As we mark one year of Rolling Stone UK with our inaugural awards issue, we celebrate the stand-out names in music, film and TV from the UK and Ireland who have elevated their artistry — and their medium — to new heights.
Following our cover stories with Little Simz, Yungblud, and Bree Runway, here is the full list of the Rolling Stone UK Awards winners, celebrating the best of the first year of the magazine’s existence.
Artist of the Year Award
Love him or hate him, Yungblud exemplifies what it means to be a Gen Z rock star. Dominic Harrison harnessed an influencer model to rise to fame but in 2022 proved he’s well on the way to becoming a British pop culture icon. Rolling Stone UK went on the road with our Artist of the Year to find out how he intends to use more than his high-energy persona to be taken seriously. Read Yungblud’s cover story in full here.
Song of the Year Award
Sam Fender, ‘Seventeen Going Under’
On the surface, ‘Seventeen Going Under’ was a classic coming-of-age anthem in the vein of ‘Born to Run’ or ‘Summer of ’69’, yet the title track to Sam Fender’s second album carried starker snapshots within its soaring adrenaline rush and festival-primed “whoa-oh-ohs”. An autobiographical account of Fender’s struggles growing up in North Shields, it detailed nihilistic teenage violence, depression and — most affecting of all — Fender’s mother, swamped in debt and on her knees in tears after receiving a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. Although released in 2021, the song hit its chart peak at number three this year. Aside from pulling off that rare feat of an indie rock song hitting the top three, it bagged Fender a well-deserved Ivor Novello and became the definitive anthem for his show-stealing run of summer festival gigs. However, its real success lies in giving voice to a narrative that, while increasingly faced by many, is conspicuous by its absence in pop music today. Chris Catchpole
Album of the Year Award
Arctic Monkeys, The Car
When Arctic Monkeys debuted ‘There’d Better Be a Mirrorball’ earlier this year, it became inherently clear that we weren’t heading back to the riff-heavy, quiff-sporting band that finally woke up America with ‘AM’ back in 2013. Instead, it was the first indication that The Car would double down on the divisive lounge-pop sound that they debuted on their last album, 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Although the continued new direction won’t please everyone, there’s beauty to be found in the full-bodied, orchestral feel that the band explores here. ‘There’d Better Be a Mirrorball’, sure, but on the basis of this album ‘There’d Better Be a Bond Song’ in the near future, too. Over to you, Barbara Broccoli. Nick Reilly
Breakthrough Artist Award
This was Bree Runway’s year. She collaborated with Stormzy, added more A-listers to her growing fan base and is now regularly recognised in the streets of London, her hometown. Rolling Stone UK met Bree for her most intimate interview yet. Read Bree Runway’s cover story in full here.
Record Label Award
When you look at what three of our favourite artists — Beabadoobee, Rina Sawayama and The 1975 — have in common, it’s Dirty Hit. In many respects, all of these artists had their biggest year yet: Bea released her second album with a huge promotional campaign and collaborations; Rina broke into the charts for the first time and was absolutely everywhere you looked — on magazines, TV and adverts; and The 1975 returned with a frontman possessing a fresh mindset and their most thoughtful album. This is a record label at the height of its powers — not chasing hype, not quickly expanding, just focused on releasing great British music. Hannah Ewens
Live Act Award
Bring Me the Horizon
The Sheffield band’s live concerts have long been a far cry from the scrappy, chaotic Student Union bar-era shows they started with. Now Bring Me The Horizon go to US festivals like the recent When We Were Young in Vegas and their sets are every bit as well-attended and compelling to an international audience as those of the final act. In Mexico they just played their biggest headline show to date and this year they became the only new headlining rock band in nearly a decade when they took the top spot at Reading and Leeds 2022. Rumour has it they’ll be the main attraction at another key UK festival in 2023, because it’s clear that if you want to be entertained by shredding, breakdowns, soaring pop choruses and pithy, goading jabs from a frontman, you want a Bring Me show. It’s through this year’s live performances that Bring Me The Horizon have proved that they’ve ascended to become more than just a rock band. Hannah Ewens
