|British grime and hip-hop artist Stormzy collects the award for British male solo artist during the BRIT Awards 2018 ceremony and live show in London. — AFP Photo|
LONDON — Grime star Stormzy was the big winner at the Brit Awards in London on Wednesday, which included an emotional tribute from Oasis star Liam Gallagher to the victims of the Manchester terror attack.
The south London rapper, who closed out the show with a water-soaked performance, beat off competition from folk-pop phenomenon Ed Sheeran to win the best male solo award and best album for Gang Signs & Prayer.
"My mum and all my family are here, we done it!" he said on picking up his second award.
Rising British star Dua Lipa also claimed two awards for best female solo artist and best breakthrough artist, as Sheeran had an unexpectedly disappointing night.
US singer Ariana Grande was set to perform in honour of the 22 victims who died in a May terror attack at her Manchester show, but was forced to pull out due to illness.
Manchester rock icon Gallagher instead stepped in, performing a stirring rendition of Oasis classic Live Forever, with the cavernous O2 Arena lit up by thousands of mobile phone torches.
Kendrick Lamar was named best international male artist, receiving his award from football star Harry Kane, while Foo Fighters won the best international group category.
The US rapper later performed live, standing on top of a huge box containing a sports car, which was smashed to pieces as the song went on.
White roses in solidarity
The Brits have often been a magnet for controversy — Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker invaded a performance by Michael Jackson in 1996 and then-deputy prime minister John Prescott was doused by a bucket of ice water in 1998.
The stars were on their best behaviour this year, although Gorillaz frontman Damon Alban was cut off short when it appeared he was about to wax political during his acceptance speech for best British group.
"This country is a lovely place, its part of a beautiful world, but don’t let it become isolated," he said.
But the entire ceremony had a political edge, with many stars wearing badges of small white roses to highlight sexual harassment in the industry and show solidarity with its victims.
"I think it’s brilliant that it’s come to the fore now," said Paloma Faith, who arrived holding real white roses.
"But I just think I’ve not met a single woman in my entire life that hasn’t experienced some kind of sexism or sexual harassment of any kind."
Singer-guitarist Sheeran, 27, was awarded the "global success" award, given to him by Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood who praised his talent and his ability to keep "his feet on the ground".
His latest album Divide has smashed many records, including on streaming App Spotify, where it received 57 million listens on the day of its release.
Dua Lipa, 22, is the latest artist to break through on YouTube, and her single New Rules has surpassed one billion views on the video-sharing platform.
Born in London to Kosovo-Albanian parents, she tried modelling as a teenager before launching her musical career with a series of covers.
Her eponymous debut album, released in mid-2017, received rave reviews, with influential magazine NME praising her voice and a sound mature beyond her years.
"Thank you for starting my night off so magically," she said as she picked up the award from Australian pop royalty Kylie Minogue.
When she was named British breakthrough act, she took her younger sister and brother on stage with her, declaring: "I told them to believe in magic because it’s real."
The Brit Awards have recognised the cream of British pop music since they were first held in 1977, but in recent years have been criticised for failing to be bold. — AFP