The Ultimate Guide to the BRIT Awards

This year’s BRIT Awards will be the 39th ever, and due to the gap between the first and second, it’s over forty years since the first ceremony was held in October 1977. There’s no particular reason for a celebration, but let’s take a moment anyway to look back at the previous 38 ceremonies and the history of the awards!

Artists they love

We calculated the top twenty artists at the BRITs just last year, and – spoiler alert – the top five British acts, in ascending order, were Annie LennoxTake ThatAdeleColdplay, and Robbie Williams. Comparison with the top-selling British acts of all time puts Annie Lennox and Take That nowhere on the list, Adele and Coldplay joint fourteenth alongside others, and Robbie Williams joint twenty-fifth.

Or you could compare with the top sixty singles acts of all timeAnnie Lennox still doesn’t make it, Take That are fifteenth, Adele is a bit too recent for the list, Coldplay are sixtieth, and Robbie Williams is twenty-second.

The BRIT Awards seem to have always struggled with the Female Solo Artist categories, obsessing for years on end over Annie LennoxAlison Moyet, Adele, and (internationally) Björk.

Artists they hate

Contemporary artists who haven’t done quite so well based on those lists include Elton JohnQueen, and David Bowie, who came 15th, off the chart, and 11th respectively, although much of their heyday would have been in the 1970s, and OasisSpice Girls, and George Michael, who have never quite made the cut, appearing 10th, 17th, and somewhere just off the list respectively.

Famously, Radiohead have never won anything despite plenty of nominations, and Jamiroquai also inexplicably got lots of nominations but sanity prevailed on the night, and they never quite won.

Nominated in the wrong category

U2 seem to have caused a bit of confusion about whether they were British or International, having been nominated for awards in both. Solo artists have got a bit confused at times as well, with Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals receiving a solo nomination in 1990, despite not releasing anything on his own for another decade. Fortunately, his group returned their awards after a particularly vomit-inducing appearance from Margaret Thatcher as part of the ceremony. Mick Hucknall also seems to have caused some confusion in 1997 about whether he was a solo act or group, as did.

Trouble at the top

Plenty of drama happens on and off stage at the awards, most of which is well-documented. A new one that I hadn’t come across previously was that somewhat amusingly, Rick Astley apparently couldn’t quite make it up to the stage in time, so wasn’t able to accept his own award.

There have been some very odd choices of presenters – after Michael Aspel presented the first, and Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood were never invited back, a lot of odd people were, including Tim RiceNoel EdmondsSimon Bates, and Russell BrandAnt & Dec have presented three times (2001, 2015, and 2016), Chris Evans has done four (1995, 1996, 2005, and 2006), and astonishingly James Corden

Nobody cares any more

The ceremony has had its ups and downs (Sam Fox, perhaps not unfairly, apparently blames everyone but herself for the 1989 event). Search online, and there are plenty of good articles about the better and worse moments in its history – this one is one of the better researched.

But in its heyday, the BRIT Awards ceremony was event TV, with a sixth of the country watching, but these days, barely five million people can be bothered tuning in.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the run-up to the 2018 BRIT Awards. There’s plenty of coverage on this blog from previous years, but one place to start might be this post from a couple of years ago.

The BRIT Awards 2010

The 2010 BRIT Awards were hosted by Peter Kay at Earls Court, in London, on Tuesday 16th February. Complicatedly, this was the thirtieth ceremony, although not the thirtieth anniversary, but this was celebrated by the special Brits Hits 30 award.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 2009 ceremony here, and the 2011 ceremony next time.

MasterCard British Album

Presented by Tom Ford. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
  • Dizzee Rascal – Tongue ‘n’ Cheek
  • Florence + The Machine – Lungs
  • Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
  • Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

Winner: Florence + The Machine

British Single

Voted for by listeners of UK commercial radio and readers of The Sun, and presented by Alan Carr. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen – The Fear
  • Alexandra Burke feat. Flo Rida – Bad Boys
  • Cheryl Cole – Fight for This Love
  • Taio Cruz – Break Your Heart
  • Alesha Dixon – Breathe Slow
  • JLS – Beat Again
  • La Roux – In for the Kill
  • Pixie Lott – Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)
  • Joe McElderry – The Climb
  • Tinchy Stryder feat. N-Dubz – Number 1

