Brit Awards 2016: Adele sweeps the board with four awards on poignant return to O2 Arena

Brits organisers admit action is needed to inject greater diversity into music industry showcase as black artists miss out

Adam Sherwin
Media Correspondent
Wednesday 24 February 2016 23:18
Adele makes her way to the stage to collect one of her four awards
Adele makes her way to the stage to collect one of her four awards

Adele was crowned queen of the Brits after sweeping the board with four awards on a night which demonstrated that guitar-based indie rock is not dead.

With regular visits to the winners’ podium and a live performance, Adele was the undoubted star of the O2 Arena show, despite spectacular performances from Rihanna and an “understated” tribute to David Bowie, featuring the late star’s touring band.

However the Brit Awards organisers admitted that radical action is needed to inject greater diversity into the music industry showcase, which gave awards to Coldplay, James Bay and Justin Bieber but failed to recognise any black artists in its major categories.

Among the surprises was a resurgence in indie-rock with Catfish and the Bottlemen, the Welsh band led by Van McCann, which has built a devoted following through relentless gigging, winning in the Breakthrough category. The group, a festivals favourite, beat pop chart-topper Jess Glynne and James Bay in a public vote.

Tame Impala, the Australian psychedelic rock band which incorporated electro and R&B influences into its latest album Lonerism, took the International Group prize, beating Eagles of Death Metal, the band targeted in the Paris terrorist shootings.

Coldplay became the most successful band in Brits history, taking their career wins to nine when the quartet accepted the British Group award which they first won in 2001.

However night belonged to Adele, whose long-awaited 25 album, which has sold 15m copies worldwide since its November release, was judged the year’s best.

There was no posthumous British Female award for Amy Winehouse, with Adele triumphing in that category and taking Best Single for "Hello", the trembling ballad which announced her return.

The Global Success award, given to the UK artist who has racked up the most international sales, was a walkover – 25 has sold 8m copies in the US alone.

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For the 27 year-old, it was a poignant return to the O2 Arena. It was Adele’s emotional performance of Someone Like You at the 2011 Brit Awards which propelled the singer to international chart dominance.

Hailed as the saviour of a struggling recorded music industry, Adele’s haul was a victory for her independent record label - XL Recordings. Her decision to withhold 25 from streaming platforms, seen as the future of the business, appeared to have maximised sales.

No artist had taken four Brits in one night since Blur at the height of Britpop in 1995.

Last year’s Critics’ Choice winner James Bay graduated to Best Male following the platinum-selling success of the singer-songwriter’s debut album Chaos and the Calm. Bay sought to dampen a Twitter row with Lily Allen, who complained that the awards were “blind to black talent” with grime artists like Skepta and Stormzy ignored.

A hashtag #BritsSoWhite, an echo of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, emerged on Twitter and soul singer Laura Mvula decline to attend the event, saying the mainstream music industry failed to reflect the aspirations of young, black artists.

Lighting it up: Justin Bieber performs on stage during the ceremony (Getty)

A win for Justin Bieber in the International Male category, over Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, did little to stem the protests.

However Bieber’s win confirmed that the Canadian former child star has been critically rehabilitated following the release of his Purpose album, featuring collaborations with dubstep producers Diplo and Skrillex. Bieber’s singles have taken root at the top of the charts and he appears to have tamed his reputation for boorish behaviour.

Bjork won best International Female for the fourth time following a traumatic year for the Icelandic singer, who poured the emotional upheaval from her breakup with artist Matthew Barney into a highly personal album, Vulnicura.

Max Lousada, Brit awards chairman, had promised that the Bowie tribute would be “respectful and understated.” It was “too soon to have a full celebration of his life,” said Lousada.

Bowie’s farewell album Blackstar will be eligible for next year’s awards. The singer was represented by his friend Kate Moss when he won at the 2014 awards.

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