LONDON – Rapper Stormzy and singer Dua Lipa were the big breakthrough winners on Wednesday night as they saw off competition from more experienced contenders to take the home the major prizes at the Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London.
The 24-year-old rapper from South London beat artists such as Ed Sheeran and Liam Gallagher to win the award for Best Male Solo Artist. Stormzy, real name Michael Omari, also won the award for Best Album.
Dua Lipa, the daughter of Albanian immigrants to the UK, who was nominated in five categories, was Wednesday night’s other standout prize winner as she won Best Female Solo Artist and Breakthrough Act.
The Brit awards were the latest awards ceremony to be held in the post-Harvey Weinstein sex scandal climate, with several artists showing solidarity with the Time’s Up and Me Too movements by wearing or carrying white roses in protest against sexual harassment and misconduct in the entertainment industry.
In accepting the night’s first award for Best British Female Solo Artist, Dua Lipa thanked “every single female that’s been on this stage before me that has given girls like me – not just in the music industry but in society – something to look up to, and has allowed us to dream this big. Here’s to more women on these stages, more women winning awards, and more women taking over the world.”
More established names were also among the winners – British band Gorillaz, started by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn over 20 years ago, won their first ever Brit award for Best Group, while Ed Sheeran was recognized with a Global Success award.
US hip hop superstar Kendrick Lamar won the award for International Male Solo Artist, while Lorde took the female equivalent and the Foo Fighters won the International Group award, their fourth win since they formed three decades ago.
The victims of last summer’s terror attack on the Manchester arena after an Ariana Grande concert were also commemorated in a mournful performance from Liam Gallagher, after the US singer had to pull out due to illness.
As well as Gallagher’s moving tribute and artists supporting campaigns that promote gender equality, political issues at the top of the agenda in Britain also took center stage on Wednesday night.
During his acceptance speech for best group, Albarn made a thinly-veiled reference to the impact of Brexit, warning attendees not to “let (the UK) become isolated. Don’t let yourselves become cut off. Considering our size we do incredible things in music. We’ve got a real spirit and a real soul, and don’t let politics get in the way of all that shit.”
Shortly after he was awarded the prize for Best Album, Stormzy performed the ceremony’s closing show, which featured the lyric “Theresa May where’s that money for Grenfell,” a reference to the funds promised to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in north London last summer in which 71 people died.