Winner: JLS

British Male Solo Artist

Presented by Andy Serkis. Nominees:

  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Calvin Harris
  • Mika
  • Paolo Nutini
  • Robbie Williams

Winner: Dizzee Rascal

British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Shirley Bassey. Nominees:

  • Lily Allen
  • Bat for Lashes
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Leona Lewis
  • Pixie Lott

Winner: Lily Allen

British Group

Presented by Idris Elba. Nominees:

  • Doves
  • Friendly Fires
  • JLS
  • Kasabian
  • Muse

Winner: Kasabian

British Breakthrough Act

Presented by Geri Halliwell. Nominees:

  • Florence + The Machine
  • Friendly Fires
  • JLS
  • La Roux
  • Pixie Lott

Winner: JLS

International Male Solo Artist

Presented by Melanie Brown. Nominees:

  • Michael Bublé
  • Eminem
  • Jay Z
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Seasick Steve

Winner: Jay Z

International Female Solo Artist

Presented by Jonathan Ross. Nominees:

  • Lady Gaga
  • Ladyhawke
  • Norah Jones
  • Rihanna
  • Shakira

Winner: Lady Gaga

International Breakthrough Act

Presented by Cat Deeley. Nominees:

  • Animal Collective
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Lady Gaga
  • Daniel Merriweather
  • Taylor Swift

Winner: Lady Gaga

International Album

Presented by Mika. Nominees:

  • Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • The Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D.
  • Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
  • Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
  • Lady Gaga – The Fame

Winner: Lady Gaga

Critics Choice

Presented by Courtney Love. Nominees:

  • Delphic
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Marina and the Diamonds

Winner: Ellie Goulding

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Winner: Robbie Williams

BRITs Hits 30 – Best Live Performance at the BRIT Awards

Voted for by viewers of GMTV, and presented by Samantha Fox. The year of each original performance is shown below. Nominees:

  • Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive / How Deep Is Your Love (1997)
  • Bros – I Owe You Nothing (1989)
  • Coldplay – Clocks (2003)
  • Eurythmics and Stevie Wonder – There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart) (1999)
  • Girls Aloud – The Promise (2009)
  • Michael Jackson – Earth Song (1996)
  • Paul McCartney and Wings – Live and Let Die (2008)
  • Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2002)
  • Pet Shop Boys – Go West (1994)
  • Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama (2005)
  • Spice Girls – Wannabe / Who Do You Think You Are (1997)
  • Take That – The Beatles Medley (1994)
  • Kanye West – Gold Digger (2006)
  • The Who – Who Are You (1977)
  • Robbie Williams and Tom Jones – The Full Monty Medley (1998)

Winner: Spice Girls

BRITs Album of 30 Years

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 2, and presented by Noddy Holder from Slade. Nominees:

  • Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • Phil Collins – No Jacket Required
  • Dido – No Angel
  • Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
  • Duffy – Rockferry
  • Keane – Hopes and Fears
  • Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
  • Sade – Diamond Life
  • Travis – The Man Who
  • The Verve – Urban Hymns

Winner: Oasis

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 1997

Girl power and all that. Ben Elton took the reins at Earls Court on 24th February 1997.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 1996 ceremony here, and the 1998 ceremony here.

Best British Album

Presented by Zoë Ball. Nominees:

  • Kula Shaker – K
  • Lighthouse Family – Ocean Drive
  • Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go
  • George Michael – Older
  • Ocean Colour Scene – Moseley Shoals

Winner: Manic Street Preachers

Best British Dance Act

Presented by Samantha Fox. Nominees:

  • The Chemical Brothers
  • Jamiroquai
  • Mark Morrison
  • The Prodigy
  • Underworld

Winner: The Prodigy

Best British Female

Presented by Naomi Campbell. Nominees:

  • Dina Carroll
  • Gabrielle
  • Donna Lewis
  • Louise
  • Eddi Reader

Winner: Gabrielle

Best British Group

Presented by Colin Jackson and Vinnie Jones. Nominees:

  • Kula Shaker
  • Lightning Seeds
  • Manic Street Preachers
  • Ocean Colour Scene
  • Spice Girls

Winner: Manic Street Preachers

Best British Male

Presented by Elton John. Nominees:

  • Mick Hucknall
  • George Michael
  • Mark Morrison
  • Sting
  • Tricky

Winner: George Michael

Best British Newcomer

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1. Presented by Jo Whiley. Nominees:

