The 2022 Brit Awards is underway at the O2 Arena, with Adele, Ed Sheeran, Dave, and Little Simz leading the nominations, according to the BBC
All four artists are up for the night’s biggest prizes – artist and album of the year – alongside Sam Fender.
The ceremony is being hosted for the first time by comedian Mo Gilligan, who takes over from Jack Whitehall.
“I’m still pinching myself,” says the star, who first tweeted about his ambitions to helm the show in 2011.
“I don’t know who’s won what – or even who’s nominated for what! There might even be a little surprise performance. I don’t know just yet.”
Ed Sheeran opened the ceremony with a performance of one of last year’s biggest singles, Bad Habits, alongside UK rock band Bring Me the Horizon.
The first award of the night, for song of the year, was won by Adele for her heart-rending ballad Easy on Me.
Stars walked the red carpet earlier, including quadruple-nominee Little Simz who told the BBC: “My art all I really have this life in this world, so it means a lot to me.”
Fender told us it was “amazing and incredible” to score a number one with his Brit-nominated debut album, Seventeen Going Under. “That was ridiculous, but to actually have a single [its title track] at number three was just beyond anything we could ever think of,” he said.
Holly Humberstone, the winner of the already-announced rising star prize, added: “This is all very strange to me. I feel like I’m in some kind of alternate universe, but I feel just so lucky.”
Getty Image Dave is one of the most highly-anticipated performers of the night
Last year’s Brit Awards took place as part of the government’s pilot scheme for the return of live events. Covid restrictions necessitated a mixture of live and virtual performances, with artists like Coldplay, The Weeknd, and Elton John appearing on tape.
This year, organizers have vowed to “keep everything in the room” – even when that meant scrapping a planned performance from US star Doja Cat, after members of her team tested positive for Covid.
As a result, Tuesday’s performances are exclusively coming from British artists – including all five artists of the year nominees: Adele, Dave, Ed Sheeran, Little Simz, and Sam Fender.
Of those, Dave has the most to live up to. His audacious, politically-charged, performance of Black in 2019 is one of the most powerful Brits moments of all time. And even if he chooses to play his biggest hit from last year – the largely apolitical Stormzy collaboration, Clash – he’s bound to make the most of his four minutes on stage.
Humberstone, an electrifying live performer, will make her Brits debut, while Anne-Marie and KSI will play their platinum-certified, song of the year-nominated hit, Don’t Play.
And bringing a touch of old-school rock and roll energy is Liam Gallagher, who’ll be showcasing his new single, Everything’s Electric.
Who’ll win the big prizes?
Could Little Simz beat more established stars like Adele and Ed Sheeran?
It’s almost impossible to ignore the sales juggernaut that is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins. Her so-called “divorce album”, 30, was the biggest-seller of 2021, selling more than 600,000 copies in just six weeks.
The Brits are set up to reward commercial success – so she would appear to be a lock-in for the best artist and album categories.
And if Adele wins the other two prizes she’s nominated for (song of the year and best pop artist) she’ll tie with Robbie Williams as the most-awarded artist in Brits history, with 13 trophies weighing down her mantlepiece.
Rapper Little Simz is the dark horse in the best album race. Her smart, funky record Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was music critics’ favorite album of 2021, and her producer, Info, has already been named producer of the year. If the 1,300-strong voting academy reflects those choices, Simz could be going home with her first-ever Brit.
For song of the year, my money is on Glass Animals – whose dream-pop anthem Heat Waves has become a streaming phenomenon. First released in October 2020, it has spent 61 weeks on the UK charts, eventually climbing into the top five at the end of last year.
Amongst the 10 nominees, it has the highest total of Spotify streams – 1.2 billion, compared to the 885 million for Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits, and the 636 million earned by Adele’s Easy On Me.
For the best group, Little Mix is a good shout. There’s a lot of affection for them in the industry, and this will be the last chance to reward Jade, Perrie, and Leigh-Anne before they go on hiatus later this year.
But voters could also be swayed by the reassuring presence of Coldplay – who’ve picked up a record ninth-best group nomination – and Wolf Alice, whose Blue Weekend was one of the best-reviewed albums of 2021.
What happened to the best male and female awards?
Dua Lipa was the last person to win the best female, in 2021, before the category was retired
The Brits took the decision to scrap gendered awards last year, falling in line with other major music prizes like the Grammys, MTV Awards, and Australia’s Arias.
The move attracted some criticism from the likes of Piers Morgan and culture secretary Nadine Dorries – who said she was concerned about how the new system “would work in terms of fair gender representation”.
In the end, more women have been nominated than at any time in the past decade; and it seems fair to assume Adele will walk away with the lion’s share of the prizes.
Brits chairman Tom March says the move away from the best male and female prizes “felt right”.
“I like the idea of creating the biggest award and accolade possible – and artist of the year has that gravitas,” he told Music Week.
“The most important thing for me was making sure it didn’t reduce opportunity,” he added, noting that the creation of five new awards – including best dance and best pop act – had created “opportunities for more artists to be nominated”.
Every Brits host puts their own stamp on the show. James Corden was the effusive music fan, Dermot O’Leary was the polished entertainer and Jack Whitehall terrorised innocent pop stars with his barbed asides.
“You’ve got to be so sharp, man,” says Mo Gilligan, who’s taking over this year. “Remember when you went to school and you had a compass to draw circles? That’s how sharp you’ve got to be.
“But that’s the cool thing about the Brits. You can have moments where it can be a bit chaotic and there’s some carnage – but then you can have iconic moments where you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I was there and I have seen that live’.”
The comedian and Masked Singer judge says he’ll be less confrontational than his predecessor.
“I feel like I’m the person whose party you’re coming to, but not everyone knows each other, so I’ve got to make sure everyone’s having a great time.”
What about the international awards?
Popstar Olivia Rodrigo could go home with two trophies
These are much harder to call. The competition for the best international artist is unbelievably tough – with Billie Eilish facing off against Taylor Swift, Doja Cat, and Lil Nas X.
But the one to beat is Olivia Rodrigo, whose debut album Sour was the UK’s fourth-biggest record of the year. She also made her live debut at last year’s Brit Awards, something that is sure to linger in the minds of the voting academy.
Rodrigo’s pop-punk anthem Good 4U has a good shot at winning the best international song, too. Other strong contenders include The Weeknd’s Save Your Tears and Lil Nas X’s Montero (Call Me By Your Name).
Front-runners for the best international group are Abba, who is riding a huge wave of affection following their unexpected comeback last September.
If they win, it’ll be the Swedish band’s first-ever Brit Award. They only have one previous nomination – for best album – in 1977.
“I must say, I don’t think we’ve ever had such good reviews as we have for this album,” says songwriter and keyboard player Benny Andersson. “Obviously we’re kosher now and we weren’t in the ’70s.”
And if they win, how will he celebrate?
“I don’t know,” he laughs. “I can send you a text to tell you.”