milk’s Big Taste Triple Choc bar when my liveblogging snacks are long gone.

Harry Styles with the award for British single.
Harry Styles with the award for British single. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Jack Whitehall gets muted to call out the “corporate wankers” sitting in the swanky boxes above the key workers and says this is the moment ITV won’t ask him back for next year. At first I thought it was a planned gag, but then a bit of Headie One’s performance was muted and the screen showed the same “audio muted” graphic … Hmm.


British single: Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar

Strong suit! Unusually clean-cut! Only person so far wearing a mask? Anyway: pretty straightforward acceptance speech (thanks: fans, friends, key workers) from – Dua’s Olivia Newton John tribute aside – the most musically traditional act in a category otherwise populated by (fairly anonymous) producer/singer hook-ups, and arguably more exciting rap collaborations. But who am I to argue with the BPI recognising Styles’s sunbaked, brassy, appropriately jubilant ode to oral sex and/or Richard Brautigan’s 1964 novel In Watermelon Sugar and its post-apocalyptic concept of Eden? Either way, no fruits forbidden here.

Harry Styles: Watermelon Sugar – video

Griff's performance

Griff. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

It’s perhaps a measure of the work still to be done around race and equality that pop stars of east Asian heritage, either from the region itself or the UK, almost never find success here; the massively successful BTS are often discussed by the British media in terms usually reserved for British Museum wall text, even though their music is about as straightforwardly appealing as pop gets.

Hearteningly, though, this year’s rising star award shortlist featured two east Asian singers, Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama, and the winner Griff, who is of Chinese and Jamaican parentage. Sawayama’s mash-up of nu-metal, glossy pop and influences from deconstructed club music is progressive and thrilling; Griff is a safer, decidedly major label prospect who, so far, has been delivering blandly capable songwriting rather than true pop magic. She gives everything to Black Hole in a Weeknd-style apocalyptic wilderness, and her keening voice in the chorus has real character. But it’s hard to escape the fact that this is a bit of a “third single from Rita Ora’s comeback album” level song.



Britain’s current reigning pop star, Dua Lipa, meets its future reigning pop star, the brilliant Rina Sawayama – who may not be taking anything home tonight, but left her mark on the awards by successfully lobbying the BPI to widen its definition of what constitutes a British artist, after her debut album Sawayama was excluded from Mercury contention because – despite living the vast majority of her life in the UK – she was born in Japan. Now, anyone is eligible for the Brits and Mercury as long as they were either born in the UK, hold a UK passport or have been permanently resident in the UK for more than five years.

(L-R) Rina Sawayama, Dua Lipa.
Rina Sawayama and Dua Lipa. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


International group: Haim

HAIM accept the award for international group.
Haim accept the award for international group. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

This is their third nomination and first win! Alana slaps the table, Este looks baffled and takes the lead on their acceptance speech:

Sisters! This is incredible ... the UK was the first place to ever embrace us in the entire world and for that, honestly, we will be forever grateful.

The last time a bunch of instrument-slingin’ laydeez won this award was the Corrs in 1999. And before that, the Bangles in 1987. What a lineage! All shade on the Brits for being so unimaginative (the Foo Fighters have won this four times) and absolutely zero shade at all to Haim, whose third album Women in Music Part III was another key lockdown companion. It’s become de rigueur for artists to release records that leap between a dozen different genres, but nobody has managed it as gorgeously or as convincingly as Danielle, Este and Alana, who drew on twangy rock, UK garage, G-funk and more to colour the best songwriting of their career.


Sorry, can’t get enough of this one!

Elton John and Olly Alexander performing It’s a Sin.
Elton John and Olly Alexander performing It’s a Sin. Photograph: John Marshall/EPA

International male solo artist: The Weeknd

Michelle Obama!!
Michelle Obama!! Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

MICHELLE OBAMA IS PRESENTING THIS AWARD?! WHAT! Amazing. She highlights not only Abel Tesfaye’s impact as a musician and a performer, but his charitable donations to Covid relief, Black Lives Matter, food aid in Ethiopia and more. “In a tough year, he’s provided a light that’s pretty blinding and given us all a reason to dance,” Obama concluded.