  • Alisha’s Attic
  • Ash
  • Babybird
  • The Bluetones
  • Kula Shaker
  • Lighthouse Family
  • Longpigs
  • Mansun
  • Mark Morrison
  • Skunk Anansie
  • Space
  • Spice Girls

Winner: Kula Shaker

Best British Producer

Presented by Sharleen Spiteri from Texas. Nominees:

  • Absolute and Richard Stannard
  • Mike Hedges
  • Hugh Jones
  • John Leckie
  • Tricky

Winner: John Leckie

Best British Single

Voted for by listeners of independent radio. Presented by Mrs. Merton. Nominees:

  • Babybird – You’re Gorgeous
  • Kula Shaker – Tattva
  • Lighthouse Family – Lifted
  • Manic Street Preachers – A Design for Life
  • George Michael – Fastlove
  • Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack
  • Oasis – Don’t Look Back in Anger
  • The Prodigy – Firestarter
  • Spice Girls – Wannabe
  • Underworld – Born Slippy

Winner: Spice Girls

Best British Video

Presented by Frank Skinner. Voted for by viewers of VH-1. Nominees:

  • The Chemical Brothers – Setting Sun
  • Dodgy – Good Enough
  • Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity
  • Manic Street Preachers – A Design for Life
  • George Michael – Fastlove
  • Orbital – The Box
  • The Prodigy – Breathe
  • The Prodigy – Firestarter
  • Spice Girls – Say You’ll Be There
  • Spice Girls – Wannabe

Winner: Spice Girls – Say You’ll Be There

Best International Female

Presented by Eddie Izzard. Nominees:

  • Toni Braxton
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Celine Dion
  • Joan Osborne

Winner: Sheryl Crow

Best International Group

Presented by Lennox Lewis. Nominees:

  • Boyzone
  • The Fugees
  • The Presidents of the United States of America
  • R.E.M.
  • Smashing Pumpkins

Winner: The Fugees

Best International Male

Nominees:

  • Bryan Adams
  • Babyface
  • Beck
  • Robert Miles
  • Prince

Winner: Beck

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Gary Barlow from Take That and Louise from Eternal. Nominees:

  • Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Robert Miles
  • Joan Osborne
  • The Presidents of the United States of America
  • The Tony Rich Project

Winner: Robert Miles

Best Soundtrack / Cast Recording

Presented by Lenny Henry. Nominees:

  • Madonna / Various Artists – Evita
  • Chris Rea – La Passione
  • Various Artists – Dangerous Minds
  • Various Artists – Mission: Impossible
  • Various Artists – Trainspotting

Winner: Trainspotting

Freddie Mercury Award

Winner: Elton John for Candle in the Wind 1996

International Sales Award

Winner: Spice Girls

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Tim Rice.

Winner: Bee Gees

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BPI Awards 1988

On February 8th 1988, Noel Edmonds once again presented the BPI Awards (the last show by that name) at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Apparently TV viewers didn’t get to see Rick Astley collecting his awards, which must have been a very great shame indeed.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 1987 ceremony here, and the 1989 ceremony here.

Best British Album

Nominees:

  • George Michael – Faith
  • Pet Shop Boys – Actually
  • Sting – Nothing Like the Sun
  • Swing Out Sisters – It’s Better to Travel
  • T’Pau – Bridge of Spies

Winner: Sting

Best British Female

Presented by Chris de Burgh. Nominees:

  • Kate Bush
  • Samantha Fox
  • Alison Moyet
  • Sinitta
  • Kim Wilde

Winner: Alison Moyet

Best British Group

Presented by Eddy Grant. Nominees:

  • The Bee Gees
  • Def Leppard
  • Level 42
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Whitesnake

Winner: Pet Shop Boys

Best British Male

Nominees:

  • Rick Astley
  • George Michael
  • Chris Rea
  • Cliff Richard
  • Steve Winwood

Winner: George Michael

Best British Newcomer

Voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1 and readers of Radio Times. Presented by Mike Smith. First round nominees:

  • Rick Astley
  • Black
  • The Christians
  • Curiosity Killed the Cat
  • Johnny Hates Jazz
  • Living in a Box
  • Mel and Kim
  • Pepsi and Shirlie
  • The Proclaimers
  • Swing Out Sisters
  • T’Pau
  • Wet Wet Wet

