Last night was the 2017 NME Awards: the “New Musical Express” through its various incarnations has a long history of influence and relevance within the music scene, known in particular for its associations with alternative genres such as punk rock as well as its irreverent tone and humour. As such their annual awards ceremony stings of what’s cool. Held in the suitably out-of-central London venue, Brixton Academy, a who’s who on the UK music scene were boozing round packed tables as “f**k you” middle finger awards were handed out and a high profile lineup of acts entertained on stage.

Two queens of edgy (in very different ways) were honoured on the night. French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, known as Christine and the Queens, picked up Best International Female Artist as well as Best Track for Tilted. A reliably feisty and political M.I.A was hailed Best British Female, stating, “This should have been mine a long f**king time ago”. She also called out the UK arms industry and showed support for refugees in a heartfelt introduction to a “Frankenstein” of a Band 4 Refugees that brought together Pixie Geldof, Charli XCX, and elements of Years & Years, Slaves and Peace. Dua Lipa was labelled Best New Artist and had a great platform to show off her skills, performing track Be the One to the ultimate music-loving crowd while Phoebe Waller-Bridge nabbed Best TV Series for comedy show Fleabag.

M.I.A. wasn’t the only politically charged voice, with NME editor in chief Mike Williams setting the tone with his dismay at the state of the global scene where a “fascist” was in the White House and speeches throughout the evening echoed his sentiments. The 1975’s Matty Healy gave a slightly off-kilter sermon when collecting Best Live Band (ironic after being branded Worst Band in 2014…): “I know this is unfashionable and boring and no one really gives a f**k but everything is f**ked. And if your music isn’t purposefully informative, then there’s no point to it. So let’s make sure that we do that.”

The lovable British indie pop band Bastille opened the ceremony with an energetic Good Grief, which didn’t quite make Best Track but the group received Best Album for Wild World.The raucous modern-day punk rock outfit, Slaves, as they pointed out in their acceptance speech, beat Beyonce and Kanye West to Best Video with low-fi Consume or Be Consumed. In fact, Beyonce lost out on four of five awards she was nominated for, but did clinch Hero of the Year. Michael Eavis stepped up in shorts with his daughter for Glastonbury’s acknowledgement as Best Festival and the expert off-centre documentary maker Louis Theroux scooped Best Film (not documentary, Best Film!) for My Scientology Movie.

Frank Ocean was named Best International Male while Sadiq Khan cemented his reputation as the coolest London Mayor of all time by presenting Skepta with Best British Male Artist and walking off stage with his arm around him. Epic. Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro were named Best British Band while the masters of heavy metal Metallica thanked the crowd by video message for Best International Band. Wiley gave a full throttle performance in a full Atletico Madrid tracksuit after collecting the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award, with the rising genre he represents as “godfather of grime” being likened to the punk rock movement of the 70s.

But the night really belonged to the legendary duo Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant, aka the Pet Shop Boys, who were declared Godlike Geniuses. Handing them the award was none other than the 2013 winner Johnny Marr who said: “The winners of this award have changed pop music, over three decades, with hit after hit after hit. They brought romance, glamour, style, high art to the wonderful thing that is pop music.” They rounded off the evening with a laser beam-clad set drawn from their back catalogue, proving the timelessness of their particular brand of electronic music and a glimpse of a prolific, relentlessly innovative career. After hearing synth-pop classics such as It’s a Sin and West End Girls, the lubricated celebs were finally sent off into the night with an apt rendition of Always on My Mind – a perfect reflection of an enduring force through pop.

By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 16th February 2017.
Picture: Andy Hughes/NME

For further information about the 2017 NME Awards visit here.

The complete list of NME Awards 2017 winners:

Godlike Genius – Pet Shop Boys
Best British Band – Biffy Clyro 
Best International Band – Metallica
Best British Male – Skepta
Best British Female – MIA
Best International Male – Frank Ocean
Best International Female – Christine and the Queens
Best New Artist – Dua Lipa
Best Album – Bastille – Wild World
Best Track – Christine and the Queens – Tilted
Best Live Band – The 1975
Best Video – Slaves – Consume or Be Consumed
Best Festival – Glastonbury
Best Music Film – Oasis – Supersonic
Best TV Series – Phoebe Waller-Bridge – Fleabag
Best Film – Louis Theroux – My Scientology Movie
Music Moment of the Year – Coldplay’s Viola Beach tribute at Glastonbury
Best Festival Headliner – Adele
Best Small Festival – End of the Road
Villain of the Year – Nigel Farage
Hero of the Year – Beyoncé
Worst Band – 5 Seconds of Summer
Best Reissue – Oasis – Be Here Now