After being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Brit Awards went off without a hitch last night in the O2 Arena. Comedian Jack Whitehall hosted for the fourth year in a row, and 4,000 key workers were present for the festivities.
It was a huge night for artists like Little Mix, Harry Styles, Haim, and Taylor Swift — who was honored with the Global Icon Award — however, the performances really had everyone talking. Here they are ranked from “hm, better luck next time,” to “I would rewatch this every day for the rest of the month.”
Opening an awards show is a lot of pressure; you’re setting the tone for the night and convincing people watching at home to not change the channel. Coldplay performed their newest single “Higher Power” on a platform along the River Thames, with a view of the O2 Arena in the background. They had colorful pyrotechnics going off and the holograms from the music video were out in full force, in lieu of backup dancers. The performance wasn’t necessarily bad, it just would have been better suited in a different slot of the show, preferably once the sun set so you could really appreciate the special effects.
8. P!nk and Rag’n’Bone Man ft. The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir
While the closing performance of the night was a hopeful moment for the world, I couldn’t help but feel it was visually discombobulated due to Pink’s inability to make it to the Brits in-person. The artist teamed up with Rag’n’Bone Man for the first live performance of “Anywhere Away From Here,” a collaboration off his second album Life by Misadventure. The saving grace of this performance was the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir joining in at the end, serving as a chilling reminder of what we are so close to overcoming. This new version of the song is also available to stream now, with all of the proceeds going to NHS charities.
7. Olivia Rodrigo
One of the most highly-anticipated performances of the night belonged to the American newcomer, who performed her hit single “drivers license” live for the first time. It was a stripped-down version of the song, featuring a harpist and piano player, as Olivia sang in her flowy, red dress in front of the butterfly imagery on the screens. The only thing that felt off about her performance were her vocals, which I’m hoping was only because she was understandably nervous. She was able to belt the bridge of the song in order to finish strong, and fortunately, she’s got another shot at performing this weekend on Saturday Night Live.
6. The Weeknd
As far as virtual performances go, The Weeknd delivered an excellent one to his song “Save Your Tears” (sans Ariana Grande, but I can overlook it). He sang in an open box alongside Oneohtrix Point Never, who worked on After Hours with him. He braved a literal storm, and was prepared when he stepped out of his shelter in head-to-toe rain gear to close out the performance. On the heels of The Weeknd’s performance, was Michelle Obama via video, who presented the singer with his Brit award for International Male Solo Artist, to which The Weeknd accepted in the rain.
5. Headie One ft. AJ Tracey, Young T, and Bugsey
Unbeknownst to me as an American, it’s safe to say I have been missing out on the U.K.’s grime scene! British Male Solo Artist nominee Headie One went for a mini medley from his debut album EDNA, performing “Ain’t It Different” with AJ Tracey — which was nominated for British Single that evening — and “Princess Cuts” with Young T and Bugsey. It was a lively performance with dancers and multiple lit up stages. There was even a shoutout to key workers while Headie One and AJ Tracey were freestyling during the first track. Overall, it was a well-coordinated performance that left me wanting more.
4. Arlo Parks
Nominated for three awards that night and winning the Breakthrough Artist award, Arlo Parks brought sunshine and sunflowers to the Brits stage. She sang “Hope” off of her critically-acclaimed debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams, showing the world that the award win was well deserved. Arlo replaced her usual bridge to this song with a spoken word moment reflecting on the pandemic, saying at the end before flowing right into the chorus, “There’s dark in the world but love makes us grow.” A brass band even joined her during the final stretch of the song, making this an outstanding performance all around.
The Rising Star Award winner was another artist that was new to me, and it’s a performance I am still thinking about. Griff sang “Black Hole” (off her mixtape One Foot in Front of the Other, out June 11) in a literal hole in a heart on stage, complementing the lyrics to the song: “There’s a big black hole where my heart used to be.” Her pop sound is reminiscent of early Marina and The Diamonds, paired with the moodiness of Billie Eilish. The 20-year-old bounced around the stage along with her blinged-out bubble ponytail, stacked her vocals live, and ultimately made her mark on the Brits stage and my Spotify playlists.
2. Elton John and Years & Years
Elton John can do no wrong in my eyes, and this performance was not only one of the best of the night, but it was also extremely meaningful. Sir Elton’s husband, David Furnish, gave a moving introduction about the significance of the HIV/AIDs pandemic ahead of the singer joining forces with Years & Years singer, Olly Alexander for a cover of “It’s a Sin” by the Pet Shop Boys. It was glitzy, upbeat, and there were drag queens on stage, fulfilling every single one of my disco dreams. The show-stopping duet is available for streaming now, with all of the proceeds going to the Elton John Foundation.
1. Dua Lipa
The 2021 Brits simply could not have been done without Dua Lipa, the British Female Solo Artist and British Album of the Year winner. She performed the ultimate Future Nostalgia medley consisting of: “Love Again,” “Physical,” “Pretty Please,” “Hallucinate,” and “Don’t Start Now.” I just wish she would’ve been the first artist to open the show, considering how theatrical her performance was. Dua seemed to pay homage to the Spice Girls in her outfit, referencing Ginger, Posh, and Scary. It was an impressive feat accomplished by the singer and her dance troupe with intense choreography and the right attitude to start the night.