Like many of us, I have a complicated relationship with the Brit Awards. I have no problem calling it out when it's cringey but, because I watched it every year as a kid, I can't pretend I don't get excited when it comes round again every February. This year, I got to be there in person – not sitting on Little Mix's table telling off Jesy Nelson for necking prosecco, sadly, but from a well-positioned seat at the side of the O2 Arena. Here are seven things I learned.
1. The Brit Awards has a hype guy.
Because the Brit Awards is a live TV show as well as an awards ceremony, they want you to sound super-excited. At the end of every ad break, before hosts Emma Willis and Dermot O'Leary return to the stage, the hype guy comes on the tannoy and tells you to "SCREAM!!!" if something fun's about to happen or "Hush please, guys," if it's about to get emotional. Those ad breaks are a trial, by the way – it's probably possible to queue for the loo and fetch another drink in three and a half minutes, but only if you did DofE at school and got at least a silver.
2. There's just as much booze at the Brit Awards as you think there is.
Because I have a press ticket, I get to go backstage. Well, the bit of backstage where the journalists sit and dick around on WiFi and eat half a packet sandwich and drink complimentary pinot out of a plastic tumbler – hey, I'm #LivingMyBestLife. Anyway, getting to the media room involves walking past a secret bar where silver service waiters are filling their trays with champagne flutes and all kinds of other drinks. I presume these are then carried out to the arena floor where the stars are sitting, unless Katy Perry is throwing a proper rager in her dressing room.
3. Noel Gallagher and his wife Sara MacDonald took the tube to the Brit Awards.
OK, so technically I didn't learn this at the Brit Awards, but my sister spotted them "looking glamorous" on the Jubilee Line and WhatsApped me when I was walking to my seat. And it's always nice to hear about a famous person keeping it real, so I thought I'd pass it on.
4. The Brit Awards can keep a secret.
"Who's doing the George Michael tribute?" "Who's the unannounced collaboration?" "Who's presenting the next award?" These are more WhatsApps from my sister, who's watching at home and outraged that they've given Emeli Sandé another award. But I have no answers. When Stormzy joins Ed Sheeran during his performance of "Shape of You" it's a total surprise for everyone in the arena, too.
5. Performances like Katy Perry's are what make the Brit Awards exciting.
"This is cute," I think as the increasingly woke singer sings "Chained to the Rhythm" surrounded by a load of dancing houses. But then a pair of giant inflatable skeletons appear on stage and, wait, is that meant to be Donald Trump and Theresa May holding hands?! Well played Katy, well played.
6. The Brit Awards know how to show some respect.
Awards show tributes tend to be mawkish and rushed but tonight's celebration of the late George Michael is beautifully judged. When his Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley comes out, the whole arena falls silent because no one's seen him in years and it's a proper moment. Then you realise Pepsi & Shirlie are on stage, too! The Brits let George's friends talk about him with tender affection for nearly seven minutes, which is actually pretty remarkable – can you remember anyone getting to speak about anything for seven minutes at an awards show before? When Shirlie Kemp falters, too choked to speak, I feel my eyes moisten, and then I’m gone.
7. A Brit Awards afterparty is messy.
After the show finished, I managed to blag myself into a party one of the record labels had laid on at The Shard. The views from the 52nd floor were beautiful, though somewhat obscured by all the waiters carrying yet more free booze. I briefly meet one of the Chainsmokers, who had performed with Coldplay earlier in the evening. What do you say to someone who's just performed at the Brit Awards? Something along the lines of "Didn't you do well”, apparently. Because inside all of us, no matter how cool and chill and with it we think we are, there's a well-mannered grandmother just waiting to get out.