The Brit Awards celebrated their 40th installment on Tuesday (Feb. 18) with an action-packed show. Stars were minted, legends were honored (and possibly propositioned), and government officials past and present were given shout-outs they’d perhaps sooner ignore.
If you didn’t get to see the two-plus hours of (mostly) mirth and merriment unfold at the O2 arena in London on Tuesday night, here are the moments you’d most want to catch up on:
Mabel wins big, exactly 30 years after her mum
Breakout dance-pop singer-songwriter Mabel kicked off the evening’s festivities with an ornately staged rendition of her trans-Atlantic hit “Don’t Call Me Up” and shortly after took home the prize for British solo female artist. Making the win (Mabel’s first) all the more momentous: It came exactly three decades after her mother, alt-pop innovator Neneh Cherry, had her own big night at the Brits, reigning victorious for both international solo artist and international breakthrough act.
Dave takes to the piano
In a rare live hip-hop performance delivered behind the keys, rapper (and British album of the year winner) Dave showed his impressive versatility by playing piano while delivering his Psychodrama single “Black.” The performance was impressive for far more than its instrumentation, however, as the stark-but-powerful rendition of the “Black is beautiful” anthem also included new lyrics taking shots at Prime Minister Boris Johnson (“The truth is our Prime Minister is a real racist”) and paying homage to slain students of the 2019 London Bridge terror attack.
Lizzo, Harry Styles and Jack Whitehall get frisky
Host Jack Whitehall’s in-audience interview with Lizzo was interrupted by the pair’s close proximity to her dear friend Harry Styles — who she recently covered in a Live Lounge performance — with the American multi-threat kissing her U.K. pop compatriot on the hand in order to make Whitehall “jealous.” By the time he was interviewing Styles in a later segment (unsurprisingly crashed by Lizzo), the three were mixing it up so much that the host offered that “this could work as a triplet.” The segment ended with Whitehall discovering the hard way that Styles’ drink at his table was straight tequila — which an unfazed Lizzo proceeded to chug. Good times had by all.
Brits brought to task for lack of female nominees
With female artists a clear minority in the non-gender-specific categories at this year’s Brits — and absent altogether from two: British album of the year and British group — some of the evening’s presenters and winners felt the need to call out the disparity. Host Jack Whitehall fired the first shot, saying that in the evening’s eco-conscious spirit of sustainability, “The Brits has been recycling all the same excuses for why so few women were nominated.” U.K. pop star Paloma Faith gave a cheeky shout-out to the “underrepresented group… men” before co-presenting the international male solo artist award. And Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis ended his acceptance speech for best British group by saying he hoped to “see more women in this category next year.”
Billie Eilish makes an emotional live debut as a Bond (theme) girl
Well on its way to becoming her first U.K. chart-topper, Eilish’s “No Time to Die” received a sensational live debut at the Brits, with able backup provided not only by writer/producer/brother Finneas, but Smiths guitar great Johnny Marr and legendary composer Hans Zimmer. Still, the moment was Billie’s, with her nailed high note at the song’s climax receiving one of the evening’s best receptions. “I’ve felt really hated recently,” Eilish later admitted, while accepting the award for international female solo artist. “And when I was onstage, and I saw you guys all smiling at me… it genuinely made me want to cry. And I want to cry right now.”
Tyler, the Creator shouts out ’80s British funk and Teresa May
American rapper and recent Grammy favorite Tyler, the Creator had an unusual thank-you list to read out upon his victory in the international solo male artist category. First, given his surroundings, he big-upped British funk from the ’80s, which he claimed he ripped off all through his award-winning IGOR set. (Central Line? Soul II Soul? The Style Council?) Then he also gave it up for former Prime Minister Teresa May, who had previously banned the rapper from entering the country: “I know she’s at home, pissed off [at me winning].”
“Thank you to my grandmother for… dying?“
That was singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, upon accepting his song of the year award for breakthrough smash “Someone You Loved.” Capaldi explained to the crowd that contrary to popular belief, the song was not about his famous ex Paige Turley, but rather about his own grandmother, whose passing was the song’s inspiration. Rather than resort to cliché and imagine his gran smiling down on him from heaven, Capaldi decided to be more direct about tributing her contributions to the effort, providing one of the evening’s more uncomfortable and amusing moments.
Rod Stewart dedicates his show-closing performance to Hilary Gish
And that, of course, would be the actress mother of Jack Whitehall, who the latter had made reference to putting the moves on Rod Stewart while speaking with Harry Styles earlier in the show. Stewart was more than willing to return fire, beginning his performance of ’70s U.K. chart-topper “I Don’t Want to Talk About” with the preamble “Jack, I’m gonna do this one for your mum, Hillary.” Hope she enjoyed.