ECHO Awards 2018: Ed Sheeran and Luis Fonsi Win Big, But So Does 'Make a Holocaust Again' Rap Duo

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Farid Bang and Kollegah perform on stage during the Echo Award show at Messe Berlin on April 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.

Ed Sheeran was the main winner at the German ECHO Music Awards in Berlin on Thursday. The 27-year-old Brit won in the album of the year, international artist and hit of the year categories, for "Shape Of You." Currently on tour in Japan, the Warner Music Group artist was unable to accept the awards in person in Berlin, but he did send a video message that was broadcast during the event.

The ECHO Awards are organized by the Cultural Institute of the German Music Industry (BVMI) and attracted 2 million viewers on the VOX network.

The night was not without controversy, however, as German rappers Farid Bang and Kollegah won the ECHO for hip-hop/urban album despite one of their tracks, "O815," containing inflammatory lyrics like "My body is more defined than Auschwitz inmates" and "Make a Holocaust again, come on with the Molotov." Despite an outcry from Jewish groups, including the International Auschwitz Committee and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Echo organizers said last week that the song did not venture too far from the boundaries of "artistic freedom," and that the nomination would stand. "After an intense and occasionally controversial discussion … the majority [of the board] has decided that elimination is not the right way forward," spokesman Wolfgang Börnsen said.

The pair's album, "Jung Brutal Gutaussehend 3," had also been nominated for album of the year, but lost to Sheeran.

Sheeran's trio of wins aside, other Warner Music winners were Robin Schulz (dance national award for "Uncovered"),  Beatsteaks feat. Deichkind (best video for "Lauf der Stirn") and rock band Die Toten Hosen (rock national for "Laune der Natur").

With one-third of the nominees, Universal Music artists had the best night of any major label, taking away eight of the 19 artist awards. For the eighth consecutive year, the most prestigious award of the evening went to a Universal Music artist: bass player, producer and graphic designer Klaus Voormann, who received the lifetime achievement award. The two-time GRAMMY winner and so called "fifth" Beatle shaped the course of rock and pop music at various moments in time. Voormann played with Manfred Mann, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, John Lennon (e.g. on "Imagine"), and Eric Clapton. He was a founding member of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and designed artworks for an array of artists, including The Beatles (Grammy for "Revolver") and the Bee Gees. He was a part of George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh" and produced records for acts such as Trio ("Da Da Da") and Marius Müller-Westernhagen.

"The contribution [Voorman] has made to so many seminal projects worldwide and in so many different ways over the past decades is absolutely outstanding," said Frank Briegmann, President & CEO Central Europe Universal Music and Deutsche Grammophon.

Other Universal Music winners were Helene Fischer, Luis Fonsi, Imagine Dragons, Wincent Weiss, Santiano, Milky Chance and Haiyti. There were performances by Rea Garvey & Kool Savas, Shawn Mendes & Alice Merton, Liam Payne & Rita Ora, Helene Fischer & Götz Alsmann and Gregor Meyle, Julia Engelmann, Luis Fonsi & Helene Fischer.

The ECHO is one of the most prestigious music awards in the world. National and international stars are honored with awards in 22 different categories. Since 2017, a new system is applied to select the winners in most of the categories, which are now determined in part by the Official German Sales Charts, while the other 50 percent are decided in a vote by a panel of experts.

Briegmann: "I am particularly happy about the diversity represented by our award winners. That is a result of our policy to engage in a great number of different genres, to nurture new talents, and to ensure maximum impact for our artists, both online and offline. So I also want to congratulate the whole Universal Music team and our partners. Special thanks go to the ECHO team, our media partner VOX, and everyone who helped make this such a fantastic event."

Rita Ora got ovations for a duet with Liam Payne. After joining forces last year on their chart-topping single "For You" from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, the two of them performed at the ECHO for the first time together on German TV. Helene Fischer with 16 awards in the last years, was also on stage and brought the house down.

See the full winners list below:

Album of the year: Ed Sheeran "+" (Atlantic/Warner Music) 

Hit of the year: Ed Sheeran "Shape Of You" (Atlantic/Warner Music)

Artist pop national: Mark Forster "TAPE" (Four Music/Sony Music)

Female artist pop national: Alice Merton "No Roots" (Paper Plane Records/recordJet) 

Band pop national: Milky Chance "Blossom" (Vertigo/Universal Music)

German-language: Helene Fischer "Helene Fischer" (Polydor/Universal Music)

Folk Music: Santiano "Im Auge des Sturms" (We love Music/Electrola/Universal Music) 

Hip-hop/urban national: Kollegah & Farid Bang  "Jung Brutal Gutaussehend 3" (Banger Music/Groove Attack)

Dance national: Robin Schulz "Uncovered" (Tonspiel/Warner Music)

Rock national: Die Toten Hosen "Laune der Natur" (JKP/Warner Music)

Artist international: Ed Sheeran "÷" (Atlantic/Warner Music)

Female artist international: P!nk "Beautiful Trauma" (RCA/Sony Music)

Band international: Imagine Dragons "Evolve" (Interscope/Universal Music)

Newcomer national: Wincent Weiss "Irgendwas gegen die Stille" (Vertigo/Universal Music)

Newcomer International: Luis Fonsi "Despacito & Mis Grandes Exitos" (MCA/Universal Music)

Producer national: Peter Keller "MTV Unplugged – Peter Maffay"

Best video national: Beatsteaks feat. Deichkind "L auf der Stirn"

Critics’ Award national: Haiyti "Montenegro Zero" (Vertigo/Universal)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Klaus Voormann

Partner of the year: Reeperbahn Festival

Commercial partner of the year: Apple Music

Social commitment: Benefiz-Festival Peace by Peace of Fetsum Sebhat and Tedros "Teddy" Twelde


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