Music Video Award
Stormzy, ‘Mel Made Me Do It’
In late September, Stormzy’s anticipated return came in ‘Mel Made Me Do It’, a seven-minute track that included a powerful monologue delivered by Michaela Coel. The accompanying video was packed with an impressive string of cameo appearances from the likes of Dave, Little Simz, Headie One, Julie Adenuga and Clint Cortez, offering a groundbreaking snapshot of those currently spearheading Black British culture. Although the song doesn’t feature on Stormzy’s anticipated third album, This Is What I Mean, it proved to be one hell of a comeback for Big Mike. Emmanuel Onapa
There’s been no shortage of British post-punk groups delivering subversive songs rooted in spoken word (see: Dry Cleaning, Squid), but 2022 saw Yard Act proving why they’re one of the sub-genre’s most unique voices. Led by frontman James Smith, their debut album The Overload made use of surreal imagery and alter-egos to drill down into the minutiae of life in Britain. ‘Fixer Upper’, for instance, sees Smith adopt the character of unscrupulous property developer Graham to paint an image of a place where everyone is out for themselves. But a subtle streak of positivity reaches its peak on the oddly moving album standout ‘100% Endurance’, which employs an alien invasion to convey the message that there’s beauty in the futility of knowing how insignificant our lives are. The track won plaudits in higher places too, leading to a re-recorded version with Sir Elton John. Nick Reilly
Paul Mescal for Aftersun
Aftersun is one of the most acclaimed films of the year, and Paul Mescal’s riveting performance is key to its success. Putting in a warm, sensitive and complex turn as a father holidaying with his daughter, Mescal brings out every nuance in the script from writer-director Charlotte Wells. The Scottish film is another feather in the cap of the Irish actor, who captivated audiences in TV’s Normal People and was picked by Maggie Gyllenhaal to co-star in The Lost Daughter alongside Olivia Colman. He’ll also play an accused man in God’s Creatures and will make a foray into musicals with a contemporary take on Carmen. A versatile and intelligent actor, this 26-year-old is one of Ireland’s finest talents. Anna Smith
Little Simz for Top Boy
Known predominantly for her Mercury Prize-winning and commercially successful music, Little Simz is a force of nature. In a world of content and noise, the semi-mysterious Simbiatu Ajikawo lets her talent speak for her. In this interview, our TV Award-winner talks about how she came to act in British cultural export Top Boy and her experience filming the show. Read Little Simz’s cover story in full here.
Glastonbury made its glorious comeback in June, two years after Covid restrictions put paid to the festival’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Prior to last summer, partying in a post-pandemic world had been an unusual experience: events were back, sure, but for whatever reason, the vibes just felt off. Yet being back on Worthy Farm seemed to mark a return to normality. The great line-up helped, feeling totally of-the-moment rather than a holdover from two years earlier. There was space for younger and more diverse headliners (Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar), but it still honoured Britain’s music heritage (Paul McCartney), while rising stars from Sam Fender to Wolf Alice delivered Pyramid Stage sets for the ages. The after-hours programming, from new stage San Remo to the dance music holy land Block9, was always on point. And other intangibles (from the lack of corporate sponsorship to the fact that, for all the criticisms of the festival’s middle-class audience, you still meet a lot of genuine oddballs there) meant that it still feels like no other festival in the UK. Selim Bulut
When it comes to artists who changed the British music game this year, there’s only Charli, baby. The narrative around the alt pop musician has always been that she’s an underdog of sorts, that people don’t realise her genius. After the highly praised introspective, How I’m Feeling Now — written and produced in the early days of Covid lockdown 1 — Charli came back bigger and bolder with Crash, a big pop long-player as the final release of her major label deal. Crash delivered the singer/songwriter/producer her first number one album. It felt like the most interesting British pop artist in years finally got her dues. The live tour that followed revealed an artist at peak performance, dancing to an impressive standard with full pop-star production. No longer too alternative to be a main pop girl, it feels like all eyes are on Charli XCX for what comes next. Hannah Ewens