David Bowie wins two posthumous Brit Awards, Katy Perry dances with Trump-like skeleton

US actor Michael C Hall talks as he collects the award for British male solo artist on behalf of late British pop icon David Bowie during the BRIT Awards 2017 ceremony and live show.
US actor Michael C Hall talks as he collects the award for British male solo artist on behalf of late British pop icon David Bowie during the BRIT Awards 2017 ceremony and live show.PHOTO: AFP

(NYTimes) - With Adele and Beyoncé relegated to smaller roles, David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, took home the highest honour at this year's Brit Awards on Wednesday (Feb 22) for British Album Of The Year.

Film-maker Duncan Jones, the late musician's son, accepted the trophy and dedicated it to "all the kooks and all the people who make the kooks". Bowie, he said, had "always been there supporting people who think they're a little bit weird".

Adele's most recent album, 25, which swept the Grammys this month, won the same Brit last year, while Beyoncé, the most nominated artist at this year's Grammys, was only up for International Female Solo Artist on this night. (She won but did not attend the ceremony or provide a video message accepting the honour like her international male counterpart, Drake.)

The absence of such pop titans allowed the Brits, Britain's top pop music prize, to focus more on smaller, more localised acts, such as pop group Little Mix (which won British Single for Shout Out To My Ex, which they also performed) and singer Rag'n'Bone Man (who took home the British Breakthrough Act award). Scottish singer Emeli Sandé won best British Female Solo Artist, and electro-pop stars The 1975 won British Group, beating Radiohead, who have oddly never won a Brit Award.

"People in pop are told to stay in their lane when it comes to social issues," Matt Healy, The 1975's singer, said in his acceptance speech. "But if you have a platform, don't do that."

The show, which was streamed live on YouTube, leaned heavier on big names for its performances. Katy Perry reprised her new single, Chained To The Rhythm, for a performance that was less outwardly political than her version at the Grammys, although some viewers interpreted the two besuited dancing skeletons on stage as representations of United States President Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May. (One of her dancing houses tumbled off the stage, recalling a Brit Awards moment from 2015 when Madonna was yanked off a platform.)

Bruno Mars echoed his own Grammys performance of That's What I Like. Ed Sheeran, another recent Grammys performer, added a decidedly British twist to his single, Shape Of You, when he welcomed grime rapper Stormzy to the stage to add a surprise verse. Skepta, another grime star who won Britain's 2016 Mercury Prize for his album Konnichiwa, also performed. (The Brits faced a controversy over diversity last year, after no artists of colour won awards; organisers added more than 700 new voters in response.)

Chris Martin of Coldplay did double duty onstage, first anchoring an emotional tribute to George Michael that featured a teary introduction from Michael's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley and pop duo Pepsi & Shirlie. After singing Michael's A Different Corner, Martin then returned with his band and DJ duo The Chainsmokers, debuting their collaborative new single, Something Just Like This.

But the night belonged to Bowie, in absentia. In addition to the album prize, he won best British Male Solo Artist, which was accepted by actor Michael C. Hall, who starred in the Bowie musical Lazarus.

"If David could be here tonight, he probably wouldn't be here tonight," Hall joked, calling Bowie "a man beholden to nothing but his own boundless imagination".