Six years after leaving clutching an armful of awards, Adele is back at the Brits and competing on an equal footing with Dave, Ed Sheeran and Little Simz for the most prizes at this year’s ceremony – where male and female categories have been dropped and “big performances are back”.

New Brit Awards host Mo Gilligan promises fans will get to see stand-out performances by all four artists, who are tied with four nominations apiece.

“What’s going to be nice, especially for the fans, it’s going to be their first major event [during the pandemic] and I guess for a lot of people restoring levels of normality,” the comedian told Sky News. “Like, ‘Oh wow, big performances are back’. And seeing Adele back on home soil and all these other great acts is going to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

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Adele, Dave, Sheeran and Little Simz are among the stars fighting it out for the new big prize of the night – the inaugural artist of the year award.

Her fourth album 30 might have been the best-selling album of last year, but can the London singer’s brand of popular pop really beat the politics of rapper Dave?

The big Brit winner of 2020 returns in an even stronger position with his critically lauded album We’re All Alone In This Together, a social critique on issues such as race and immigration.

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Joy Crookes, who is nominated for two awards, says that politically, it’s a time when artists should be saying something meaningful.

“I’m feeling very Sue Gray about music,” she jokes. “The thing that I find exciting right now is that there’s so much to write about and how, although the world around us can sometimes fall down, as artists we’re able to create work and kind of immortalise periods of time and hopefully try and tell a story and change people’s minds or even just get people thinking.”

Crookes is nominated for best new artist and one of this year’s new awards, best pop/R’n’B.

Best rock/alternative act, best dance act and best hip-hop/grime/rap act have also been added to the ceremony, replacing the best male and best female categories so that non-binary artists such as Sam Smith aren’t excluded.

With audience figures dwindling on TV, organisers will be hoping the show attracts a younger demographic, with TikTok users encouraged to vote for the genre categories.

In the running for song of the year, teenagers A1 & J1 will be hoping to knock out the pop heavyweights with their viral TikTok hit of last summer, Latest Trends.

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A1, 16, who is still at school, and 18-year-old J1 happened to meet on a social media app during the pandemic.

As J1 explains: “A1 is from Coventry, I’m from Kent, so one day we were just on the app HouseParty, chilling with friends, I didn’t know who he was at all… and then I found out he rapped.

“A1 had this one song, Latest Trends. He sent it to me and I was like, ‘Bro, this is a banger’. I had already wrote a freestyle to that beat, so I was like, ‘I might as well go to the studio and record it’. We merged it together and I screen recorded it and put it out on TikTok.

“We always look back at it and say if that didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be here. That this crazy little thing in the life could be a big moment, a big opportunity.”

But some things never change – and Gilligan anticipates he’ll still have some wrangling to do at the boozy Brits.

“Everyone keeps warning me of like, ‘How are you going to control people?’ And I was like, ‘Let them be musicians!’ This is their world, I’m just a host of the party.

“I mean, if anyone comes to your party, I tell you where you can get the wifi and the charger – but hey, if you’re sick in the toilet, you go clean up when it’s your mess!”

Liam Gallagher, Sam Fender and Doja Cat are among the artists performing, alongside Adele, Dave, Sheeran and Little Simz.

The Brit Awards will be broadcast on ITV at 8pm on Tuesday. Join us here on Sky News for our coverage of the red carpet beforehand as well as the ceremony

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