The BRIT Awards have never been about predictability. Throughout its 45-year history, the annual ceremony has delivered plenty of wild surprises – onstage mishaps, powerful speeches and many astonishing performances among them.
With the 2021 ceremony fast approaching (May 11), we take a look back at some of the most legendary, emotional, and downright outrageous moments from over the years.
10Madonna takes an on-stage tumble
In 2015, Madonna stacked it on stage during her performance of ‘Rebel Heart’ track, ‘Living For Love’. Thankfully, she escaped unscathed but the incident was certainly comical; in an unforgettable wardrobe malfunction, the singer fell backwards as a dancer was trying to remove a bedazzled cape off her back. Luckily, the Queen of Pop’s troupe helped to scoop her up – and, like a true pro, she just kept on singing.
9Este Haim as the ‘mystery drunk woman’
For one night only, HAIM‘s Este came to be known to some BRITs viewers across social media – who were unaware of her band – as ‘mystery drunk woman’. During an awkward on-camera interview with ex-One Direction member Liam Payne and his then-fiancée – popstar Cheryl – the bassist could be seen in the background, applying lip gloss slowly. She then proceeded to wave at the camera and mouth, “Call me”, with a few cheeky winks for good measure.
8Lorde pays tribute to the late David Bowie
Backed by David Bowie’s actual live band, Lorde took on an insurmountable task at the 2016 BRITs: she dressed as the Thin White Duke and took on one of his all-time greatest songs, ‘Life On Mars’. Bowie, who passed away in January that year, was known to have been a mentor to the New Zealand artist, having described her as “the future of music” when the pair first met in 2013. This was a deeply moving tribute – and a masterful one at that.
7Stormzy calls out Theresa May
One of the most groundbreaking moments at the BRITs by far was when Stormzy took to the stage in 2018, and delivered a mashup of hit singles ‘Blinded By Your Grace Pt.2’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’. The Croydon MC wrapped up his performance with an incendiary freestyle, that saw him righteously take shots at the prime minister: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell [Tower],” he rapped. “You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages.” Right on.
6The 1975 smoke spliffs underneath their table
The 1975 were a right bunch of rascals at the 2017 BRITs. While the ceremony was ongoing, bassist Ross MacDonald uploaded a clip of bandmates Matty Healy and George Daniel crouching underneath a table and smoking to Instagram. In the video, Healy can be seen pushing the camera away, before it pans around to the stage. Luckily, the boys got away with it: they went on to pick up two awards later that evening, including Best British Group.
5Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson’s joy-filled ‘Valerie’ rendition
On the night of the 2008 BRIT Awards, Amy Winehouse’s appearance was listed as ‘TBA’. Prior to the big night, the late singer-songwriter’s personal life threatened to overshadow her talent; in recent months, the tabloid coverage of her addiction issues, alongside her former husband’s imprisonment, had become relentless. But this upbeat rendition of ‘Valerie’ with Mark Ronson was loose, lighthearted and utterly joyful, and Winehouse was rewarded with the loudest applause of the evening.
4Jarvis Cocker vs Michael Jackson
This controversial, yet defining Britpop moment came courtesy of Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, who gatecrashed Michael Jackson’s 1996 BRIT Awards performance. In a display of irreverence, Cocker leaped onto the stage and seconds later, turned away from the crowd and waggled his bare arse on live TV. In a statement released the following day, Cocker said: “My actions were a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing.”
3Alex Turner’s killer mic drop speech
“That rock ‘n’roll, eh?”, began Alex Turner’s now-infamous acceptance speech. “That rock’n’roll, it just won’t go away…” When Arctic Monkeys hit the stage to receive their second award of the night at the 2014 ceremony, no one could have anticipated that such a polarising moment would follow. After unloading a pointed diatribe against the music industry, Turner invited the BRITs to “invoice [me] for the microphone if you need to ,” before dropping his mic to the ground. Iconic.
2Adele’s career-defining performance of ‘Someone Like You’
Adele drew everyone in attendance at London’s O2 Arena (and millions of viewers at home) to tears with her earth-shattering rendition of ‘Someone Like You’. Following the performance, for which she was accompanied by just a pianist, the ballad shot 46 spots up the UK Singles charts and became the London-born vocalist’s first number one hit. It was later reported that within an hour of the show’s broadcast, sales of Adele’s second album, ’21’, experienced a sales surge of 890% on Amazon.
1Geri Halliwell debuts iconic Union Jack dress
Spice Girls’ triumphant live performance at the 1997 BRIT Awards went down in history for multiple reasons. Supercharged renditions of mega-hits ‘Wannabe’ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ demonstrated why Spicemania was then at its peak, but it was Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress that truly stole the show. Made from an old tea towel, the number sold for £41,320 in auction a year later. Girl Power indeed.
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