Ed Sheeran and Pharrell Williams took home the major honors at the inaugural BBC Music Awards, held Thursday night (Dec. 11) at London’s Earl’s Court.
Sheeran won British Artist of the Year at the star-studded bash, which featured performances from Coldplay, One Direction, Paloma Faith, Calvin Harris, Will.i.am and Tom Jones.
“I just wanna say a massive thank you to everyone whose bought a record, bought a ticket, streamed on Youtube or listened to my music,” said Sheeran accepting his award from Sir Tom Jones.
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Asked by BBC Radio 1 DJ Fearne Cotton, who hosted the event alongside Radio 2’s Chris Evans, what his highlight of 2014 was, Sheeran replied: “I always thought my career would stop at one album, so knowing that my career will be longer than [that] is the highlight for me.”
“I really love my job. I don’t want it to end and even if people stop listening to the music, I’m still going to make it,” the 23-year-old went on to say.
Sheeran — who was recently received Grammy nominations in the categories of Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for his all-conquering sophomore set X — also performed his U.K. No. 1 single “Sing” on the night.
The Pharrell Williams-produced “Sing” was among the nominees for the public voted Song of the Year, although ironically lost out to Williams’ global smash “Happy.”
Williams, who was unable to attend the show due to his filming commitments for The Voice, also won the night’s other major award, International Artist of the Year, which was decided by a panel of industry judges.
Accepting the microphone-shaped prize from his Voice co-star Gwen Stefani in a satellite link, Williams thanked BBC radio and TV outlets for their support as well as “the countless amazing English fans who have lifted my life to unimaginable heights.”
“The U.K. has always been amazing to me and so many other artists who want to do different things,” added Williams, who beat competition from Taylor Swift, Lorde, Gregory Porter, Dolly Parton and Prince to take home the International Artist award.
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The forth and final award of the night was the BBC Introducing Act of the Year, which throws the spotlight on an up-and-coming U.K. act and went to Welsh rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen.
“Two years ago, I could only buy a McDonalds and a pack of fags. Now, I can afford to go large,” said the band’s singer Van McCann, accepting the award.
Although the event was refreshingly short on actual prizes, it wasn’t lacking in star power or memorable performances and proved a welcome addition to the U.K.’s increasingly crowded awards calendar.
Coldplay opened the show with a stirring run through Ghost Stories track “A Sky Full of Stars,” which begun with Chris Martin singing the opening hook while walking down an illuminated runway stretching from the backstage area to the stage.
They were followed by Ella Henderson and Labrinth, who performed a two-song medley of Henderson’s “Ghost” and Labrinth’s “Jealous.”
Next up was Clean Bandit with a bass-heavy version of its New Eyes‘ album track “Mozart’s House,” which segued into their breakthrough hit “Rather Be,” where they were joined by vocalist Jess Glynne and the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Jazz star Gregory Porter, wearing his trademark wrap-around head wear, also made good use of the orchestral accompaniment with a full-bodied cover of “Feeling Good,” originally made famous by Nina Simone.
Predictably, One Direction’s performance drew one of the loudest receptions of the night. Appearing onstage to an high-pitched onslaught of deafening screams, the five-piece, dressed almost entirely in black, delivered a slick rendition of “Steal My Girl” taken from their latest album Four.
Following their performance host Chris Evans presented the band with a framed Billboard display to mark them becoming the first group in history to top the Billboard 200 with their first four albums.
“It’s been amazing to be so well received in America, but one thing that we’ll never forget is that you guys started it off,” Liam Payne told the 13,000-strong capacity audience.
Later in the show — which was broadcast broadcast live on BBC One, BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, and syndicated to TV networks in North America, Japan and Europe — Calvin Harris was joined by Ellie Goulding and John Newman for a roof-raising, pyrotechnic-fired mix of “Blame It on the Night” and “Outside.”
Other memorable performances included George Ezra playing his breakthrough single “Budapest” and Paloma Faith singing “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” in front of 1920s, Great Gatsby-inspired set.
The 1990s equivalent of One Direction, Take That, was also among the line-up and delivered a spirited run through their recent disco-funk infused single “These Days.”
The night’s finale was a rousing rendition of Beach Boys‘ “God Only Knows” by Paloma Faith and Tom Jones, backed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and a huge 200-strong vocal choir.