LONDON (AP) — Pop-rockers The 1975, DJ Calvin Harris and singer-songwriter Dua Lipa won major prizes at the U.K. music industry’s Brit Awards on Wednesday during a slick, surprise-free ceremony that set out to celebrate female talent after past allegations of neglect.
Manchester quartet The 1975 was named best British group and also took British album of the year for “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.”
Harris was named producer of the year, while his U.K. chart-topping collaboration with Lipa, “One Kiss,” was declared best British single.
Women dominated this year’s nominations — outnumbering men for only the second time in the Brits’ four-decade history — after past criticism that the Brits have failed to reflect the diversity of British music.
Lipa — who won two Grammy awards earlier this month — and singer-songwriter Anne-Marie started the night with a field-leading four nominations each. Lipa received one award while Anne-Marie went home empty-handed.
Singer Paloma Faith, who slammed the dearth of female performers at last year’s Brits ceremony, said she was glad to see a better gender balance represented this time around.
“I know I made quite a lot of people uncomfortable saying that, but now it’s been rectified, so I don’t care,” she said.
This year’s show included performances by female acts including Lipa, soulful singer Jorja Smith, Jess Glynne, girl group Little Mix and Pink.
Amid the blossoming of the “Me Too” movement, many attendees wore white roses to the 2018 show to symbolize the fight against sexual harassment, discrimination and assault. The number of women nominated and performing this year was a sign of the U.K. music industry’s desire to change.
But the issue still cast a shadow. The 1975 singer Matty Healy used his best British band acceptance speech to quote music journalist Laura Snapes, who has written that women who call out male musicians’ misogyny are treated as “hysterics who don’t understand art.”
Snapes made the observation in 2015 and used it again this week after several women accused American singer-songwriter Ryan Adams of sexual misconduct.
Healy’s speech was as edgy as things got.
The ceremony opened with a high-voltage performance from “The Greatest Showman” star Hugh Jackman. A silver-spangled Jackman and dozens of dancers performed the title song from the hit movie musical to kick off the awards show at London’s O2 Arena.
The studiously inoffensive tone of the speeches was set by singer-songwriter George Ezra, who took the prize for British male solo artist.
“There’s a load of people I have to thank,” he said, then added: “I’m not going to name anybody” in case he forgot someone.
The ceremony’s’ host, comedian Jack Whitehall, poked fun at Ezra’s nice-guy image, dubbing him “the Prius of pop” — dull and reliable.
Jorja Smith was named female British artist of the year. The British breakthrough act award went to singer-songwriter Tom Walker, who gave a shout out “to my Gran who’s watching somewhere on telly!”
The event was a cozily U.K.-centric affair, with few of the nominated international acts in attendance. International group winner The Carters — husband-and-wife duo Beyonce and Jay Z — sent a video message recorded in front of a portrait of Meghan, Duchess of Cambridge wearing a crown.
Drake, the international male victor, and international female winner Ariana Grande also sent thanks by video.
Most winners at the Brits are chosen by a ballot of music-industry members. Several are selected by public vote, including video of the year, which Little Mix won for “Woman Like Me.”
Other performers included The 1975 and an ad hoc British supergroup featuring Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Dua Lipa, Sam Smith and Calvin Harris.
Pink received the award for outstanding contribution to music.
“It’s been an awesome 20 years. Here’s to 20 more,” said the American singer-songwriter.
Pink closed the show with a performance of several of her best-known songs, including “Just Give Me a Reason” and the protest anthem “What About Us?” — ending with a defiant raised-fist gesture.
By JILL LAWLESS ,Associated Press