And here he is, accepting his award in some stagey rain and a nice sou’wester. He thanks his fans and pays tribute to “my people in Ethiopia who are suffering – you are deep in my heart. For everyone watching, please help where you can.”

So, yes, six months on from the Grammys unveiling their 2021 nominations, it’s no less baffling that they totally failed to recognise the towering impact and gripping pop theatrics of Tesfaye’s fourth album, prompting him to pledge a permanent boycott of the Recording Academy. So here’s the Brits doing the right thing (and showing, with his presence as a performer, that despite their protestations, artists kind of do still care about awards ceremonies).


The Weeknd's performance

The Weeknd.
The Weeknd. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

There’s usually some guilty schadenfreude in seeing stars have their dreams of award glory crushed – all those pursed lips after their names aren’t read out provide a particular glee, showing A-listers to be just as prone to the same petty insecurities as all of us. But the Grammys’ snub of the Weeknd this year was just bafflingly wrong. Despite having the biggest album and single of 2020, which were also stone-cold pop classics, he didn’t even get nominated. The pungent fishiness of the whole thing has meant the Grammys have since done away with the secret committees that decide the nominations, which led to this wonderfully dramatic riposte from the Weeknd: “The Grammys’ recent admission of corruption will hopefully be a positive move for the future of this plagued award.”

He gets to have a victory lap at the Brit awards instead, performing Save Your Tears via video in a thoroughly waterproof outfit – a J Hus fisherman reference, we hope – alongside Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, continuing his unlikely path from super-underground electronic producer to impresario of highly theatrical Weeknd performances (he was also musical director of the Superbowl halftime show). This is a much more ambitious spectacle than the usual phoned-in video link, with the Weeknd leaving a concrete performance box to step into a rainy apocalypse, presumably full of precipitation formed from the tears of his spurned lovers. His vocal, as ever, is supremely confident, studio quality but still live-feeling. World class.


As you may be aware, the Weeknd boycotted the Grammys after it failed to recognise his mammoth – and very worthy – 2020 album After Hours this year. I’d like to think this performance is his tribute to another snubbed artist, strongly evoking the video to Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai – who, staggeringly, have been nominated for 15 Brit awards and won absolutely none of them! Justice for Jay Kay!!!

Elton John and Years & Years' performance

Elton John and Olly Alexander perform.
Elton John and Olly Alexander perform. Photograph: John Marshall/EPA

One of the many, many good things about Elton John is how much of a fiend for contemporary pop he is. Having already championed rising star nominee Rina Sawayama, he now does a take on Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin with Years & Years (whose frontman Olly Alexander starred in the TV drama of the same name). Olly performs lying on Elton’s piano, in a crop top for an acoustic piano version, but there’s no way this wasn’t going to go full disco: the electropop of the original kicks in and Elton takes over lead vocals as Olly negotiates his way through a literal and metaphorical maze. A more thoughtful arrangement might have given Elton more room for audible piano-bashing, but it’s still a winning combination, especially as Olly lasciviously signposts all sorts of sin with his gyrating hips. You can download the track now to benefit Aids charities.



It’s Olly Alexander and Elton John just before their performance of Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin. The only way you could improve this picture is with added Neil and Chris.

Olly Alexander and Elton John.
Olly Alexander and Elton John. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Here’s Alex Mistlin’s profile of Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who Dua Lipa dedicated her award to.

British female solo artist: Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa picks up her award.
Dua Lipa picks up her award. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

It’s Dua! “Last time I was up here accepting this award in 2018, I said that I wanted to see more women on these stages and I feel so proud that three years later we’re seeing that happen and it really is such an honour to be a part of this wave of women in music.”

There’s more, and more importantly, Dua’s calling out Boris for the paltry proposed 1% pay rise for frontline workers by dedicating her award to the great Dame Elizabeth Anionwu:

She has spent her stellar nursing career fighting racial injustice. She has also spent so much time and is a strong, strong advocate for protecting frontline workers. She has also said that there’s a massive disparity between gratitude and respect for frontline workers because it’s very good to clap for them but we need to pay them. And so I think what we should do is we should all give a massive massive round of applause and give Boris a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our frontline.

