The Brit awards have become the latest award ceremony to do away with gendered categories that split male and female talent apart.
For the 2022 ceremony, a new award, artist of the year, will replace the British male solo artist and British female solo artist categories. An international artist of the year award will replace the previously gendered international solo artist awards.
At 2021’s ceremony, the non-binary British pop singer Sam Smith was left out of the gendered categories for solo artist. They responded: “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.”
Following Smith’s statement, Brit organisers said they were “committed to evolving the show and the gendered categories are very much under review. But any changes made to be more inclusive need to be just that – if a change unintentionally leads to less inclusion then it risks being counterproductive to diversity and equality. We need to consult more widely before changes are made to make sure we get it right.”
The 2020 ceremony was criticised for only featuring one British woman across the mixed categories of British album, group, song and new artist, so, presumably mindful that a reduction in gendered categories could lead to fewer women winning awards or being nominated, organisers have introduced a number of new mixed categories.
Awards for alternative/rock act, pop/R&B act, dance act and hip-hop/rap/grime act join the artist awards and the rest of the usual categories: album of the year, song of the year, group of the year, international group of the year, best new artist, and the rising star award for tipped future talent. The Brit awards are voted for by the Brits Academy, comprising musicians, industry figures and media professionals, though the four new genre categories will be voted for by the public.
Another new honorary award is songwriter of the year, joining the producer of the year award.
Tom March, co-president of Polydor Records who is this year’s Brit chairman, said: “It is important that the Brits continue to evolve and aim to be as inclusive as possible.”
The ceremony on 8 February at the O2 Arena in London will be hosted for the first time by Mo Gilligan, taking over from Jack Whitehall who had presented the last four ceremonies. It is the first time that a non-white person has presented the awards since 1994, when RuPaul co-presented alongside Elton John. Gilligan said he was honoured to be presenting, adding: “We’re going to give it all we’ve got to create an incredible night for music fans everywhere.” Presenting the nominations show on ITV in December, and reporting from the Brit awards red carpet, will be Maya Jama and Clara Amfo.
Staging the show will be Block9, known for their imaginative sets at the Glastonbury festival’s night-time area, and who staged Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 livestream in November 2020 as well as the upcoming Gorillaz: Song Machine Live From Kong in December.
British male and female solo artist categories had been awarded since the Brit awards’ inception in 1977, with Annie Lennox receiving the most female awards (six) and Robbie Williams the most male (four). International artist categories began in 1989, with Björk leading the female award winners with four, and Beck, Eminem and Kanye West each winning three.
The MTV VMA awards have been gender neutral since 2017. The Television Critics Association awards in the US also uses mixed-gender categories, and literary prizes have long been primarily mixed. This year’s Emmy awards acknowledged non-binary actors by allowing them to be named a “performer” rather than an actor or actress, though they would still ultimately appear in a gendered category.