At this year’s excellent BRIT Awards last Wednesday, it was clear that a storm was coming. And I’m not talking about the following day’s Hurricane Doris.
Because, while the award winners may have been fairly mainstream, and the star wattage (Katy Perry, Chris Martin) and emotional heft (Andrew Ridgeley, Duncan Jones) arrived from elsewhere, the moments of kinetic excitement came courtesy of the underground.
Skepta’s bristling f-you of a performance and the sheer thrill of seeing Stormzy appear with man-of-the-moment Ed Sheeran may have passed some of the ITV audience by but, in The O2 arena itself, there was no mistaking the statement of intent both performances represented.
Even Noel Gallagher and Simon Cowell stood up to watch.
This year’s Academy might not have quite caught on, but next year’s will surely acknowledge grime in the way it belatedly recognised the Britpop boom in the ‘90s: by putting the genre on the winner’s podium.
If so, Sheeran’s endorsement of grime may have proved a tipping point. As the biggest star in the world, he could have done anything he wanted.
That he chose to give a platform to a new star is a credit to him, but also shows the everyman credentials that have sent expectations around ÷ through the roof. Meanwhile, Stormzy's debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, is heading for a big first week, confirming that grime is now a properly mainstream proposition.
When a new wave of music hits the mainstream, there are usually some casualties; members of the perceived old guard swept away in the rush to embrace the new thing on the block.
Sheeran, it seems safe to say, will not be one of them. ÷ will rule, and not even the gathering storm will wash it away.