Back to the music, the thrill of this category recognising some actually properly exciting female artists for once (my kingdom to have heard Jessie Ware’s winning speech) was slightly diminished by how obviously nailed-on the winner was. Not that Dua is any less worthy for that predictability. With her second album Future Nostalgia, she so dominated the past 13 months that she almost became less flesh-and-blood pop star than sleek and towering cultural behemoth, starry and distant enough to ride out questions about the persistent holiday selfies she posted during various lockdowns. That pleasure-seeking impulse, at least, was richly evident in Future Nostalgia, a disco defibrillation for languishing times.


Arlo Parks' performance

Arlo Parks.
Arlo Parks. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images

Fresh from the night’s first award, it’s breakthrough artist winner Arlo Parks. A subterranean meeting by the lizard people who run the British media decreed that every mention of her must be followed with the words “the voice of her generation” – a rather paternalistic boomer framing that underplays how varied her generation is, as well as the universal appeal of her music. Her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams is stacked with yearning melodies and the emotional strife is stuff we all go through. But can she scale up the intimate feel to a rather empty O2 Arena?

Taking the lockdown houseplant craze to a psychedelic extreme by fringing her band with dozens of sunflowers, and wearing her second excellent suit of the night, she performs Hope, and shows that her voice works just as well beaming to the back of the bleachers as it does cupping your ear. She adds in a spoken middle eight referring to the pandemic’s difficulties, and how we’ve learned to talk over Zoom and continue to allow relationships to blossom – much like those flowers. A brass band then arrives to bring the song into full bloom. The night’s best performance so far.


International female solo artist: Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish accepts her award virtually.
Billie Eilish accepts her award virtually. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Quite a surprise that Taylor Swift didn’t win this, considering the massive commercial and critical reset of her sister albums Folklore and Evermore – and the fact that she is actually there – but Eilish also had a hugely significant year despite her second album still being two months off. It started with a Bond theme, debuted at the 2020 Brits, and moved through a jazzy ode to self-love and a brutally devastating rebuke to entertainment industry abusers. She’s said her new album is her favourite thing she’s ever made and has defended her right to feel “cocky” about it, so expert to see her back here next year, cleaning up once again.

Covid restrictions mean that she’s not here, so she accepts via video, recalling how the Brits were “so magical” for her last year.

(Also loved Jack Whitehall paying tribute to award presenter Annie Mac, who has been “playing caner music on a children’s radio station for 17 years”.)


Nathan Evans now, whose sea shanty Wellerman took up residence in mine and Laura’s brains to a troubling degree – he gives it a twist with Jack Whitehall to refer to Little Mix’s boozing and Olly Murs’s vocal inadequacy. Yo ho ho!


Little Mix's speech

Below is Little Mix’s acceptance speech for British group in full – notable for Leigh-Anne’s comments on the difficulties they’ve faced during the past decade:

It’s not easy being a female in the UK pop industry. We’ve seen the white male dominance, misogyny, sexism and lack of diversity. We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood our ground, surrounded ourselves with strong women and are now using our voices more than ever.”

"We want to start by thanking our incredible fans, of course Jesy, and our amazing team." @LittleMix pick up the British Group Award and there isn't a dry eye left on the planet #BRITs

Watch now:

— BRIT Awards (@BRITs) May 11, 2021

Olivia Rodrigo's performance

Olivia Rodrigo.
Olivia Rodrigo. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images

“In the words of Tiger Woods: Drivers License, take it away.” Jack Whitehall amusingly introduces this nice coup for the Brits, the debut UK performance from a woman who has gone from being completely unknown to anyone outside the High School Musical fandom to having the biggest song in the world this year, Drivers License. While in the Disney show she dramatises fiction, this breakup ballad is drawn from her real life, and yet for me there’s still something actorly about her delivery on the studio version that I find a bit distancing: the bruised vocal fry, the pat rebellion of the F-word. On the other hand, doesn’t the heartbreak she sings about sometimes feel as torrid as a stage tragedy or film romance?

So the stage is perhaps the most natural place for her and, having ditched the highlighter dress, she’s like a flicker of flame in red and gives her ballad real presence. Backed by harp and piano, she would perhaps benefit from a bit more orchestral oomph and support for that middle eight where her voice sounds a little hard and stark – but this is just fine tuning for a live show that will no doubt grow to become something really dramatic.


