Saturday evening (January 15th) at ITV Studios kicks off with former BRIT award-winner Paloma Faith - sporting a sparkling metallic trouser and top ensemble alongside massive hair - climbing on top of a perspex podium to perform her hit ‘Crybaby’. Though she’s not alone; instead at least a dozen bare-chested men of all shapes and sizes join her at different points of the runway stage crying on demand. It’s a subtle but clever subversion of the music industry’s toxic perception of masculinity. The message is that it’s okay, and actually a good thing, for men to show their emotional side; it doesn’t matter if you’re tall, short, thin, fat, muscle-bound or not - who said boys and men shouldn’t cry?
Minutes later, after effortless host Emma Willis has energised the crowd by showing videos of some of the artists nominated in the Best Male and Best Female categories, Cambridge University born classical-electronic trio Clean Bandit climb high, quite literally, for their renditions of ‘Symphony’ and ‘I Miss You’. Cellist Grace Chatto, in a glamorous puffed-out white dress, is helped up a ladder to play her instrument while one of her band mates plays a piano which is lifted up into the air by a stack of books - it’s an interesting idea that works, giving the illusion that the band are floating on cloud.
The only disappointment is that one of 2017s breakout artists and Clash favourite, afro-beats star J Hus, isn’t actually in the studio to perform ‘Did You See?’; his appearance was pre-recorded, leaving many in the audience wondering why.
But, for most of the trendy BRIT School crowd (there are, expectedly, A LOT of One Direction-loving teens) - they’re here for one man and one man only: Mr Liam Payne. With laser lights temporarily fitted around the runway to create the illusion of a box-shaped vortex, the former 1D favourite takes his place at the front for a rapturously received ‘Strip That Down’; obviously, he’s joined by a team of impeccably-choreographed - mostly female - dancers who take the chance to l flaunt their talents. Afterwards teasing that his album is due around March, the screams are never-ending...
It may technically be a nominations show, but there’s already one rising artist - and former Clash cover star - who knows they have won an award. Following in the footsteps of Adele, Sam Smith and Florence & The Machine, Drake-collaborating vocalist Jorja Smith is this year’s BRITs Critics Choice winner. And who better to present the stylish red gong than last year’s recipient, Rag ’n’ Bone Man. She might be a lady of few words when interviewed, but Jorja’s voice is undeniable. Closing the show performing her new single ‘Let Me Down’ - an emotive duet with everyone’s king of 2017, Stormzy - there’s no doubt that she’s going to absolutely smash it in 2018.
With striking piano chords reminiscent of Adele, a faultless vocal, relatable lyrics and a heartfelt guest verse from a reflective Stormzy, it’s her stab at topping the charts and becoming a household name.
Performing the song on TV together for the first time, the atmosphere is electric - two of the most important British artists right now - proving how much talent the U.K. has to offer. And thats what the BRITs are all about.
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BRIT Awards 2018 takes place on February 21st at London's O2 Arena.
Words: Ben Jolley
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