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NME Awards 2022: The debrief

After two years away, the wildest night in music returned. It didn’t disappoint.

Elle Ayers
  • By Elle Ayres
  • 3 Mar 2022
  • min read

The NME Awards returned to Brixton Academy last night for an evening of signature wild antics which saw artists such as Sam Fender and Griff winning big, taking home two awards each.

Sam Fender opened the show with an impassioned performance of Seventeen Going Under filled with the melodic grit that he has come to master. The album of the same title would see Fender back on that stage a further two more times throughout the course of the evening, accepting the award for Best Album By a UK Artist and Best Album in the World. Collecting his second prize, he joked, 'We didn’t even know we were nominated until two seconds ago.'

NME Awards

Griff received the NME Radar Award, beaming and telling the audience, 'I count it as a privilege that every day I get to do this,' before returning to the stage to perform Head On Fire with Sigrid and bagging the award for Best Collaboration. You’d be hard pressed to find a pair who looked like they enjoyed performing together more. 

Best New Act in the UK was presented by Nova Twins and went to BERWYN, who graced the stage with his mum and a Trinidad flag. His emotional performance of the closing track on his 2021 mixtape, Tape 2/Fomalhaut was perhaps the only time the hubbub of the room subsided. It saw him and much of the audience shed a tear as he adlibbed the final line: 'Young boy playing NME' with his award at his feet. 

Neneh Cherry was presented the Icon award by her daughter Mabel, only serving to emphasise the family affair atmosphere of the eve with Jessie and Lennie Ware also winning Best Podcast and accepting the prize together. 

'The NME Awards truly occupy their own space in the industry, there’s a union of chaos amongst the different genres of artists who perform, win, and celebrate one another.'

A world first performance of How Not To Drown by CHVRCHES and Robert Smith captivated the audience after the track had just been named Best Song by a UK Artist. They couldn’t get away without a rendition of a Cure classic and Just Like Heaven saw the crowd swell as they sang and danced along.

Holly Humberstone took home the award for Best EP and Foals won Best Music Video for Wake Me Up. Rina Sawayama won Best Live Act and proved it was much deserved with a polished performance of XS. Sadiq Khan appeared alongside Ghetts to present the award for Best Solo Act from the UK to Little Simz and highlighted how good it was to be together having a safe party. A sentiment echoed by Irish punk band Fontaines DC who exclaimed, 'We're gonna party like Number 10 tonight,' upon accepting the award for Best Band in the World. 

Little Simz took the opportunity during her acceptance speech to allude to the conflict in Ukraine: 'I would really just hope for us to love each other, be there for each other, support each other, and do the best that we can, because so many people don’t have that right now.'

fka twigs

FKA Twigs didn’t disappoint with a visual masterpiece that was her live performance of a cut from recent mixtape Caprisongs. Winning the Godlike Genius Award  the first black woman to do — she also used her acceptance speech to point towards what was happening elsewhere: 'I’m just so grateful that there’s a space for me here. Thank you for the support, be safe and let’s just be kind to each other.'

What began with the Ukranian flag wrapped around Robert Smith’s guitar as the first, subtle reminder of the horrors happening in Eastern Europe, and was sustained by comments made by Little Simz and FKA Twigs in their acceptance speeches, truly culminated in the message that permeated Bring Me the Horizon’s closing show. 

'It’s a night to bask in the attitude that got these artists there in the first place, their varying degrees of rebellion.'

After winning Best Band from the UK and lead singer and Oli Sykes telling the crowd, 'Our first album got two out of 10 in NME, so… follow your dreams!' in a show of how much it meant to the band, the atmosphere changed when Bring Me the Horizon returned to the stage, this time to perform. This was their moment and the crowd were thrilled about it. But before they played their final song, Throne, Oli made it clear that with this moment came a responsibility. Dedicating the track to 'brothers in Ukraine', he continued, 'Being here in a room full of influential people: they need to use their voice every single day until this crisis is over […] If Kyiv does not survive, international peace will not survive.'

The NME Awards truly occupy their own space in the industry, there’s a union of chaos amongst the different genres of artists who perform, win, and celebrate one another. The thread that runs through the night is a celebration of the electrifying music being made right now against a backdrop of injustice that will always be called out on stage.

It’s not as intellectual as the Mercury’s or as commercial as the BRITs, but it’s always been political. It’s a night to bask in the attitude that got these artists there in the first place, their varying degrees of rebellion. To get drunk on good music but not forget about what’s going on outside those four walls. It’s a night celebrating artists, for artists, and the fans enjoy themselves too because how could they not?