British male solo artist: J Hus

DJ Semtex accepts the male solo artist award on behalf of J Hus.
DJ Semtex accepts the male solo artist award on behalf of J Hus. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

Cue delighted surprise at this end – we thought Big Conspiracy had come out so long ago that voters might have overlooked it – or that Headie One’s gigantic commercial breakthrough would make him a dead cert. After the #BritsSoWhite controversy of 2016, the BPI has vastly improved its recognition of UK rap – albeit mostly among the nominees, less so the winners – but it’s still astonishing that this is J Hus’s first win, given his trailblazing genre-fluidity, musicality and influence. Anyway, he can’t be here to collect it but here’s DJ Semtex, looking pretty uncomfortable!

“Shout to AJ Tracey, Headie One, all the artists in the building tonight, gonna take my time, get this right, I don’t wanna end up a meme. I’m here to accept the award on behalf of J Hus, he’s an incredible artist, one of the greatest, he’s given us classic albums, Common Sense, Big Conspiracy, he’s given us music that’s made our lives a little bit easier ... If J Hus were here today, I know he’d say ‘you’re stronger today than what you were yesterday’.” There you go!

If your memory of Big Conspiracy is also diminished, here’s my highlight, the gorgeous Repeat, ft Koffee.

J Hus: Repeat ft Koffee


British group: Little Mix

Little Mix.
Little Mix. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Astonishingly, Little Mix are the first girl group ever to win this category. In their speech, they pay tribute to the Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud, “all of the incredible, incredible female bands” that came before them, as well as calling out the sexism and racism in the British pop industry.

On top of that, they’re bizarrely under-celebrated by the Brits considering their decade in pop dominance: this is their first victory in the group category after two prior nominations (they’ve previously won for best single in 2017 and video in 2019). They’ve written down a speech because “two of us have baby brains”, says Perrie; one of the first thanks on their long list is Jesy Nelson, who recently departed the band.

While I’m sure commenters BTL will have plenty to say about their “manufactured” music and “economical” outfits, this moment is sweet, sentimental and long overdue – worryingly, perhaps entirely too late. With one member gone and two pregnant, I’m getting flashbacks to the dog days of the Spice Girls and the crushing sense that proper adulthood was about to swoop in to steal all my 10-year-old fun. At any rate, Confetti is a much better song than, um, Holler so no need to panic just yet.


Clara Amfo’s voiceover just claimed Little Mix have “delivered historical performances”, suggesting they have a future in war re-enactments and the like.


she was the highlight of the red carpet #brits2021

— rini | taylor's version (@swiftsplaylist) May 11, 2021

British breakthrough act: Arlo Parks

Arlo Parks picks up her breakthrough artist award.
Arlo Parks picks up her breakthrough artist award. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

If Dua provided the last year’s uppers, then Arlo offered the consoling comedown. You could hardly turn on the radio last year – whether Radio 1, 2 or 6Music, a sign of her cross-generational appeal – without hearing Black Dog, Parks’s accidentally apposite, blessedly tender devotional to a grief-stricken friend who can’t force themselves outside. And her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, followed through on its promise: balancing a dreamy sound and poetic air with piercingly observed details. Maybe you could consider Billie Eilish a bit of a Brits precedent here – they’re a year apart in age, both making hyper-intimate pop – but it feels rare for the Brits to recognise such introspective work, and even more so for an artist signed to a true independent label, Transgressive. She thanks her family and friends and says she’s living proof that anyone can do it.

Arlo Parks: Black Dog – video


This year’s trophy comes in two parts, so you can give the Mini Brit to a mate. It’s all a bit Mean Girls: A piece for Gretchen Wieners!

Dua Lipa's medley

Dua Lipa.
Dua Lipa. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

One of the key pleasures of the Brits is a medley, and Lipa delivers one straight off the back of Coldplay’s set. A take on Love Again set on a depressingly pandemic tableau on the London underground goes into a blast of Physical on a tube train on stage itself. There’s a blast of Hallucinate’s club energy, and then into Don’t Start Now and Future Nostalgia – and all of it in a Geri-referencing pleated Union Jack miniskirt, her second chaotic look of the night. She is the consummate British pop star and surely this could be a very big night for her.


