Organisers have confirmed that, from next year, BRIT Awards categories will no longer separate male and female nominees. Four additional categories have also been introduced.
Rather than awarding prizes for British Male & Female Solo Artist separately, the two categories will be merged into British Solo Artist. The same will apply for International Male & Female Solo Artists. This comes a welcome change to many artists, including the likes of Sam Smith, who identifies as gender-fluid.
Smith has previously said that the categories exclude non-binary artists, after he felt unable to be nominated in the gendered categories in 2021’s awards. He commented on social media, “I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let’s celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality and class.”
Ever since the awards began in 1977, the categories have been separated in terms of gender. However, Gennaro Castaldo – a spokesperson for BPI, who runs the awards – said, “If you were starting the awards from scratch today, you’d probably do it on these terms.”
Inclusive or Exclusive?
The BRITs nominees are voted for by a board made up of industry professionals, rather than by public vote. In 2020, the awards came under fire for only featuring one British female artist across a number of categories. This is in contrast to 2021, where female artists dominated the awards. Whilst the move to non-gender specific categories is a positive step towards equality in terms of recognition for female artists, it could backfire.
Without female-specific categories, the risk of female artists being under-represented could potentially strengthen. Although, one would assume a degree of mindfulness in relation to this would be practised.
The BRITs is not the first music awards ceremony to do away with gendered awards. The MTV Video Music Awards did just that in 2017. The winners of the now overall best artist have been split half-and-half between male and female artists. The same can be said for the Grammys, which also vetoed male and female categories in 2012.
The BRIT awards categories have been balanced out with new additions. With original categories being merged, space has opened up for a set of new, genre-focussed categories. This includes awards for alternative/rock act, pop/R&B act, dance act, and hip-hop/rap/grime act. Breaking from tradition, these new categories will be voted for by the public.
Alongside these new genre-centric categories, there will be an award for songwriter of the year.