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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 20:48 GMT
Brits get under way
So Solid Crew
So Solid Crew pose for waiting photographers
The UK industry's biggest annual awards ceremony, the Brits, have begun in London.

Animated pop band Gorillaz - the latest project of Blur singer Damon Albarn - top the nominations, and they were the first act on stage, using a 3-D animation which reportedly cost 300,000 to produce.

Gorillaz are up for six awards, while Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue are all named in four categories.

Special guests include actor Russell Crowe, who will present the best international female prize, and actress Daryl Hannah, who will award the best international male honour.

Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue makes her arrival
Meanwhile, backstage staff at the event will be subject to heightened security checks at this year's event, BBC News Online has learned.

But reports that celebrities invited to the event, among them Kylie Minogue and Dido, will be "frisked" are not accurate.

'Precautions'

The extra precautions are reported to have been taken because of concerns about the appearance of controversial music collective So Solid Crew.

A spokeswoman for the event would not comment on the extra security nor the reasons.

Jamiroquai's Jay Kay with a friend
She said: "All we are saying is that we are taking the necessary security precautions."

The audience at the Brits will undergo normal security checks.

The absence of some famous names from the list of nominees, and a mix-up involving the singer Dido, have sparked criticism from music commentators.

The acts with the most nominations
Gorillaz - 6
Robbie Williams - 4
Kylie Minogue - 4
Dido - 3
Craig David - 3
Travis - 3
So Solid Crew - 3
The Strokes - 3

Singers Britney Spears and Madonna have been overlooked in the international category, as have the Irish rockers U2, who won two awards last year, including a lifetime achievement honour.

U2 were recently named front-runners for this year's Grammy Awards.

Andre Paine, news editor at the music magazine NME, said U2 had done "genuinely well this year".

"The industry doesn't know who to put their money on. There are not the certainties of 10 years ago," he said.

"You can be huge in Europe and never make it in the States. It does seem a bit of a mess this year."

U2: Notable by their absence
U2: Notable by their absence

Singer Dido was originally nominated for best newcomer after being in best female category last year. The organisers speedily withdrew the 2002 nomination.

Nominations for Gorillaz include best British group, best album and best British newcomer.

The band members are all cartoon characters, but the people behind the music include Albarn and hip-hop producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura.

They will face competition from Radiohead, Stereophonics, Travis and Jamiroquai to be named best British group, one of the most coveted categories.

And they are again up against Radiohead and Travis, as well as Dido and Craig David, in the best British album category.

But Craig David's album Born To Do It and Radiohead's critically acclaimed Kid A, which are on this year's list, were also nominated and beaten last year.

Robbie: His crooning did not win nominations
Robbie: His crooning won him no nominations
They are in the running twice because the same album can be nominated for two years in a row.

The time periods during which a CD must be released to be eligible spans 15 months.

Robbie Williams's attempt at Frank Sinatra-style crooning, Swing When You're Winning, has not been nominated - but he has nominations for best British male solo artist, best British single and two of his releases feature in the best British video category.

Other contenders on the best British male solo artist list are Sir Elton John, Craig David, Ian Brown and Aphex Twin.

In the female category, Dido - who had the biggest-selling album of 2001 in the UK - faces Mercury Prize-winner PJ Harvey, Geri Halliwell, Sade and Sophie Ellis Bextor.

This year's ceremony will be presented by comedian Frank Skinner and TV presenter and DJ Zoe Ball, and broadcast on ITV on Thursday

Sting will pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award
Sting will pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award

Fans will be able to vote for the best British newcomer, best British video and Best Pop Act.

Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue is up against Westlife, Blue, S Club 7 and Hear'Say in the Best Pop Act category, and has also been nominated for Best International Female Solo Artist and Best International Album - a new category.

New York rockers The Strokes have three nominations in the five international categories.

Former Police frontman Sting's Lifetime Achievement Award has already been announced.

Former Take That singer Robbie Williams topped last year's awards, which were dominated by controversy over Eminem's performance and Craig David being left out - despite six nominations.

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Music
Gorillaz storm MTV Awards
04 Jan 02 | Music
U2 lead Grammys race
27 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Robbie's the one at Brits
19 Feb 02 | Music
Glastonbury fights for identity
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