The ceremony has started but I can’t let these tremendous outfits go unnoticed: Rina Sawayama and Simon Neill from Biffy Clyro!

Rina Sawayama arrives at the Brits.
Rina Sawayama arrives at the Brits. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images
Biffy Clyro arrive at the Brit awards.
Biffy Clyro arrive at the Brit awards. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Coldplay open the show

Coldplay. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Coldplay are the Brits in band form: trying to be cool and youthful, way too corporate to get away with it, and yet almost always enjoyable. Chris and co are in that tricky part of a career recently faced by Katy Perry and others, where they’re not ready for a life on Radio 2, but their age means that any climb up the charts must now be done up a tricky, crumbling north face rather than the gentle inclines afforded the likes of younger, more relevant likes of Headie One, Dua Lipa and Joel Corry.

They could make it, though, with Higher Power, a really stellar new single produced by pop powerhouse Max Martin (who has worked with many shortlisted artists tonight such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and the Weeknd). It’s essentially The War on Drugs on actual drugs, with a peppy Dancing in the Dark-type snare keeping the energy high, and Chris using his traditional whoa-oh-ohs to encircle quasi-religious bromides presumably gleaned from an ayahuasca ceremony with Instagram fitness models in Tulum. Chris is in really fine voice right across the pretty broad octave range needed for this track. They perform it on a pontoon in the Thames with holograms instead of backing dancers – social distancing kings!


Worth every penny of the inevitable ULEZ fine! Missed a trick by not inviting giant CGI Rita Ora up for a guest appearance tho.

Coldplay playing on the Thames.
Coldplay playing on the Thames. Photograph: JMEnternational/Getty Images for The Brits

Bicep here, serving some absolutely wild Billy Porter-esque energy as we approach the beginning of the show.

Bicep. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


The commenters have convened and can now deliver a verdict.

The green dress worn by Mabel is the most horrible outfit I have ever seen.

I don't know much about fashion, but I do know Mabel is wearing something, whose only saving grace is that it could act as a biohazard warning and one that can be seen from space. Still at least she'll definitely be seen.

We love Mabel on the music desk, but tonight we pretend that we do not see her outfit. She looks like an ice dancer that’s down on her luck.


The lack of many mega-sized groups these days means that it’s quite a diverse and interesting bunch across the two awards this year – everyone from Run the Jewels to Little Mix, Bicep, BTS, Young T & Bugsey, Biffy Clyro... and Fontaines DC, who follow the rule that to be cool in a band you are not allowed to smile. The guy on the left really wants to but he knows they’ll be a quartet before the evening is out if there’s even another five degrees variance in the angle of his lips.

Fontaines DC.
Fontaines DC. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Social distancing measures mean that the artist/label tables are significantly slimmed down compared to the usual germ-fest of shared butter pats and bread baskets. Behold a glimpse from inside the room: you know how there’s a fine line between “convincing restaurant” and “room with tables and chairs in it”? We’re in the latter category this evening.

anyways HAIM are taking their seats this very moment!!! #BRITs

— marta IS AT BRITS (@heskillerqueer) May 11, 2021

A nice thing this year is that instead of the O2 Arena being full of oiks from Sony Music’s marketing department running rampant with fistfuls of … beers, 2,500 of the 4,000 attendees tonight are key workers who have helped us all through the pandemic. The liveblog salutes you!

Key workers Cherie-Ann Lumsden and her mother Jackie (left).
Key worker Cherie-Ann Lumsden and her mother Jackie. Photograph: Aine Fox/PA
Key workers Zunaira Faiz and Mimuna Hussin.
Key workers Zunaira Faiz and Mimuna Hussin. Photograph: Aine Fox/PA

Tobi Thomas from our news team spoke to the Brits organisers earlier about their plans for the evening, which is a test event for further indoor events in the wake of the pandemic.

“Large parts of the UK have been impacted by the pandemic but the live sector has really borne the brunt, and so everyone is keen for it to open again as quickly and as safely as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The learnings that the government will get out of this will be very important and hopefully will allow them to inform their approach and policy going forward.”


