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At Least the 2019 BRIT Award Nominations Feel Gender-Balanced

Giggs, Jorja Smith and Brockhampton were named among this year's nods, where paint-by-numbers pop stands beside rising innovators.

by Lauren O'Neill
14 January 2019, 9:08am

First comes Christmas, then New Year, and then what do you know? A couple of weeks pass and it’s BRIT Awards season yet again. Come one, come all, come Jack Whitehall acting out months-old memes.

This year’s ceremony will take place on Wednesday 20 February. But in a BRIT Awards first, last Saturday a pre-BRITs nominations announcement show aired on ITV, to get viewers amped up for the glitz, the glamour, and, inevitably, the gak to come.

The special itself was hosted by the BBC's Clara Amfo, who is easily one of the most charismatic and enthusiastic presenters working in TV and radio right now. As the DJ at the helm of the BBC’s Live Lounge, she’s a natural choice for a music-centric show like this, and her energy provided the heat under what was otherwise a fairly weakly simmering pot.

The broadcast itself felt a bit confused, made up of a montage sequence from BRITs past, pre-taped interviews with artists and second time ceremony host Whitehall, a segment about the last year in British music, and in-studio, “stripped down” turns from Jess Glynne (her?), George Ezra (good, sorry, not taking any questions at this time), Mabel and Not3s (cute), and Little Mix (full commitment choreo in what genuinely looked like a corridor).

The set-up was an odd one, featuring Amfo stood up speaking into a microphone against ever-changing backdrops, introducing performances and nominations. This resulted in Ezra performing on a set not unlike something from the film adaptation of a Mills and Boon novel, and Mabel and Not3s awkwardly standing in front of… some neon signs on a brick wall. While the idea to televise the nominations, overall, is a smart one from the BRITs – piquing viewers’ interest early, and encouraging excitement for the ceremony, in particular its public votes – the format feels like it needs ironing out a little, and might have benefitted from a more grounded chat show-type vibe.

Despite the new way of announcing the contenders, however, in terms of the nods themselves, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The big headline is probably the fact that the BRITs, having clearly paid close attention to criticism from years past (especially in the midst of last year’s Grammys row), has nominated at least one woman in every single category, with most having a pretty equal balance of male and female talent. Indeed, this year’s most nominated acts are women, as Dua Lipa and Anne-Marie top the list with four each.

Elsewhere, there are some genuinely interesting surprises which feel more in touch with what people are actually listening to. These include nods for artists behind viral hits like Ramz and Ella Mai, and the entire British Male category, which includes artists as disparate as Giggs and Aphex Twin. There’s also love for newer artists like Brockhampton who made it into the running for International Group, and nominations in the International Female category for Cardi B, Christine and the Queens, and Janelle Monae. To be honest, if any of these artists show up to perform, it could well be the most exciting, representational BRITs for a while.

Of course, nominations are one thing, but it’ll be interesting to see if the BRITs puts its money where its mouth is, as it did last year when Stormzy won British Album over Ed Sheeran. And while unexpected artists being recognised is great, it’s rare that they actually walk away with prizes. At the end of the day, the main initial premise of the BRITs was to reward the biggest-selling releases and artists. And so it still has an onus to focus on who's popular, in a raw numbers and sales sense.

For music lovers, that may be a shame. When the BRITs gives nods to acts like Years and Years but then continues actually awarding George Ezras and Anne-Maries (who make great, popular pop music to be sure, but do little to innovate outside the mainstream machine), the whole process feels a little empty. A good example is how the BRITs jury, this year, added Mahalia into the Critics Choice mix with guitar guys Sam Fender and Lewis Capaldi, only to give it to Fender, a choice more in line with how the category has largely worked in the past.

It’ll be interesting, come 20 February, to see whether Fender’s selection is a sign of things to come; whether this year’s BRITs will be more of the same, with the most mainstream names taking away the biggest awards, or whether we’ll be genuinely surprised. Let’s hope for the latter.

The full list of nominations is below:

Best British Female
Florence and the Machine
Jorja Smith
Anne-Marie
Lily Allen
Jess Glynne

Best British Male
Sam Smith
Craig David
Aphex Twin
Giggs
George Ezra

Best British Group
Arctic Monkeys
Little Mix
Gorillaz
The 1975
Years and Years

British Breakthrough Act
Mabel
Jorja Smith
Ella Mai
Idles
Tom Walker

Best British Video
“2002” – Anne Marie
“One Kiss” – Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
“Solo” – Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato
“IDGAF” – Dua Lipa
“Woman Like Me” – Little Mix ft. Nicki Minaj
“Let You Love Me” – Rita Ora
“These Days” – Rudimental ft. Jess Glynne, Macklemore, and Dan Caplen
“For You” – Liam Payne and Rita Ora
“Breathe” – Jax Jones ft. Ina Wroldsen
"Rise" – Jonas Blue ft. Jack & Jack

Best British Single
“One Kiss” – Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
“Shotgun” – George Ezra
“These Days” – Rudimental ft. Jess Glynne, Macklemore, and Dan Caplen
“IDGAF” – Dua Lipa
“2002” – Anne Marie
“Solo” – Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato
“Lullaby” – Sigala and Paloma Faith
“Barking” – Ramz
“I’ll Be There” – Jess Glynne
“Leave A Light On” – Tom Walker

Best British Album
High As Hope – Florence and the Machine
Staying at Tamara’s – George Ezra
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975
Speak Your Mind – Anne-Marie
Lost & Found – Jorja Smith

Best International Female
Cardi B
Christine and the Queens
Camila Cabello
Ariana Grande
Janelle Monae

Best International Male
Drake
Travis Scott
Kamasi Washington
Shawn Mendes
Travis Scott

Best International Group
The Carters
First Aid Kit
Brockhampton
Nile Rodgers and Chic
Twenty One Pilots

Critics Choice
Mahalia
Lewis Capaldi
Sam Fender [WINNER]

You can find Lauren on Twitter.