Brit Awards 2021: Dua Lipa and Little Mix the big winners as Taylor Swift makes surprise appearance

Female acts have dominated this year’s Brit Awards, with Little Mix and Dua Lipa among the big winners and Taylor Swift making a surprise appearance – at a ceremony which saw artists calling out sexism and a lack of diversity in the music industry.

Many winners at the show – the UK’s first major indoor live music event in more than a year, held without masks and social distancing as part of a COVID-19 test scheme – also paid tribute to key workers in their acceptance speeches, with Lipa calling on Boris Johnson to improve pay.

For Little Mix, the night was history making, as they became the first female band in 41 years of the Brits to win the best group award.

Little Mix accept the award for Best British Group during the Brit Awards 2021 at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.
Little Mix made history with their best group gong
Taylor Swift was named global icon at this year's Brits
US star Taylor Swift was named global icon and appeared in person to collect her prize

Lipa was named best female solo artist and also won best album for Future Nostalgia, while sibling trio Haim were named best international group and Arlo Parks picked up the breakthrough prize.

And rather than appearing virtually, US superstar Taylor Swift took to the stage in person to collect her previously announced global icon award.

The event, which featured an audience of 4,000 people – including 2,500 key workers – marked the return of live music to London’s O2 Arena after 14 months.

In their speech, Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall paid tribute to the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud, saying they could not believe the award had never gone to a female band before.

“Guys, we’ve just made history! I’m emotional,” Edwards said.

“It’s not easy being a female in the UK pop industry,” Pinnock added. “We have seen white male dominance, misogyny, sexism and lack of diversity.

“We are proud of how we have stuck together, stood our ground and surrounded ourselves with strong women and are now using our voices more than ever.”

Arlo Parks performs during the Brit Awards 2021 at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.
Arlo Parks was named best breakthrough artist, while Haim (below) won the best international group prize

Haim accept the award for International Group during the Brit Awards 2021 at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 11, 2021.

Collecting her first award of the night, for best female solo artist, Lipa called for a pay rise for NHS staff in her acceptance speech – saying it is “very good to clap for them but we need to pay them”.

The star added: “I think what we should do is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give Boris a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our front line.”

Lipa also said she was “so proud” to see more women being recognised at this year’s ceremony.

Swift’s award, which had been announced before the show, celebrated the star’s “immense impact on music across the world and incredible repertoire and achievements to date”.

Accepting the gong on stage, Swift said she was “really, really proud to be part of this musical community, especially in a year when we all needed music so much”.

She continued: “But what we needed even more was the help and support that we got from the NHS and the key workers who are here tonight. Thank you for everything that you have done for us.”

Performers on the night included Lipa, who started with a clip of her boarding a Tube train to travel to the O2 Arena before she appeared on stage, wearing a Union Flag miniskirt as she sang, and Coldplay, who opened the show from a pontoon in the Thames.

Dua Lipa (centre right) performs during the Brit Awards 2021 at the O2 Arena, London
Lipa and Coldplay (below) were among the performers
Coldplay opened the Brit Awards

But it was rapper Headie One who delivered the night’s most political performance, with a rendition of his hit Ain’t It Different alongside fellow Brit nominee AJ Tracey, including a new verse taking aim at the government over free school meals and challenging the negative public perception of drill music.

Olly Alexander also teamed up with Elton John to perform a spine-tingling rendition of the Pet Shop Boys’ 1980s hit It’s A Sin, inspired by the Channel 4 TV series of the same name. Alexander starred in the show, which told the story of a group of friends living in London as the AIDS crisis hit.

Other Brits winners included Harry Styles, whose hit Watermelon Sugar was named best single, and J Hus, who was named best male solo artist, while Billie Eilish and The Weeknd picked up the best international female and male solo artist prizes respectively.

Olly Alexander performed It's A Sin with Elton John
Olly Alexander performed It’s A Sin with Elton John
Harry Styles at the Brit Awards 2021
Harry Styles was among the winners paying tribute to NHS workers

Here is the full list of winners and nominees:

Female Solo Artist – Dua Lipa

Arlo Parks
Jessie Ware
Lianne La Havas

Male Solo Artist – J Hus
AJ Tracey
Headie One
Joel Corry

British Group – Little Mix
Biffy Clyro
The 1975
Young T & Bugsey

Breakthrough Artist – Arlo Parks
Joel Corry
Young T & Bugsey

Best Album – Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams
Celeste – Not Your Muse
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?

Best British Single – Harry Styles, Watermelon Sugar
220 Kid & Gracey – Don’t Need Your Love
Aitch & AJ Tracey ft Tay Kieth – Rain
Dua Lipa – Physical
Headie One ft AJ Tracey & Stormzy – Aint It Different
Joel Corry ft MNEK – Head & Heart
Nathan Dawe ft KSI – Lighter
Regard & Raye – Secrets
S1mba ft DTG – Rover
Young T & Bugsey ft Headie One – Don’t Rush

International Female Solo Artist – Billie Eilish
Ariana Grande
Cardi B
Miley Cyrus
Taylor Swift

International Male Solo Artist – The Weeknd
Bruce Springsteen
Burna Boy
Childish Gambino
Tame Impala

International Group – Haim
Fontaines DC
Foo Fighters
Run The Jewels

BRITs Rising Star – Griff
Pa Salieu
Rina Sawayama

Global Icon – Taylor Swift

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