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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

Brit awards extend best artist shortlist to 10 after 2023’s all-male lineup

Harry Styles at the 2023 Brit awards
Harry Styles won artist of the year at this year’s Brits and dedicated his win to a list of female singers. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

The Brit awards will double the number of nominees for gender-neutral categories, it has been announced, after widespread criticism over a lack of diversity.

Organisers of the annual music ceremony said the artist of the year and international artist of the year prizes would have 10 nominees from next year, up from five.

There was criticism in January when it was revealed that no women had been shortlisted for the best artist prize, which had replaced the best male and female categories two years ago.

The extended shortlists, a result of “extensive consultation” after the 2023 awards, are aimed at “improving representation and inclusion”, said the awards’ organisers, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

The Brits will also add R&B to its list of genre categories, which include alternative/rock, dance, pop and hip-hop/grime/rap.

Previously, R&B artists had to compete in a combined pop/R&B category, which was dominated by mainstream stars. In response, the singer Mahalia turned up to this year’s ceremony wearing a Burberry jacket with the words “Long Live R&B” painted on the back.

Organisers have said eligibility for the new genre award will cover a 24-month period instead of the usual 12 months to ensure artists who were overlooked last year could qualify.

Mahalia told BBC News on Friday that the change was “huge”. “For me, when the [combined] category got announced a couple of years ago, I was disappointed for the younger generation of R&B kids who were going to think a Brit nomination was impossible,” she said. “I was kind of feeling that, too. If I’m in a longlist with all of these huge art pop artists, I don’t know how I’m going to shine through.”

The BPI chief executive, Jo Twist, said: “The Brits is committed to making the show as inclusive and representative as possible, the changes to this year’s categories are part of an ongoing process of evolution and we will continue to review, listen and learn.”

Twist said organisers were “obviously disappointed” that no women were nominated for artist of the year in 2023.

Last year’s best artist award was won by Harry Styles, who used his acceptance speech to dedicate it to a list of female singers. “I’m very aware of my privilege up here tonight,” he said, “so this award is for Rina [Sawayama], Charli [XCX], Florence [Welch], Mabel and Becky [Hill].”

Gender-neutral categories were introduced after the singer Sam Smith announced they were non-binary and used they/them pronouns. Faced with a dilemma, the BPI said it would drop gendered categories, a move praised by many as long overdue.

The decision did not immediately lead to the exclusion of women: in 2022, Adele won the best artist prize and said in her speech: “I understand why the name of this award has changed but I really love being a woman and being a female artist.”

This year, the nominees were Styles, Stormzy, Central Cee, Fred Again and George Ezra. In an interview, Smith criticised the list, saying: “There’s so much incredible talent in the UK – they should be on that list.”

After the 2023 awards, the BPI announced it would review the nomination process and determine if any changes were needed to support women.

On Friday, the organisers also announced that the British visual artist Rachel Jones would be the trophy designer for the 2024 awards, which will be held on 2 March at London’s O2 Arena.

Previous designers of the awards have included Damien Hirst, Vivenne Westwood, Sir Peter Blake and Zaha Hadid.

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