Old stagers and young hopefuls line up for the Brits

Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran
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Now in their 32nd year, the BRIT Awards are still revered. Chris Arden looks towards this year’s ceremony, and those in the running for prizes.

The Brits are the ultimate temperature gauge of the state of popular music.

This year’s ceremony, to be held on February 21, will host performances by Rihanna, Coldplay, Florence + The Machine and Bruno Mars.

New to the scene, Ed Sheeran and Adele are tipped to be the night’s big winners with four and three nominations each, but some familiar faces will be there, including Noel Gallagher as nominee for British Solo Artist and Blur, set to receive the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, 17 years after the brit-pop icons hogged the trophies as mere newcomers.

Best British Male Solo Artist: Contending with Noel Gallagher’s tried and tested Mancunian swagger and James Blake’s dubstep infused melodies, it seems difficult for Ed Sheeran, this past year’s song-writing sensation, to bag the award. The guitar wielding 20 year-old came out of nowhere in June 2011 and can now be found just about everywhere. He blew away the audience at the BRITS nominations ceremony and has received great critical acclaim. Even if he fails to be crowned Male Solo Artist, he still has a fair chance for three other awards. Other nominees include James Morrison and east London rapper Professor Green.

Best British Female Solo Artist: Adele earned the Critics’ Choice award in 2008 off the back of her debut album, 19, however it was her heartbreaking second album 21 that made the critics swoon, both at home and Stateside. Adele broke both America and The Beatles’ record of chart success, by gripping onto the top spot of the American Billboard album chart for 16 weeks. Another strong female songstress revelling in the success of her second album is Florence Welch. After charming the public with radio hits, Dog Days and the Candi Staton cover You’ve Got The Love, Florence + The Machine released Ceremonials last year.

Best British Breakthrough Act: Jessie J was 18 when she suffered a stroke. Since then, she has been spotted by Chris Brown’s manager, supported the rapper on tour, penned Miley Cyrus’ hit, Party in the USA and released a string of chart-toppers herself, including Price Tag, as well as being the Critics’ Choice at last year’s awards. However, her party could be spoiled by Ed Sheeran, Anna Calvi’s sultry tones or The Vaccines; the latest big name in indie with nearly 50 festival appearances during 2011’s summer season. They were named band of the year by the NME for their blend of ’50s surf-rock vibes and garage.

Best British Group: Big names dominate the best group nominations this year, including Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Elbow and Coldplay; between them all, they rack up an impressive set of BRITS trophies.

One group, however, stick out like a sore thumb; the drum and bass duo Chase and Status. Their decisive turn towards the mainstream end of dance music ensured their album went gold within the first week of sales. However, the award is likely to go to the safer options of BRITS veterans Coldplay or this year’s Mercury Prize nominated Elbow. Sheffield natives, Arctic Monkeys won the best group award back in 2006 and their latest album, cheekily entitled Suck It and See, was largely seen as a return to form for the band.

Best British Single: The fan-base of boybands, One Direction and The Wanted, will be out in force to secure their success, although former X Factor favourites JLS are also nominated, as well as Olly Murs for Heart Skips a Beat, featuring Rizzle Kicks. Certainly Adele’s Someone Like You and Jessie J’s Price Tag are strong contenders, being radio favourites throughout the year while Christmas Number 1, Wherever You Are, by Gareth Malone and his Miltary Wives’ Choir is also nominated for its tribute to serving officers.

Best British Album: Despite the commercial success of albums by Adele, Ed Sheeran and Florence + The Machine, it is surely PJ Harvey’s eighth studio album, Let England Shake, that should take home the award for best album this year.

The album earned Album of the Year in 16 publications last year, as well as the prestigious Mercury Prize Award.

Written over a period of two and a half years, the album is a raw, harrowing story of war and pain.

It’s not just Brits – International acts up for awards

Bon Iver, Bruno Mars and David Guetta are up for international male artist.

Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was such a success that his home state Wisconsin declared a Bon Iver Day. Other nominees include Aloe Blacc, known for his infectious soul number I Need a Dollar, and alt-country singer Ryan Adams.

Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Bjork in the line-up for international female show that it has been a good year for the women. Rihanna has churned out hit after hit, Lady GaGa’s outfits become ever wackier and the Beyonce industry continues apace.