The BRIT awards have had heaps of positive press this year, from an audience filled with key workers to women dominating the BRIT awards. In 2020, the BRIT awards were highly criticised for their gender inequality, with only one British woman nominated across 25 mixed-gender categories. 2021 brought an array of diverse nominees, making it less male dominated than before. 2022 is set to be even more gender inclusive with the scrapping of gendered categories.
Titles such as the best male artist and best female artists will be combined into a single award for best British artist. Sam Smith and Will Young have spoken out before, pleading for change, stating that the current gendered categories excludes non-binary artists. Sam Smith missed out on a BRIT award for their album Love Goes, which reached number two in the UK chart because they felt unable to enter the gender based categories.
Shortly afterwards, they released a statement:
At the time, the event planners for the BRITs were not onboard with Sam Smith’s call to change the BRIT awards, saying that it risked being ‘counterproductive to diversity and equality.’ Tom March, BRIT chair and co-president of Polydor Records released a statement:
‘It is important that the BRITS continue to evolve and aim to be as inclusive as possible. It feels completely the right time to celebrate the achievements of artists for the music that they create, and the work that they do, irrespective of gender.’
It’s unfortunately not a surprise that this has split opinions. ‘Devil’s advocate’ Piers Morgan has criticised the BRITS by calling it ‘woke garbage’, for someone missing his sensitivity chip, why change the habit of a lifetime?
Malcolm Clark, TV producer and trustee of LGB Alliance- a charity that advocates for lesbians, bisexuals and gay men to define themselves as same-sex attracted- commented on the new awards ‘While we've always loved a bit of gender bending, it's silly to deny that the different categories reflected the fact women and men often have experiences that are as distinct as their voices.’ He went onto say ‘We often see sex being erased by organisations who claim on no evidence that it somehow harms the LGBT community.’ He said the best way to combat this would be to ask ‘the public, LGB or straight,’ if they want the removal of separate sex categories.
The removal of gendered categories could regress the work that has been done in nominating more women for awards. It was only this year that Little Mix became the first ever female band to win Best British Group. Taking gender out of the equation could see fewer women being awarded for their contributions in music. The BRITs need to ensure that the nominations are still diverse and inclusive.
The BRIT awards are not the first to go gender neutral, recently the Aria’s- Australia’s biggest music awards joined the Grammy’s in their bid to make the music industry a more inclusive environment. Alongside this announcement, the BRITs have also added new genre categories: Alternative/ Rock Act, Pop/R&B Act, Dance Act, Hip Hop/Rap/Grime Act. A thoughtless match of genres for these awards. Pop and R&B being thrown into the same category could be seen as an erasure of black culture because of R&B’s origins in blues, gospel, and jazz.
Lumping these genres together is a weird decision, considering how massive these genres are in their own rights. Rap is prevalent in pop music culture now, with it being one of the most popular genres worldwide. For these genres to be thrown together, ignores how experimental artists have become with fusing genres together. The genre split for the new awards limits creative freedom, because you can only achieve recognition if you make music within a defined genre criteria that has been strangely amalgamated.
The decision by the BRIT awards will put pressure on other awards shows to think about their inclusivity of non-binary people within gendered awards.