British music's biggest night, the BRIT Awards, came and went on Wednesday, February 21, without feeling much different from the Grammys. Many artists wore a white rose to signal solidarity with the #MeToo movement, although they did it without association to the Time's Up fund or any similar British groups so it rings rather hollow. No moments were carved out in the show to mention #MeToo, that was left to the performers, presenters, and winners. Speaking of winners, just like at the Grammys only one woman won an award that was included in the telecast, and that was Dua Lipa (Lorde did win International Female Solo Artist, but was unable to attend and sent a prerecorded thanks). Lipa picked up the British Female Solo Artist statue, because they still divide these things by gender, which feels quite outdated and makes me wonder if any women would have won this year at all were there not special trophies for women.
Lipa gave the show its singular moment devoted to talking about how women are under represented in music, aside from its lack of accolades for women which speak loudly for themselves. In her acceptance speech, after iterating thanks to her fans and team, she pointedly said, "I also want to thank every single female that has been on the stage before me, that has given girls like me — not just girls in the music industry but girls in society — a place to be inspired by, to look up to, and have allowed us to dream this big. Thank you so, so much. Here's to more women on these stages, more women winning awards, and more women taking over the world."
Lipa's win is especially historic, as she was also the first female ever to be nominated for five BRITs. She also picked up the British Breakthrough award, which was not telecast.
Lipa was also the only solo female performer. Jorja Smith, who won the Critic's Choice award, joined British Single winner Rag'N'Bone Man to perform a duet of his single "Skin," while Rita Ora joined Liam Payne for a duet of their Fifty Shades song. Ariana Grande was slated to perform a tribute to Manchester, but when he doctor forbid her from travel she was replaced by Liam Gallagher. In addition to him, the show featured performances by Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton, Ed Sheeran, the Foo Fighters, and Stormzy. So, other than Lipa, there were an extremely limited number of chances for female artists to speak up on behalf of women, with regard to their representation, #MeToo, or anything else. Women of color fared even worse, with the least representation of any group all night.
It is distressing to think that if there weren't a special category for women, the BRITs would have not had any awards go to women on television this year. In the mixed gender categories, the nominees are overwhelmingly male. But, like the Grammys, these award shows can only nominate the artists made available to them. If women aren't getting to write and record songs and albums, they're not going to win awards for them. It's clear that British music has the same representation problem that America does.
So, one more time and louder for the people in the back: hire women. Hire them to write songs, produce songs, and sing songs. Promote women. Make them managers, A&R executives, publishing executives, and let them run the company without having to answer to a man. A diversity report from 2016 on the British music industry found that while there are loads of women in music from ages 24-35, their numbers drop massively after that. After five years in music, women go elsewhere. That says that young women in the U.K. are getting into music but not staying and not becoming the decision makers. If the dismal representation at the BRITs this year is any indication, it also means those decision makers aren't putting enough money, promotion, and time into female artists in the U.K.
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