Second round nominees:

  • Rick Astley
  • The Christians
  • Johnny Hates Jazz
  • T’Pau
  • Wet Wet Wet

Winner: Wet Wet Wet

Best British Producer

Presented by Trevor Horn. Nominees:

  • Brian Eno
  • Julian Mendelsohn
  • Paul O’Duffy
  • Stock, Aitken and Waterman
  • Alan Tarney

Winner: Stock, Aitken and Waterman

Best British Single

Nominees:

  • Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up
  • Bananarama – Love in the First Degree
  • MARRS – Pump Up the Volume
  • Pet Shop Boys – It’s a Sin
  • T’Pau – China in Your Hands

Winner: Rick Astley

Best British Video

Presented by Gary Davies.

Winner: New Order – True Faith

Best Classical Recording

Presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Nominees:

  • Andrew Davies – The Mask of Time – Tippet
  • Vernon Handley – Symphony No 5 – Vaughan
  • Roger Norrington – Symphonies 2 and 8
  • Simon Rattle – Symphony No 2 – Mahler
  • Bryden Thomson – Piano Concertos 1 and 2

Winner: Vernon Handley

Best International Group

Presented by Paul Young. Nominees:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Heart
  • Los Lobos
  • U2

Winner: U2

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Wayne Mailloux. Nominees:

  • Beastie Boys
  • Terence Trent D’Arby
  • LL Cool J
  • Los Lobos
  • Bruce Willis

Winner: Terence Trent D’Arby

Best International Solo Artist

Nominees:

  • Whitney Houston
  • Madonna
  • Michael Jackson
  • Prince
  • Luther Vandross

Winner: Michael Jackson

Best Soundtrack / Cast Recording

Presented by The Bee Gees. Nominees:

  • Los Lobos / Various Artists – La Bamba
  • Original Cast Recording – Follies
  • Original Cast Recording – Les Miserables
  • Original Cast Recording – Phantom of the Opera
  • Various Artists – Dirty Dancing

Winner: Phantom of the Opera

Outstanding Contribution

Winner: The Who

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 1989

Oh yes, 1989. The single most important year in the history of the BRITs. Broadcast live from London’s Royal Albert Hall, it’s the pop music event of the year. Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood famously presented for the first year that it was even called the BRIT Awards.

If you think that pairing a miniature Page Three model with an enormous Fleetwood Mac baldy might be a bad idea, you have little idea of the shambles which would follow. So disastrous was it, that the event wouldn’t be broadcast live for another decade. But on the plus side, we can watch the whole thing thanks to YouTube. So let’s sit back and enjoy the event of a lifetime in full. Part 1:

The show opens relatively poorly with Gloria Estefan, before the bizarrely paired hosts stumble on stage, eventually find their way to the microphones, and stumble their way through the show introduction.

Best British Single

Phil Collins arrives to put the hosts out of their misery, but disappointingly fails to kill either of them. Julian Lennon, although announced by the hosts, does not. Nominees:

  • Deacon Blue – Real Gone Kid
  • Fairground Attraction – Perfect
  • Robert Palmer – She Makes My Day
  • Tanita Tikaram – Twist In My Sobriety
  • Tom Jones & Art of Noise – Kiss

Cue some embarrassed filling by the hosts while the winners try to find the stage.

Winner: Fairground Attraction.

Best British Group

Presented by the fabulous The Fo… the wonderful The Four… the brilliant The Four Tops. Oh, it’s Boy George. Nominees:

  • Christians
  • Def Leppard
  • Erasure
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Wet Wet Wet

Winner: Erasure.

Best International Male Solo Artist

This time, with a bit of culture (you know, because he was in Culture Club) it’s Boy Geo… oh, OK, The Four Tops. Nominees:

  • Alexander O’Neal
  • Luther Vandross
  • Michael Jackson
  • Prince
  • Terence Trent D’Arby

A clean sweep for… why on earth did he feel it necessary to bring race into it? The Four Tops steal the award, claiming they’ll pass it onto the winner “at some point”.

Winner: Michael Jackson.

At which point Fairground Attraction start doing bird impressions.

