The Grammys gave us Lady Gaga as the Thin White Duke. For the BRITs, it was Lorde who led a slightly more understated tribute to David Bowie, who received a posthumous Icon award.
Annie Lennox introduced the award, which was accepted by Gary Oldman. “We are all coming to terms with the magnitude of David’s passing,” the British actor said during the ceremony. “David’s contribution to popular culture itself has no equal, he’s the very definition, the living embodiment of that word, icon.”
Then, Bowie’s own backing band performed an instrumental medley of songs, including “Space Oddity,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Let’s Dance,” that was notable for the absence of the singer’s unique voice. Eventually, they began to play “Life on Mars?” and Lorde took the mic.
With her acid, disaffected take on the song, Lorde resisted some of the over-the-top sentimentality of Gaga’s performance, which culminated with the anthemic “Heroes.” The whole thing was a fittingly British tribute to the man from Brixton.
Lorde was one of many musicians to share her thoughts about Bowie immediately following his death. In an emotional Facebook post, she recounted the time Anna Wintour introduced her to Bowie backstage at a Vogue event at which she had just performed.
“That night something changed in me--I felt a calmness grow, a sureness. I think in those brief moments, he heralded me into my next new life, an old rock and roll alien angel in a perfect grey suit,” she wrote. “I realized everything I’d ever done, or would do from then on, would be done like maybe he was watching. I realized I was proud of my spiky strangeness because he had been proud of his.”