It was supposed to be the year of the black stars. Instead it was the year of Blackstar. David Bowie’s final testament won the coveted Album of the Year award at this year's Brits, while Bowie was also given the British Male Solo artist prize.
So what does it say about the state of British popular music that a deceased artist should carry off the biggest awards of the year?
It could be interpreted as a sentimental, nostalgic vote implying British pop’s glory days are long gone, that the vitality of youth has given way to the venerability of age. But I would argue the opposite.
David Bowie was a genius, perhaps the greatest, weirdest, most dashing, daring and influential pop star of our times, who brought his extraordinary career to an audacious end with a moving masterpiece of breathtaking artistry. Inevitably, it had a profound impact on everyone who loves pop music and that is reflected in his victory.
The very fact that an all-time great star could continue to have such an impact across the generations should be read as a testament to the true depth and range of British pop.
This year's Brit Awards show was a celebration of black stars, space oddities, kooks and rebel rebels, where almost every artist on the most diverse short list in the award's history bore signs of having been influenced by the Starman. That in itself should be enough to demonstrate that British pop is hunky dory. Perhaps the Brits should be renamed the Bowies in his honour.
Inevitably, shortlists are more interesting before being narrowed down to winners. There were losers on the night and it is hard not to feel for them.Radiohead remain unrewarded by the Brits after three decades of ground breaking, world beating music. Anohni could have made history by being the first transgender artist to pick a Brit Award. Craig David, criminally disregarded in 2001, walked away empty handed again.
Most perniciously, grime still seeks its mainstream breakthrough, with Kano and Skepta both being overlooked – despite the latter's recent Mercury Prize win. Skepta's intense performance of Shut Down was a fierce blast of modernity in a show that always leans towards safe entertainment.
And Stormzy blasted through Ed Sheeran's barnstorming set like a man who knows his time is coming. At least the nominations suggested that the Brits is getting to grips with diversity issues and grime’s big day is getting closer.
It is nevertheless hard to argue with the winners. Emeli Sande made an emotional blockbuster of an album. The 1975 combined art rock and digital pop with dizzying effectiveness, making them very much a group of the moment. Rag ‘N’ Bone Man sings big songs with a full blooded commitment that is bulldozing a path to the top.
And you have to shout out to Little Mix, who have broken the restrictions of manufactured pop to create some of the catchiest and most uplifting singles of the year. Plus the silver space bikinis they modelled could have been a tribute to Ziggy himself.
In the international section, the combination of artistic creativity and accessible swagger demonstrated by Beyoncé and Drake is exactly what great pop music is supposed to be about. It's just a pity they couldn't show up to collect their gongs.
What the Brits is really all about is putting on a big show for a mass television and media audience, advertising the wares of the British music industry and shifting more units. The 2017 ceremony accomplished that with some style. Along the way, it’s fair to say it flattened some of the cutting edges of an exciting shortlist.
But 2016 was also a year of losses in music, and the Brits did a good job of acknowledging that, with a moving duet between Coldplay's Chris Martin and footage of the late George Michael. And celebrating Bowie’s legacy sends a powerful message to younger British musicians: that great pop is not about lowest common denominators.
You can operate at the highest level of creativity and greatest extremes of art and carve out a lifelong career. There is no finer role model in pop than David Bowie. It was wonderful to see him sprinkle a little Ziggy Stardust over the Brits one last time.