By Daniel Welsh
Over the years, the
Brit Awards have seen some of the biggest stars from the world of music put on show-stopping performances that have had us all talking the next day.
And while we’re not exactly opposed to an outrageous on-stage outburst or cringe-worthy awards show fail, the Brits are often when an artist is able to create a true water-cooler moment by really nailing a performance.
With countless memorable performances to pick from, these are the ones that have stood the test of time…
Elton John and RuPaul – ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ (1994)
Yes, as well as hosting the Brit Awards together in 1994 (something we forget all too often) the duo also lip-synced for their life to a disco-tastic mix of Elton and Kiki Dee’s famous duet.
Arguably the birth of the “lip sync for your life”.
Take That – I Want To Hold Your Hand/A Hard Day’s Night/She Loves You (1994)
For their first ever Brit Awards performance, Take That paid homage to The Beatles.
At this point still on the come-up, the boyband threw it right back to the swinging sixties, performing three of The Beatles’ early hits while dressed in replicas of the Fab Four’s iconic blue suits.
Björk and PJ Harvey – ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ (1994)
While there’s a tendency in the media to pit women against one another, Björk and PJ Harvey took a stance of solidarity at the Brits, years before the Spice Girls would take the message of “girl power” to the masses.
Spice Girls – Wannabe/Who Do You Think You Are? (1997)
Yes, we’ve all seen this footage a million times – but when was the last time you sat down and properly
Do it now, it’s actually even better than you remember, and there’s a lot more to love than just that iconic dress.
Robbie Williams and Tom Jones – Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)’/’You Can Leave Your Hat On’/’Land Of A Thousand Dances (1998)
Indisputably the King Of The Brit Awards, Robbie has a fair few impressive performances under his belt at this stage of his career.
For his debut as a solo artist, though, he roped in a musical legend to help him really make an impression.
Steps, Cleopatra, B*Witched, Tina Cousins and Billie Piper – Thank Abba For The Music (1999)
Has anyone seen Tina Cousins lately, while we’re on the subject?
Queen and 5ive – We Will Rock You (2000)
File this under: ultimate guilty pleasures.
Geri Halliwell – Bag It Up (2000)
As if she hadn’t commanded enough attention when she was still in the Spice Girls, Geri made sure all eyes were on her with her debut solo Brits performance.
Emerging from a giant pair of legs, she performed this Girl Power anthem, surrounded by oiled-up male dancers and eventually tearing open her top, telling the “ladies” in the crowd: “Let’s see your boobs!”
She also totally overshadowed her former bandmates, who collected an Outstanding Contribution award later that evening as a four-piece.
Eminem – I’m Back/The Real Slim Shady (2001)
Eminem made one of the most memorable entrances in Brit Awards history, when he took to the stage in denim overalls and a hockey mask, while brandishing a chainsaw.
Justin Timberlake and Kylie Minogue – Cry Me A River/Like I Love You/Rapture (2003)
As if this medley of Justin’s biggest hits wasn’t perfection already, out strutted Kylie Minogue to cap things off with a rendition of Blondie’s Rapture, providing the Brit Awards with one of its most memorable collaborations ever.
Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama (2005)
Talk about chucking everything and the kitchen sink into a performance, eh?
Scissor Sisters kicked off the show in 2005 with a rendition of Take Your Mama involving Jim Henson puppets, leather lederhosen and, of course, a singing barn. Because why not?
Amy Winehouse – Rehab (2007)
Still fairly early in the Back To Black era, plenty had heard of Amy Winehouse by the time she performed at the Brits, though it often wasn’t for her music.
This appearance allowed her to remind to everyone why she was famous in the first place, even managing to make the vast Brits stage feel like an intimate lounge performance.
Mark Ronson with Adele, Daniel Merriweather and Amy Winehouse – God Put A Smile Upon Your Face/Stop Me/Valerie (2008)
Yes, it was technically Mark Ronson’s moment – but let’s be honest, it was all about Amy Winehouse, wasn’t it?
