Brit Awards 2023: 32 Moments That Defined The Brits
On-stage blunders, political statements and shocking celebrity feuds, the Brit Awards stage has seen them all over the last 40 years.
The Brits are famously the most chaotic awards shows going, and while the impression seems to be that they’ve become more tame in recent years, that doesn’t mean the last few years have been without their own jaw-dropping moments.
We’ve rounded up the good, the bad and, indeed, the ugly for you, and hand-picked 30 of the most memorable Brit Awards moments ever...
Adele proves why you don’t rush a superstar (2013)
Best British Album is the category every UK artist wants to win at the Brits, so it’s understandable that Adele would want to soak up the moment when 21 was given the accolade.
Sadly for host James Corden, it looked as though her acceptance speech was going to overlap with Blur’s performance back in 2012, and as he tried to hurry her along, the frustrated singer wound up flipping the bird before leaving the stage.
Michael Jackson gets an uninvited guest during his performance (1996)
Michael Jackson performed at the Brits just once in his lifetime, and given what happened in 1996, it’s hardly a surprise he decided never to come back.
While the singer was performing Earth Song, Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker stormed the stage and pointed his bum at MJ, before being removed by security. He later claimed he’d been upset by the pop icon’s choice to make himself appear Christ-like during the performance.
After the show, Jarvis was arrested – and subsequently released without charge – as he was accused of hurting three of the children on stage. Drama!
Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood host the show (1989)
It’s now been more than 30 years since this happened, and we’re still puzzled as to exactly who thought that teaming up two completely unrelated non-presenters to front one of Britain’s biggest live TV events was a good idea.
The excruciating evening was dogged with guest mix-ups, autocue fails and jokes that went down like lead balloons. So all in all, not a great night. That being said,it is still being talked about, which surely counts for something, right?
Robbie Williams vs. Liam Gallagher (2000)
Our favourite part of this video is right at the end, when the late Caroline Aherne muses that her “money would be on Liam”...
Mrs Merton delivers her incredible Brits one-liner (1997)
Speaking of Caroline Aherne, she was on hand to present Best British Single as her Mrs Merton alter-ego back in 1997, and delivered a truly iconic one-liner.
After ribbing presenter Ben Elton, she then declared: “Charlie, wherever you are, can you make yourself known? They’re all asking for you backstage. In the toilets, it’s Charlie, Charlie, Charlie... you’d think they’d have enough to do with being pop stars.”
“So that’s lovely,” she added. Brilliant stuff.
Wait, what is Tony Blair doing at the Brit Awards? (1996)
In a move that seems stranger with every year that passes, David Bowie chose the then-leader of the opposition Tony Blair to welcome him to the stage, when he was awarded the Outstanding Contribution title in 1996.
Cat Deeley declares: ‘Rock is back!’ (2004)
Largely inspired by the success of The Darkness, Cat Deeley opened the Brits in 2004 with a bold declaration about the return of rock music and how Brits bosses had lifted the alcohol ban in place for the previous few years (hence the champagne bottle).
However, the night was hardly a rock-heavy occasion, with performers on the night including 50 Cent, Missy Elliott and... Dido.
Little Mix make history with their Best British Group win (2021)
After 10 years in the industry, Little Mix finally bagged their first win in the Best British Group category, becoming the first ever girl group to achieve the accolade.
Celebrating their win, the band – two of whom were pregnant at the time – gave a shout-out to the groups who paved the way for them, including the Spice Girls, All Saints and Girls Aloud. They also paid tribute to former bandmate Jesy Nelson, who had quit Little Mix six months earlier.
And speaking of long overdue girl band wins (2009)
We all know this moment really belonged to the late, great Sarah Harding, who summed up Girls Aloud fans everywhere’s feelings when she declared: “It’s about time!”
Kanye West keeps the Brit Awards censors busy for five minutes (2015)
At the 2015 Brits, Kanye West took the opportunity to debut a new track, All Day.
Unfortunately for viewers at home, most of it was muted completely by ITV’s censors due to Ye’s repeated use of the N-word (though the censorship didn’t stop some viewers from complaining regardless).
