When the BRITs first announced it was scrapping male and female awards in favour of gender-neutral prizes at the tail-end of 2021, it proudly declared that by “celebrating artists solely for their music, The BRITs have committed to making the show more inclusive”.
But after the latest round of nominations for the 2023 awards, in which no female is up for an award in the coveted Best Artist category, how did they make such a selection blunder? And, crucially, which female artists who’ve impressed over the past year have they overlooked?
First, something we can all agree on. The rules. To be eligible for the awards in question, an artist must have achieved at least one top 40 album or two top 20 singles that between 10 December 2021 and 9 December 2022.
Therefore, Little Simz – who won Best New Artist at last year’s awards – may have dropped the stellar NO THANK YOU two weeks out from Christmas, but unfortunately, its release date (12 December) narrowly missed out on being selected.
Fair enough. But perhaps it was precisely her success at the previous BRIT Awards, along with Adele, Holly Humberstone and Dua Lipa’s, that led to such hubris among the selection panel. As if last year (the first year of gender-neutral awards) was female-heavy enough that they were continuing to pat themselves on the back, and the job was done.
The fact is, even their original justification for their decision – to reward artists “solely for their music” – is flawed. Even the most Andrew Tate-loving readers, who preach such things as “rewards should be given on merit”, can admit there were some far better female artists in the past 12 months than George Ezra – who remains as anodyne as telling your family how your work’s going at Christmas lunch.
(Ezra’s album Gold Rush Kid might have bagged him a third consecutive number one, but lest we forget, the charts aren’t what they used to be. LadBaby’s latest history-making feat is a testament to that).
So, without further ado, here are five female artists who were remarkably overlooked at this year’s BRITs for Artist of the Year.
Florence + the Machine
Eligible releases: Dance Fever (album), released 13 May 2022, chart peak (1).
It might not have come with the kind of breakthrough fanfare as Florence Welch and co.’s 2009 debut Lungs, but it still charted at number one and has an expressive, dance-inducing alt-rock that lives up to the record’s name. (The album was, in fact, inspired by the ‘Choreomania’ or “dancing plague” that Welch was reading about before the pandemic). Third albums can be tricky beasts, with pitfalls of stagnation or decline being common. However, the commercial and critical success of Dance Fever showed that Florence + the Machine remained firmly in control of their artistic fate – and demonstrated a selection mishap on the part of the BRITs.
Eligible releases: Crash (album), released 18 March 2022, chart peak (1).
Having bagged Charli XCX her first number-one album with Crash, which has such certified bangers as ‘Good Ones’ and ‘Beg For You’ (the latter featuring Rina Sawayama, also on this list), it’s frankly a mystery how Charli XCX isn’t up for artist of the year award. If the BRITs were also looking for a compelling story, Charli has that in abundance. Ever since posting her songs on MySpace and performing at raves when she was younger, the artist has gone from hyper-pop princess associated with experimental collective PC Music to a chart-topper in a way that’s consistently remained authentic. BRITs, you’ve dearly missed an opportunity to commend her.
Eligible releases: Hold The Girl (album), released 16 September 2022, chart peak (3).
The follow-up to Rina Sawayama’s 2020 sophomore album, Hold The Girl, not only deserves praise for its wide variety of sounds and styles but also set a record as the highest-charting album by a Japanese-born solo artist in the history of the charts. Its lead single, the cathartic country-pop ‘This Hell’, was also distinguished, frequently listed by numerous outlets on Song Of The Year lists. Yet, for some reason, the BRITs still opted to hold the girl off its Artist Of The Year category.
Eligible releases: About Last Night… (album), released 16 September 2022, chart peak (2)
Mabel’s second album came second in the charts. A concept album that charts a party from start to finish, with disco, house and RnB all en route, About Last Night… might not be as artistically or lyrically astute as some of the other albums on the list, but it nonetheless remains a viable contender. If the BRITs were going for Capital Xtra-friendly releases, they might well have opted for such a record.
Eligible releases: Everything I Didn’t Say (album), released 11 March 2022, chart peak (8)
Ella Henderson likewise had a decent second album of her own. The former X Factor contestant might not be as much of a household name as some others on the list, but Everything I Didn’t Say got the from the Ivor Novello Awards for its Tom Grennan-featuring track ‘Let’s Go Home Together’. It also signalled something of a very personal milestone for Henderson, with the album initially scheduled for 2016, but for the singer to leave Simon Cowell’s Syco Records and record from a period of ill health. No doubt it’s not the standout record on the list – but a nomination, and therefore have at least one female artist up for Artist Of The Year, wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Indeed, there are arguments to be made that previous years have offered more prize-worthy albums from female artists than in 2022. As a BRITs spokesperson has said following some of the backlashes: “we have to recognise that 2022 saw fewer high-profile women artists in cycle with major releases, as was the case in 2021.”
It’s also worth noting the BRITs as a whole aren’t an all-blokey affair, of course. Wet Leg could become the second female-fronted band to win the Best Group award following Wolf Alice’s success last year, whilst RnB trio FLO won an all-female-led list of nominations for the BRITs Rising Star award.
Still, some notable names above had a 12-month period that demonstrated both their chart dominance and artistic integrity; and could easily have usurped the current names. No offence, George.