The Closed Mind of the BRIT Awards
Many award ceremonies of recent years have come under scrutiny for the lack of diversity in the artists that they chose to honour. The 2016 Brit Awards are no different. This issue was brought to the forefront of international attention after comments posted by Nicki Minaj stating she would have been nominated for a VMA if she were “a different kind of artist.” The rapper made incredibly illuminating comments on the nature of critical recognition, stating that “black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it”. She is right. Award ceremonies are often the epitome of white privilege and show a disregard for the incredible influence black artists have on our society. The BRIT Awards, just like the Oscars, have failed to nominate a non-white artist for the vast majority of their awards. Despite nominations for many interesting and innovative artists such as Aphex Twin and Jamie XX, there are clear disparities between the most influential and creative artists in the music industry and the artists that are recognized.
The failure to include any black artists within the nomination for British Male Solo act has resulted no mention of one of the past years most popular and prolific genres. 2015 saw a massive surge in the appreciation for grime, with it becoming a large part of Britain’s most appreciated musical exports. Artists, such as JME, who have had such a profound impact on popular culture, are completely overlooked by the BRIT Awards for artists like James Bay, whose impact on the UK music scene seems so insignificant in comparison.
The posthumous nomination for Amy Winehouse is particularly interesting. Although it is a moving tribute following the release of her biographical documentary Amy in 2015, many have criticized this as a neglect of current British musical talent. While Winehouse’s extraordinary talent cannot be disputed, it eludes to the idea that there are few contemporary female artists that are worthy of recognition. Perhaps there should have been a nomination for FKA Twigs, and her brilliant EP M3LL155X, whose unique and revolutionary sound is a prominent feature of modern British music. Nominating deceased female artists, regardless of their merit, exemplifies an inattention to women in music and obstructs new female talent from achieving highly.
Like many award ceremonies, the BRIT’s promises to offer a public celebration of talent that is disproportionate to the actualities of the industry. The lack of diversity in the artists that have been nominated presents a false ideal of what British music actually is. By failing to recognize artists of different ethnicities, the BRIT’s have alienated some of the biggest talents present within the UK music scene and become an embodiment of institutionalised discrimination.