But Ye isn’t the only one who forced producers to cut the sound (2020/2021)
It’s actually become something of an annual Brits tradition for the sound to mysteriously cut whenever Lewis Capaldi has something to say on stage.
Accepting his first ever Brit with a Red Stripe in his hand in 2020, censors had to act fast in the middle of Lewis’ acceptance speech, when he declared: “Thank you very fucking much.”
The following year, Lewis returned to the Brits, only for the exact same thing to end up happening.
Geri Halliwell’s dress becomes immediately iconic (1997)
The legend goes that Geri Halliwell and her sister made her infamous Union Jack dress with a tea-towel, adding a peace sign on the back so as not to offend anyone.
Years later, the iconic garment went on to sell for a record-breaking £41,320 at an auction.
Lizzo meets Marvin Humes (2019)
Let’s be honest, sometimes red carpet coverage of the Brit Awards can verge on being a little dry. More often than not, the stars are on their best behaviour, saving their more raucous antics for the infamous after-parties.
So we were glad when Lizzo made her Brits debut in 2019 (right before her mainstream breakthrough), chatting candidly backstage to Marvin Humes, which ended in the truly iconic line: “From his lips to my p***y.”
Lizzo and Harry Styles really get into the chaotic swing of things (2020)
You can always rely on Lizzo to bring the party.
Neither she nor Harry Styles even took home awards in 2020, but they were still the true winners on the night thanks to this chaotic – and tequila-assisted – scene.
Little Mix really felt like celebrating after winning their first ever Brit Award (2017)
It’s hard to choose a favourite moment of this compilation, just watch and enjoy.
Stormzy calls out Theresa May during his performance (2018)
By the end of the 2018 ceremony, the night already belonged to Stormzy, who had picked up Best British Male as well as the top award of the night, Best British Album.
It was fitting, then, that he should also close the show, putting on an elaborate performance of Blinded By Your Grace, pt. 2. It was what came next that grabbed headlines, though, as he launched into a freestyle rap calling out Theresa May’s government for their reaction to the Grenfell tragedy, as well as highlighting injustice and institutional racism.
As if that wasn’t enough, off came the t-shirt and on came the rain, for an energetic run of Big For Your Boots. Incredible stuff, which even won praise from then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
And Stormzy’s not the only one to call out the government at the Brits (2021)
After her second Best British Female win in 2021 – the first Brits to take place after the pandemic – Dua Lipa announced she’d be sharing her win with nurse Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, the emeritus professor of nursing at the University of West London.
Turning her attention to the many frontline workers in attendance on the night, Dua said: “It’s all very good to clap for them but we need to pay them.
“I think what we should do is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give Boris [Johnson, who was then prime minister] a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our front line.”
Joss Stone raises eyebrows with her comedy routine... and accent (2007)
Admittedly, Joss Stone had been off the scene for a little while by the time she hit the stage to present Best British Male at the 2007 Brits, but last time we checked, she was from Devon, not the East Coast of America?
The singer created a stir not just for her accent, but also her “tribute” to Robbie Williams, as well as her joke about Russell Brand’s past rehab stint.
Sharon Osbourne vs. Vic Reeves (2008)
Despite being blasted as a “pisshead” and a “drunk bastard”, Vic later insisted he hadn’t been drinking.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Arctic Monkeys went on to hit out at the Brits school in their acceptance speech immediately afterwards, though this was cut from the final broadcast.
Peter Kay vs. Liam Gallagher (2010)
Britain’s favourite stand-up comedian Peter Kay might seem like an unlikely choice to host the Brits, but he actually wound up being responsible for one of the ceremony’s most rock ‘n’ roll moments of the 21st century.
When Liam Gallagher defiantly threw his Brit into the crowd – having already snubbed brother Noel in his acceptance speech – the Phoenix Nights star put him down with a simple “what a knobhead”.
Not the wittiest of lines, admittedly, but effective all the same.
John Prescott gets a soaking (1998)
Proving that politics and pop aren’t always the best companions, when then Labour Cabinet Minister attended the 1998 bash, Tubthumping rock band Chumbawamba thought they’d let him know exactly how they felt about him getting an invite by throwing a bucket of iced water over the MP.
