Brit Awards 2015: Ed Sheeran & Sam Smith Win Big, But Madonna & Kanye West Steal the Show

2015 brits kanye all day
Rex Features via AP Images

Kanye West performs "All Day" on stage during the Brit Awards 2015 at The O2 Arena on February 25, 2015 in London, England.

The Brit Awards may be the biggest night in the U.K. music industry calendar, but it was U.S. stars Madonna, Taylor Swift and Kanye West who provided the show's standout moments. All three artists performed at the 35th Brit Awards, held at London's O2 arena, with Madonna's climatic run-through of "Living for Love" a memorable highlight -- if only for her dramatic fall from the stage mid-song when a dancer appeared to mistime removing her cloak, leading the 56-year-old queen of pop to loudly tumble to the floor.

Brit Awards 2015: Winners | Photos

Impressively, Madonna -- making her first Brits appearance since 1995 -- didn't let the fall affect her performance and quickly recovered to deliver a slickly choreographed routine that mirrored the matador theme of her recent Grammy Awards performance.

The other major talking point from the night was Kanye West's world premiere of the new song "All Day," which was introduced by his wife Kim Kardashian and began with the rapper demanding the O2 audience to rise up out of their seats. Joined onstage by U.K. grime artists Skepta, Jammer and Novelist and an army of around 100 hoodie-clad moshers, two of whom were carrying flamethrowers, much of West's performance was muted by British broadcaster ITV due to explicit language. For those of us inside the arena, "All Day" was a dark and aggressive, bass-heavy jam that stood refreshingly at odds with the upbeat, celebratory tone of the evening.

Madonna Falls Hard, Drops Mic During Brit Awards Performance

Chief among those celebrating was Ed Sheeran, who made up for his recent Grammy disappointment (nominated for three, won zero) by taking home the coveted British Album award and British Male Solo Artist.

"Thank you so much. I was really worried about this album. It took a long time to make and to be happy with it, and I didn't expect this. What I will say though, is that it's been a very, very good year for British music and it's a night to celebrate the whole thing. I don't think a statue gives justification to people's success. I think the sales and accreditation and tickets, everything, gives people success," said Sheeran, accepting the Tracey Emin-designed award for British Album.

The 24-year-old singer also delivered a rousing rendition of his new single "Bloodstream" during the show, which was hosted by British TV personalities Ant and Dec and broadcast live on ITV, as well as streamed internationally on the BRITs YouTube channel.

The night's other major honours, meanwhile, went to Sam Smith, who won British Breakthrough and British Global Success Award.

"Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of people all over the world singing my songs, and although I've got a long, long way to go and so much more to do, this shows that I'm going in the right direction," said Smith accepting the latter. The 22-year-old also sang "Lay Me Down," backed by a 60-piece string section, all dressed in white.

Kanye West Debuts 'All Day' at 2015 Brit Awards

It was Sheeran's close friend Taylor Swift who, meanwhile, took home the award for International Female Solo Artist.

"I wouldn't be up here if it wasn't for one of my best friends who took me to pubs and taught me how to make a good cup of tea -- I just want to say that I love Ed Sheeran, wherever you are," Swift said, accepting the prize from Ellie Goulding and Lewis Hamilton.

The "Shake It Off" singer had earlier opened the show with a feisty run through "Blank Space" that saw her strut down the runway wearing a revealing trouser suit as bowler-hatted male dancers pirouetted in the background.

The equivalent male award for International Solo Artist went to Pharrell Williams, who accepted his award via video message.

Royal Blood proved worthy recipients of the British Group award when they delivered a thunderous rendition of "Figure It Out," taken from their eponymous debut album.

"This is a huge surprise for us," said guitarist and singer Mike Kerr, causally accepting the prize, adding, "It's probably more of a surprise for everyone here, because you may not know who we are." 

One person who most definitely didn't play it cool on the big stage was Paloma Faith, who was responsible for the night's most rambling but ultimately heartfelt acceptance speech. 

"Wow. I'm so moved. It's been a long time coming. It's taken me 14 years to stand up here and accept this award and it means so much to me," said the flame-haired singer, breaking down into tears.

"People have been doing short speeches, but I think it's people who have won lots of awards and they don't like to gob off as much as me," she went on to say before thanking seemingly everyone she has ever met. "I'm a bumbling wreck, but I'm so grateful and I may never be up here again. This is dedicated to all the underdogs and all the grafters who work so, so hard," stated the visibly moved singer.

Faith also delivered one of the night's standout performances by singing "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" under a torrential shower of artificial rain. The other live highlights were George Ezra singing his breakthrough single "Budapest" and Take That's rendition of "Let in the Sun," which culminated in a huge confetti explosion.

The full list of winners:
Mastercard British Album: Ed Sheeran – X
British Single: Mark Ronson Ft Bruno Mars – "Uptown Funk"
British Female Solo Artist: Paloma Faith
British Male Solo Artist: Ed Sheeran
British Group: Royal Blood
International Male Solo Artist: Pharrell Williams
International Female Solo Artist: Taylor Swift
International Group: Foo Fighters
Critics' Choice: James Bay
British Producer of the Year: Paul Epworth
British Artist Video of the Year: One Direction - "You & I"
British Breakthrough Act: Sam Smith
Global Success: Sam Smith