by Emily McIntyre
For the second year running, the Brit Awards’ categories for best artist and best international artist have remained gender neutral. This was a movement that was introduced into the awards ceremony as a way to keep things “as inclusive and as relevant as possible”.
However, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the idea to scrap these gendered categories has proven to be a classic example of one step forward, and two steps back - and the nominees for 2023 Artist of the Year truly demonstrate this. Now the show may still be weeks away, but if we can be sure of one thing, it’s that the winner of the best artist award will be a man.
The finalised list of nominees are as follows: Central C, Fred Again, Stormzy, Harry Styles and George Ezra. Not a single female artist in sight, and if anyone’s listened to the radio recently, they’ll know that it’s not exactly like the UK is struggling when it comes to female talent.
A category that scrapped gendered restrictions to enforce the idea that sex or gender contribute no difference in terms of how we perceive and award art, has this year, become a shrine to british male talent only.
Now it’s not to say that these nominees aren’t deserving, but when you take a look at the other artists that were eligible, (to be eligible, an artist must have achieved at least one top 40 album or two top 20 singles that were released between 10 December 2021 and 9 December 2022), it shows a clear disregard for the importance of female artists and their impact on the music scene.
Charli XCX, Florence + The Machine, Mabel, Rina Sawayama and Ella Henderson were all eligible to be nominated this year; Artists with chart topping albums, award nominations, and exceptional live performances that have allowed them to be recognised as pop industry icons, have all been swept under the rug.
Women who have celebrated such highs in their careers over the course of the last year left unworthy of nomination, it begs the question: what do women have to do to be placed on the same pedestal as male musicians?
Excusing the lack of diversity in this category, the Brits spokesperson has said: "While it's disappointing there are no nominations in the artist of the year category, we also have to recognise that 2022 saw fewer high profile women artists in cycle with major releases, as was the case in 2021.’’
Let’s unpack that:
● Florence Welch - went to number one with her fifth album Dance Fever in May.
● Charli XCX - released her album Crash, which topped the charts and was ranked the fourth best album of 2022 by The Guardian.
● Mabel - the 2020 best British female winner's album About Last Night reached number two.
● Rina Sawayama - her second album Hold The Girl went to number three and included the track This Hell, that was voted the BBC music corespondont’s song of the year.
● Ella Henderson - had a top 10 album, appeared on two top 10 singles and was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 2022.
Is this not enough?
What the Brit Award’s list of nominees represents is much more complicated than just blatant sexism, and instead, truly reveals a wider systemic issue of women’s disadvantage in the music industry to begin with. Only 20% of the artists signed to a major UK record label are female, so they're already at a drawback.
What the shortlist has presented us with, is proof of another year where women are having to work 10 times harder to receive the recognition they deserve. Although the issue is much more widespread, the Brits should have done better in breaking down those barriers for women in music.