Enjoying Little Mix’s wry hat-tip to Madonna’s Like a Virgin video: Leigh-Anne (left) and Perrie (right) recently announced their respective pregnancies.

Little Mix are looking stunning on the red carpet in all white! 😍😍😍@LittleMix #Brits

— Mixer Management (@mixermanagement) May 11, 2021

Raye and Regard, whose track Secrets is up for British single. White shoes with a suit has never been a viable look, Regard. However his new track with Troye Sivan and Tate McRae is so excellent he’s allowed in.

Raye and Regard.
Raye and Regard. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

Also had a nice chat with Raye last year who has excellent taste.


Oh apparently Dua’s outfit is custom Vivienne Westwood, an insistent publicist pops up in my inbox to clarify. “The internet” seems to think it’s a tribute to Amy Winehouse’s 2007 Brits look too. Apparently her performance tonight will be “very British”, she told someone on the red carpet. Interpretive musical about Labour’s failure in the Hartlepool byelection? Re-enactment of a Midsomer Murders episode, perhaps featuring a walk-on by John Nettles? Quick break in the middle of Physical for a verse of We’ll Meet Again as a giant banner depicting Captain Tom unfolds behind her? Dance moves reminiscent of the best of Buck’s Fizz? Oh, wait … It’s all to play for!

Dua Lipa on the red carpet.
Dua Lipa on the red carpet. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images
Amy Winehouse at the 2007 Brit awards.
Amy Winehouse at the 2007 Brit awards. Photograph: JMEnternational/Redferns


As spelled out in capital letters on their Instagrams, Years & Years will secretly team with Elton John to perform It’s a Sin by the Pet Shop Boys this evening. Their frontman Olly Alexander channels chaos here like Dr Strange on a Vegas bender: furry cuffs meet a star-spangled suit, rodeo-suitable shirt and subtle bondage gear? You dropped this, king. 👑

Apologies – me and Laura have posted this outfit twice due to us being socially distanced this evening. And being really excited by Olly’s outfit.

Olly Alexander.
Olly Alexander. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images


Respect to Olly Alexander for coming as “every era of David Bowie at once” (and “one fifth of Celeste’s outfit”).

Olly Alexander of Years and Years arrives.
Olly Alexander of Years and Years arrives. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock


Joel Corry here, who is up for three awards as well – if I had my way, Head and Heart would win British single, but he is up against some serious pop pedigree in Harry Styles and Dua Lipa. If you don’t know his story, I had a really enjoyable 90-odd minutes with him on Zoom earlier this year. I think he nails this ultra-immaculate look but then I have been partially blinded by his dentistry, so who’s to say.

Joel Corry.
Joel Corry. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


I love Haim, and I especially love them for wearing my year 9 textiles homework to the Grammys in March (or, as some people call it, “Prada”). Today’s look is more classic – very Diane Keaton in Annie Hall – but I can’t help but think Este (left) is rubbing it in a bit by having a French manicure on her toenails. (Scroll for a close-up.) We’re living through a global pandemic. When was the last time you did anything to your toes that wasn’t groaning as you bent over to begrudgingly deal with a sharp, horny corner that had been stabbing you in your sleep for a week? Just me? Oh.

(L-R) Este, Danielle and Alana Haim arrive.
(L-R) Este, Danielle and Alana Haim arrive. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


And here’s your host: Jack Whitehall. He’s proven himself to be far and away the best host in history, filming fun skits – two words that rarely cohere – and landing genuinely funny zingers on all and sundry in recent years. He even got a jab in against the Brits themselves, criticising them on stage last year for the extremely phallocentric nominee list.

Not sure about the suit, mind. Bit Playboy Mansion; the kind of thing I imagine rich eccentrics wearing during lockdown.

Jack Whitehall.
Jack Whitehall. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Meanwhile eye-grabbing coats are emerging as a trend for men: Rag’n’Bone Man will perform with Pink later, and Headie One is up for male solo artist and British single.

Rag’n’Bone Man arrives.
Rag’n’Bone Man arrives. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images
Headie One on the red carpet.
Headie One on the red carpet. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Arlo Parks’ smile is hitting us so square between the eyes that we may need a couple of minutes to walk it off. That dusky pink shirt paired with the suit is really chic, too. A real standout look amid a crop of pop stars who gratifyingly look like they’ve forgotten how to dress themselves during the pandemic.

