Last year, when the BRIT awards announced it would be scrapping male- and female-led categories in a bid to promote inclusivity, there were concerns from some corners that women – who have traditionally had to fight for their place in the male-dominated industry – would be among those most negatively impacted by the decision. But last night's first ever gender neutral ceremony saw female acts dominate in 10 out of 15 categories, with Adele taking home the most wins.
The artist scooped three awards, for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year (for her critically acclaimed fourth record, 30) as well as British Song of the Year for "Easy On Me". When taking to the stage to collect her Artist of the Year statuette, her speech made a nod to the award ceremony's decision and bolstered support for female musicians: "I understand why they changed the name of this award, but I really love being a woman, I really love being a female artist."
Later, in an emotional speech, she dedicated her award for 30 – which has been widely dubbed her 'divorce album' – to her son, Angelo, and ex-husband, Simon Konecki: "This album was all of our journey, not just mine, and I’m very proud of myself for sticking to my guns and putting out an album that was so personal to me – 'cause not many people do that any more."
Other female winners included Little Simz for Best New Artist, who brought her mum on stage in an emotional speech in which Simz called out her full Nigerian name, Simbiatu Ajikawo, and encouraged the next generation to follow in her footsteps: "I am living proof that if you work hard at something, no matter your background, your race, you can be something extraordinary. This is for all the kids, keep dreaming, keep pushing. I am you, you are me, lessons."
Dua Lipa took home Best Pop/R&B Act and Billie Eilish took home Best Artist in the international category – with both artists video calling in from the US. Elsewhere, British singer Becky Hill won her first BRIT award for Best Dance Act, Olivia Rodrigo was the recipient of Song of the Year for the pop-punk anthem "Good 4 U" and newcomer Holly Humberstone scooped the Rising Star award.
The move away from gendered awards came after non-binary artist Sam Smith criticised last year's ceremony as their identity meant that they were unable to be nominated in either male or female categories, adding they looked "forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in". The BRITs later made the change in order to "celebrate artists solely for their music and work, rather than how they choose to identify or as others may see them".
The historic wins of the evening defied concerns expressed by Nadine Dorries that the gender neutral categories were a "sad decision", despite the inclusion of non-binary artists, with the culture secretary's insistence that it could lead to "women not [being] fairly represented in those awards".
YouTube Shorts is this year’s Digital Music Partner for the BRIT Awards. Head to the #BRITsUnseen hashtag on YouTube to see creators sharing exclusive BTS footage from the night”