Best International Female

In possibly the worst introduction yet, we learn that Madonna has been busy glorying in her bask. Presented by Michael Hutchence and John Farris out of INXS. Nominees:

  • Anita Baker
  • Enya
  • Kylie Minogue
  • Tracy Chapman
  • Whitney Houston

Winner: Tracy Chapman.

Best British Album

Presented by Carol Decker and Mike Rutherford. Nominees:

  • Aztec Camera – Love
  • Fairground Attraction – First of a Million Kisses
  • Pet Shop Boys – Introspective
  • Steve Winwood – Roll With It
  • The Pasadenas – To Whom It May Concern

Winner: Fairground Attraction.

Best International Group

Whose turn is it? Um… no idea, let’s just fade the hosts out. Presented by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme out of 10cc. Nominees:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • INXS
  • U2
  • Womack & Womack

Winner: U2.

Next up, Yazz, who sat on top of the chart for five weeks. Which must have been uncomfortable. Then Mark Knopfler and Alan Price bang on about the BRITs School for a bit.

Best British Newcomer

In an interesting move designed to completely outfox (ha!) the presenters, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman turn up with a mystery third person, without having shown us a list of “possibilities”. So the only nominee we know about is:

  • Bros

What a dreadful acceptance speech. Thanks Mum.

Winner: Bros.

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox out of Eurythmics, who seem to have locked the winner in a studio. Nominees:

  • Belinda Carlisle
  • Enya
  • Michelle Shocked
  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa
  • Tracy Chapman

Winner: Tracy Chapman.

Def Leppard turn up for some heavy, heavy metal. And massive perms.

Best Classical Recording

Presented by Courtney Pine and Mica Paris. Nominees:

  • Andre Previn – Violin & Viola Concertos: Walton
  • Jeffrey Tate – Opera Arias – Mozart – Kiri te Kanawa
  • Phillip Brunelle – Paul Bunyan – Britten
  • Simon Rattle – Symphony No 2 – Mahler
  • Trevor Pinnock – Messiah – Handel

Handel has been totally up there for loads of years.

Winner: Trevor Pinnock.

Best Soundtrack/Cast Recording

If we’re not careful then the whole show might grind to an abysmal and moody halt. Which would leave everyone feeling very pleased, probably. Presented by Justin Hayward, someone else out of The Moody Blues, and Belinda Carlisle.

  • Buster (various artists)
  • Good Morning Vietnam (various artists)
  • Hairspray (various artists)
  • Rattle and Hum (U2)
  • The Princess Bride (Mark Knopfler)

Winner: Buster, accepted by Phil Collins and The Four Tops.

Tanita Tikaram then performs in a suit.

Best Music Video

Voted for by viewers of Going Live on BBC1, and presented by Jools Holland, outshouted by Ken Russell. Nominees:

  • Bananarama – Nathan Jones
  • George Harrison – When We Was Fab
  • Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
  • The Christians – Harvest for the World
  • Wet Wet Wet – Temptation

Winner: Michael Jackson.

Best British Male Solo Artist

By this stage we’ve pretty much settled into a pretty dreadful style. Presented by Joan Armatrading and Joe Elliott. Nominees:

  • Chris Rea
  • George Michael
  • Phil Collins
  • Robert Palmer
  • Steve Winwood

Winner: Phil Collins.

Best British Female Solo Artist

Presented by Tina Turner, complete with the kind of sexist introduction that you’ve never seen in any tabloid newspaper. Nominees:

  • Annie Lennox
  • Mica Paris
  • Sade
  • Tanita Tikaram
  • Yazz

Winner: Annie Lennox.

Bros follow with a lot of jumping around.

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by the chairman of the BPI Peter Jamieson, who should really have been hanging his head in shame by this stage.

Winner: Cliff Richard. After an appallingly pseudo-religious speech, Cliff deservedly leaves the stage to almost total silence.

Which artist could be singled out to close a show like this? I think we’d agree, no one. Mark Knopfler, Randy Newman and the BRITs Supergroup close the show with a song which even the performers don’t even seem to be enjoying, and finally the thing comes to an end.

Performances

  • Bros – I Owe You Nothing
  • Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me
  • Fairground Attraction – Perfect
  • Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine – Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
  • Mark Knopfler, Randy Newman and the BRITs Supergroup – Falling in Love
  • Tanita Tikaram – Good Tradition
  • Yazz – Got to Share

Further Reading / Viewing