She’s up for three awards as well. In our idle pre-awards chatter, both me and Laura had her slated to pick up breakthrough artist.

Arlo Parks.
Arlo Parks. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


Up for British female solo artist and album of the year, here’s Jessie Ware fantastically channelling goth matriarch Morticia Addams.

Jessie Ware on the Brits red carpet.
Jessie Ware on the Brits red carpet. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images


Olivia Rodrigo arrives – later on she’ll make her UK live debut in the show itself. Can’t help but feel if she wants to continue to be known beyond High School Musical she might have chosen something less thunderously prom-worthy, but the colour pops.

Olivia Rodrigo.
Olivia Rodrigo. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

Read Laura’s excellent profile of her here if you want to catch up on her astonishing rise thus far.

Also arriving are Young T & Bugsey, who are up for breakthrough artist, British group and British single – making them joint top of the nominees (with quite a few others in this fairly even field).

Young T (right) & Bugsey.
Young T (right) & Bugsey. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images

In increasingly topsy-turvy awards fashion for men, it’s got to the point where wearing a tuxedo is starting to look like some radical sartorial choice and dressing in neon tartan is the height of normcore. Bugsey looks great in his.


Nice of Celeste to come as an exquisite corpse drawing: top and bottom thirds beautiful ballerina, mid-third juvenile crow.

Celeste arrives at the Brits.
Celeste arrives at the Brits. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images for Audi UK


I know nothing whatsoever about fashion and have been wearing the same elasticated trousers and bobbly jumper for 15 months now. The first time I went out post-lockdown, I swiftly tried on and discarded three outfits before leaving the house in a dire combination that I regretted all day. Watching the red carpet photos roll in this evening, well, I’m glad that it’s not just me making giant stabs in the dark at how to get dressed in 2021. The looks so far are quite Quality Street-core. Well done to Griff for styling out some evident umbrella issues.

Dua Lipa in the Brits media room, 11 May 2021.
Dua Lipa in the Brits media room. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit Awards/Getty Images
Mabel arrives at the Brit awards.
Mabel arrives at the Brit awards. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock
Griff on the Brits red carpet.
Griff on the Brits red carpet. Photograph: JMEnternational for the Brit awards/Getty Images


This year's nominees

Here’s a reminder of the really very good crop of nominees for 2021. Already announced as winners are Griff with the tastemaking rising star award, and Taylor Swift with the global icon award.

Female solo artist
Arlo Parks
Dua Lipa
Jessie Ware
Lianne La Havas

Male solo artist
AJ Tracey
Headie One
J Hus
Joel Corry

British group
Biffy Clyro
Little Mix
The 1975
Young T & Bugsey

Breakthrough act
Arlo Parks
Joel Corry
Young T & Bugsey

British single
220 Kid with Gracey – Don’t Need Love
Aitch x AJ Tracey feat Tay Keith – Rain
Dua Lipa – Physical
Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
Headie One feat AJ Tracey and Stormzy – Ain’t It Different
Joel Corry x MNEK – Head and Heart
Nathan Dawe x KSI – Lighter
Regard and Raye – Secrets
S1mba feat DTG – Rover
Young T & Bugsey feat Headie One – Don’t Rush

British album
Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
Celeste – Not Your Muse
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure

International female solo artist
Ariana Grande
Billie Eilish
Cardi B
Miley Cyrus
Taylor Swift

International male solo artist
Bruce Springsteen
Burna Boy
Childish Gambino
Tame Impala
The Weeknd

International group
Fontaines DC
Foo Fighters
Run the Jewels


Welcome to the Brit awards 2021!

We’ve had to wait an extra three months to be snarky about some pop stars, but the Brit awards, postponed from their usual February slot by the pandemic, are finally upon us.

The ceremony begins at 8pm and you can watch it on ITV, ITV Hub, and YouTube. We’ll be announcing all the awards and reviewing all the performers and, before that, taking a look at all the red carpet arrivals.

Follow it along with us, and you can comment below on all the outfits/songs/hesitant social distancing.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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