Despite the fact the record label apologised, the band were unrepentant, saying: “If John Prescott has the nerve to turn up at events like the Brit Awards in a vain attempt to make Labour seem cool and trendy, then he deserves all we can throw at him.”
Alex Turner gets some stuff off his chest (2014)
This ended in him telling Brits bosses, “invoice me for the microphone,” before dropping it on the floor and walking off.
Rock and, indeed, roll.
Belle And Sebastian’s win confuses everyone (1999)
First off, underdogs Belle and Sebastian had released a total of three albums when they were announced as the winners of Best British Newcomer in 1999, beating actual newcomers Steps, who had been heavily tipped for the award.
Their confusing victory led the national press to accuse them of rigging the vote in their favour by encouraging university students to vote online (which was still a fairly radical idea in 1999), though they insisted at the time this was not the case.
Brandon Block vs. Ronnie Wood (2000)
That same year Robbie took on Liam Gallagher, Ronnie Wood was presenting Best Soundtrack when suddenly he was interrupted by confused DJ (and future Celebrity Big Brother walker) Brandon Block, who had been jokingly informed by his friends that he’d won an award.
After Ronnie called him a “c***” for interrupting, the two squared up, drinks were thrown and security were called.
It was all super awks, to be honest.
The Brits face a backlash after failing to recognise any women in the Best Artist category (2023)
The Best British Artist category was introduced in 2022, replacing the gendered Best British Male and Best British Female categories in a move towards inclusivity.
While its inaugural outing saw Adele taking home the award, its second year raised eyebrows after not a single woman was nominated.
Brits organisers later issued a statement saying: “We acknowledge and share in the disappointment that, unlike last year, no women are represented in the [Artist Of The Year] shortlist.
“There may be a number of reasons for this, but a key factor is that, unfortunately, there were relatively few commercially successful releases by women in 2022 compared to those by men, which means that, of the 71 eligible artists on the longlist, only 12 (17%) are women.
“We recognise this points to wider issues around the representation of women in music that must also be addressed.”
Russell Brand divides viewers (2007)
He was always going to be a controversial choice, but Russell Brand’s jokes about the war in Iraq and the queen’s (his words) “naughty bits” definitely weren’t for everyone, sparking more than 300 Ofcom complaints.
It didn’t exactly hurt his career, though, and a year later he was brought in to host the MTV VMAs, which he did for two consecutive years, launching his profile in the States.
Sadie Pinn crashes Ant and Dec’s presenting spot (2016)
Despite the model’s sudden appearance – and her eye-catching outfit – the boys barely broke a sweat. Such pros.
Harry Styles almost misses One Direction’s Global Success Award (2014)
In 2013, the Brits faced a backlash for the introduction of the Global Success award, which some suggested was just a ploy to give One Direction a prize on the night.
A year later, they won in the same category for a second time, though most of their acceptance speech was conducted as a four-piece, as Harry Styles was preoccupied in the lavatory at the time.
Björk’s acceptance speech is pure Björk (1998)
After being swung around by Alexander McQueen, Best International Female winner Björk told the crowd: “I am... grate...ful... grape... fruit.”
Andy Bell makes a subtle protest (1989)
After Erasure won Best British Group, frontman Andy Bell kissed presenter Boy George on the cheek, a subtle move by today’s standards, but one that he claimed was a deliberate action against Section 28, which had been introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government the previous year.
Jack Whitehall reminds us what the Brits should be about (2018)
In the 2010s, the Brit Awards played it safe with its hosts, which ranged from James Corden to Ant and Dec, finally ending up with Dermot O’Leary and Emma Willis.
We’ll admit we didn’t exactly have high hopes when Jack Whitehall was announced, but after a decade of chumminess, it was so refreshing to have a host who would poke fun at the famous nominees, while successfully managing not to cross the line into nastiness.
Madonna falls down some stairs and promptly picks herself back up again (2015)
After being accidentally pulled down some steps due to a cape-related wardrobe malfunction, the whole nation held its collective breath as Madonna dusted herself off and, in the words of her song Living For Love, “picked up my crown, put it back on my head” and “carried on”.