David Bowie posthumously won two Brit Awards on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) in an emotional London ceremony which also saw tributes paid to the late George Michael.
Superstar Bowie won both the categories he was nominated for, picking up awards for British male solo artist and best album for Blackstar at the ceremony in London’s O2 Arena.
Becoming the first artist to win posthumously at the Brit Awards, he beat Mercury Prize winner Skepta and Michael Kiwanuka to the two awards among other nominees.
Accepting the best album award on behalf of his late father, film director Duncan Jones dedicated it to “all the kooks” and spoke of Bowie’s support of unusual people.
Scottish artist Emeli Sande, who also performed at the arena, was named British female solo artist.
Nearly five years after shooting to fame with performances at the 2012 London Olympics, she scooped the prize ahead of Anohni, Ellie Goulding, Lianne La Havas, and Nao.
The British group statuette went to The 1975, a quartet from Manchester, northwest England, who swept aside Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Bastille and Little Mix.
George Michael remembered
The ceremony was tinged with sadness as stars paid tribute to Wham! singer Michael, who died on Christmas Day last year aged 53.
His former bandmate Andrew Ridgeley gave a moving tribute, alongside pop duo Pepsi & Shirlie, which was followed by a performance of Michael’s “A Different Corner” by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
Leonard Cohen, who died in November aged 82, and Prince whose death at 57 last year shocked the music world, both featured in a video of people in the industry who died during 2016.
Coldplay lost out in the British single category, which went to Little Mix for their catchy “Shout Out To My Ex”. The win was the first Brit award for the four-strong female group, whose performance opened the night.
The British breakthrough act award went to singer-songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man, beating hopefuls Anne-Marie, Blossoms, Skepta and Stormzy.
One Direction won the British artist video of the year for “History”, winning against a lengthy list of nominees including Adele—who was given a global success award during the ceremony.
Diversity among nominees
This year’s Brit Awards had sought to give greater recognition to minority artists after a backlash last year, prompting a shake-up of the judging panel and many more black nominees.
Drake won the international male solo artist category, seeing off nominees Bon Iver, Bruno Mars, Leonard Cohen and The Weeknd.
The world’s top-selling artist last year, Drake won two Grammys earlier this month and complained he had been pigeonholed as a rapper because he is black.
Beyonce claimed the title of international female solo artist—up against Christine And The Queens, Rihanna, Sia and Solange— following disappointment at the Grammys where she won just two of nine nominations.
Hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest were named best international group, beating Drake & Future, Kings Of Leon, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and Twenty One Pilots.
But hopes of a breakthrough across the board were dashed by Bowie, who beat four nominees from a non-white background in the male solo artist category.
Ahead of the awards ceremony Skepta praised the greater diversity among the nominees, having criticised the Brits last year.
“But this year it’s all incredible man, it’s all good things,” he told BBC television.
Brit Awards chairman Jason Iley wrote in The Times on Wednesday that “from pop to indie, grime to rock, the nominations represent a fantastic varied roll call of talent and a showcase for what’s happening in music right now”.
The ceremony ended with a performance by Robbie Williams, whose career was recognised with the icon award.
The British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who died in March, designed the new statuettes that were received by this year’s winners.
The British music industry contributed £4.1 billion ($5.1 billion, 4.8 billion euros) to the UK economy in 2015, and British artists accounted for one of every six albums purchased worldwide.