As expected, Jason Iley's Sony swept the BRITs, taking home seven out of the 11 awards announced Wednesday night in the label’s best year yet, with David Joseph's UMG tallying three. Read on for the rest, and our insider's account from the winning side of the room.

Syco group Little Mix kicked off proceedings with an explosive, quite literally, rendition of "Shout Out To My Ex." That was followed by the first surprise win from the UMG camp of the evening: Emeli Sandé for Best Female Solo Artist. It’s the second time she's won the gong. Collaborator Naughty Boy looked pleased as punch as Sandé brought her sister on stage to thank her, the label (including head Ted Cockle) and management. Later, Sandé showcased that tremendous voice with a performance of "It Hurts."

We spotted new Columbia head Ferdy Unger-Hamilton and Oasis man Noel Gallagher embroiled in conversation for most of the night, save for brief interruptions from John Niven, who documented the debauchery of the '90s in Kill Your Friends and is, surprisingly, still alive. The seating arrangement had us pondering: has Gallagher signed to Columbia? His two High Flying Birds albums have been released via indie Sour Mash. His estranged (and competitive) brother, Liam, has recently signed a major deal with Warner.

Back to the ceremony. Bruno Mars delivered a naturally funk-fueled rendition of “That’s What I Like” (Atlantic), after which came our favorite winners of the night: The 1975 (Dirty Hit/Polydor) were named Best British Group after the release of their top-notch second album, I Like It When You Sleep...

Said frontman Matt Healy: "We've had the same lineup since we were 13, for 14 years now. The reason we're here tonight is because of our album, where we tried to get back to that place we were [aged] 14 and felt alive. To have that celebrated is quite moving." Never one to shy away from making a point, Healy added: "I think in pop and broader public consciousness, you're told to stay in your lane when it comes to social issues but if you have a platform, don't do that." "The Sound" was the track they performed later on, which was backed by a huge choir and excerpts from bad reviews on screen. We'll add ours: exceptional.

Beats man Zane Lowe returned to home soil to present the late David Bowie with Male Solo Artist, garnering the first standing ovation of the night. Bowie friend and actor Michael C. Hall, accepted the gong, saying: "If Bowie could be here tonight... he probably wouldn't be here tonight! This is a testament to a man beholden to nothing but his own imagination. His daring artistic vitality soothes, sears and astounds us. His kindness, generosity and enthusiasm inspire me to be a better man."

Album of the Year also went to Bowie for Blackstar (RCA), and his son Duncan Jones, who has recently become a father himself, collected the gong with a touching speech. “I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking what I would want my son to know about his grandad. I think it would be the same thing most of my dad’s fans have taken over the last 50 years. He has always been there supporting people who think they are a little bit weird, a little bit strange, a little bit different. This award is for all the kooks and people who make the kooks.”

The next award had the Sony contingent on their feet. Already named Critics' Choice, a speechless Rag'n'Bone Man (Columbia) scored a double whammy as British Breakthrough Act. 

That was followed by a simple and touching tribute for George Michael, whose Wham! bandmates, Andrew Ridgeley, Shirlie Holliman and Pepsi De Macque, delivered teary and heartfelt speeches.

Said Pepsi: “He understood love, loss, happiness and grief, and that helped heal the wounds life inflicted on us. He lives on in his music and our hearts, and I will never forget my wonderful friend.” Coldplay man Chris Martin led an orchestra in singing “A Different Corner,” while Michael crooned on-screen. The whole audience was on its feet.

Sony scored in the fan-voted category of British Single, which gave Little Mix their first BRIT Award. Modest! Management’s Harry Magee and Richard Griffiths cheered them on while the group thanked Sony, Syco, Simon Cowell, their “amazing” A&R and management. Syco was also honoured in the Best Video category for One Direction’s “History,” which was presented by label boss Cowell who gave a shout out to video director Ben Winston.

Katy Perry earned a “that’s the way you do it” from Sony’s German contingent for her show-stopping performance of “Chained to the Rhythm” (Virgin EMI) that featured Skip Marley, and oversized caricatures of Donald Trump and Theresa May. Global Success naturally went to Adele, who told everyone to get swervy via video link.

Drake (Island) also appeared on screen to accept Best International Male (“the most important award I can possibly win”), while Beyoncé (Columbia) was rightfully honoured as International Female and A Tribe Called Quest (Sony) took their first BRIT as International Group.

British grime act Skepta gave a one-man performance of “Shutdown” (BBK via Sony’s Red), while Coldplay (Parlophone) and The Chainsmokers gave the first surprise performance of the night with a colorful collaboration on “Something Just Like This.”

Atlantic man of the moment Ed Sheeran played his two smash singles “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You,” the latter of which featured a super cool feature from indie rapper Stormzy. Sony-signed Robbie Williams—a BRITs Icon —closed the show, with a cohort of bikini-clad ladies (a rather dated concept that fell flat, we might add).

Despite that, the show was expertly produced, no doubt due in part to the ceremony’s new Chair, Jason Iley, who's well known for his sharp attention to detail.

When all was said and done, Iley was properly effusive in his official statement. “This was a truly momentous and historic night for Sony Music’s artists—and just reward for so many people’s dedication and hard work,” he said. “I would like to congratulate and pay tribute to all our artists from around the world.

“Everyone at Sony Music is proud and humbled every day to work alongside people with such exceptional creativity, drive and musicianship. I would also like to thank all the brilliant people at Sony Music, whose passion and determination has helped deliver the artists’ vision.” 


Team Lipman doubles up. (11/26a)
Season's bleatings (11/23a)
Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
Olivia, the Biebs, H.E.R., Doja Cat, Billie and Jon Batiste lead the way. (11/24a)
Stuffing (in face).

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