Reports in the press prior to the Brits had suggested that, due to problems in her tumultuous personal life, she may not have been able to perform. She managed to shut up her detractors by turning it out on the night, though.
Keep an eye on that Adele woman, too. We just might be seeing a bit more of her later on.
Rihanna and Klaxons – Umbrella/Golden Skans (2008)
It’s been more than a decade and we’re still absolutely wowed by this performance. Fun fact: this took place on Rihanna’s 20th (20th!!) birthday.
Girls Aloud – The Promise (2009)
Fortunately, Nadine remembered her passport this time…
Pet Shop Boys, feat. Lady Gaga and Brandon Flowers – Greatest Hits Medley (2009)
So often, acts use their Outstanding Contribution prize as a way to lazily perform their best-loved tracks, plug a new greatest hits collection and then take themselves off home for the night.
Not Pet Shop Boys, though, who provided a full multimedia experience for their performance, whizzing through their decades’ worth of hits and even welcoming a little-known singer named Lady Gaga to fill in for Dusty Springfield.
Interesting choice of wig from Chris Lowe too.
Lady Gaga – Telephone/Dance In The Dark (2010)
And speaking of Lady Gaga and interesting wigs…
One year she’s singing backing vocals for Pet Shop Boys, and the next she’s the biggest star in the world. What a difference 12 months makes.
This performance, where Gaga paid her respects to fashion designer Alexander McQueen, divided opinion, with some loving the fact she’d decided to think outside the box, and others hoping for something a little more traditional.
Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love (2010)
Given this performance came just days after the breakdown of her marriage to Ashley Cole, Cheryl would have been forgiven if her Brits appearance wasn’t exactly her best work. But frankly, she slayed.
From the moment she jumped onto the stage in her MJ-esque sunglasses, Cheryl proved herself as so much more than magazine fodder, she was a bona fide popstar.
Florence Welch and Dizzee Rascal – You Got The Dirtee Love (2010)
The Brits has always been known for its collaborations, and this is a perfect example of two artists from across two totally separate genres coming together and making it work.
Adele – Someone Like You (2011)
Adele’s sophomore album, 21, had already been a massive success, but it was this performance at the Brit Awards that catapulted her to the position of mega-star.
Proving you don’t always need to pull huge stunts for a performance to be memorable, she performed the emotional track accompanied by just a piano, and by the time the glitter rain started falling, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Kanye West – All Day (2015)
Kanye chose the Brit Awards to debut his then-new track, All Day, although viewers at home didn’t get to enjoy much of it, because his copious use of the n-word meant the majority of the song was heavily censored.
Still, by shining a light on a host of UK grime acts, he gave us one of our favourite Brits performances of recent years.
Madonna – Living For Love (2015)
Aaaand there she is.
True, this will always be remembered as the performance Madonna fell down the stairs… but you can’t take away from her that she got up and finished the song, like the true pro she is.
Lorde – Life On Mars? (2016)
There had been much speculation in the press leading to to the 2016 Brit Awards about how they’d be remembering David Bowie, with a number of huge British artists rumoured to have been in the pipeline.
What no one predicted was that it would be Lorde who’d be taking to the stage, chosen as the late pop icon once declared she was the “future of music”.
We still get a bit teary watching this simple but emotional performance, even now.
Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex (2017)
Anyone who was still doubting Little Mix’s star quality in 2017 was given a rude awakening when they opened the Brit Awards with this stunning performance.
The night itself was a fairly unremarkable affair, but the group’s version of Shout Out To My Ex, complete with full choreo, a throne made out of spray-painted dancers and enough wigs to keep Cher happy for a full mini break, Little Mix knocked it out of the park.
Stormzy – Blinded By Your Grace pt. 2/Big For Your Boots (2018)
A performance that starts off strong and then gets better and better.
Starting off as a live recreation of his Brit award-winning album cover, Stormzy quickly takes us through a gospel performance of Blinded By Your Grace before lambasting the government, highlighting the injustices of the Grenfell disaster and then having a shirtless dance in the rain to Big For Your Boots.
This is how you close the show at the Brits.