Women took centre stage at the 41st annual Brit Awards, with several UK and international musicians winning gongs that have traditionally gone to men.
After years of calls for the awards ceremony to honour the women who are making strides in music, Tuesday night’s ceremony was just the beginning of ensuring more inclusivity in the music industry.
The 2020 Brit Awards faced widespread criticism for its lack of female award nominees, leading many people to say the ceremony needs to recognise the influence of women in the international and British music industries.
The gendered categories of the awards — which separate nominees based on their gender identities — have also come under backlash. In March, when the Brit Awards’ nominees were released, singer and songwriter Sam Smith made a statement about the gendered categories at the Brit Awards, writing that they look forward to a time when the ceremony is reflective of the society we live in.
“Music for me has always been about unification not division,” Smith said. “I look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in. Let's celebrate everybody, regardless of gender, race, age, ability, sexuality, and class.”
In response, the Brit Awards released a statement writing that they are committed to evolving the show and reviewing the gendered categories, according to Billboard.
“But any changes made to be more inclusive need to be just that — if a change unintentionally leads to less inclusion then it risks being counter productive to diversity and equality. We need to consult more widely before changes are made to make sure we get it right,” the statement said.
As the Brit Awards works towards reflecting the work of all musicians who are part of today’s music landscape, the 2021 Brit Awards highlighted women in a way that it never has before. Here are seven musicians who won awards and made terrific strides for women in music.
1. Dua Lipa, British Female Solo Artist and British Album of the Year
Dua Lipa dominated the Brit Awards on Tuesday night, winning two of the three categories for which she was nominated. When accepting the Brit Award for British Female Solo Artist, Lipa made the time to reference a speech she made in 2018 — when she made history as the first woman to be nominated for five Brits — calling for more recognition of women's work in music.
She also used her platform this year to thank the thousands of health care workers in the UK who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Lipa dedicated part of her award — with the awards this year being in two parts — to Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, a British nurse who Lipa said has spent “a stellar nursing career fighting racial injustice” and “protecting frontline workers.”
Lipa shared that Anionwu has said there is a great disparity between gratitude and respect for health care workers and staff.
“So I think what we should do, is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give Boris [Johnson, UK prime minister] a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our frontline,” Lipa said.
2. Little Mix, British Group
Little Mix picked up the award for British Group, becoming the first group made up of all women to win the award, according to the Guardian.
The group — made up of Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, and Leigh-Anne Pinnock — took the stage to call out white male dominance in the UK pop industry.
“It’s not easy being a female in the UK pop industry. We’ve seen the white male dominance, misogyny, sexism, and lack of diversity,” said Pinnock. “We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood our ground, surrounded ourselves with strong women, and are now using our voices more than ever.”
3. Arlo Parks, Breakthrough Artist
British singer-songwriter and poet Arlo Parks won the Brit Award for Breakthrough Artist, having released her album Collapsed in Sunbeams earlier this year. Parks was nominated for three awards at Tuesday night’s ceremony and used her acceptance speech to tell everyone that she is living proof that dreams come true.
4. Billie Eilish, International Female Solo Artist
American singer and songwriter Billie Eilish accepted the award for International Female Solo Artist virtually, thanking the Brit Awards for the honour and saying that she could not wait until the day she could join the awards ceremony in-person once again.
5. Haim, International Group
American music group Haim — made up of sisters Este Haim, Danielle Haim, and Alana Haim — accepted the award for International Group, beating out fellow nominees BTS, Fontaines D.C., Foo Fighters, and Run the Jewels.
The last group made up of all women to win the Brit Award for International Group was Destiny’s Child in 2002, marking Haim’s win as yet another celebration for women in music.
6. Griff, Rising Star
British singer and songwriter Griff won the award for Rising Star over Pa Salieu and Rina Sawayama. Griff took time out of her acceptance speech to also thank the key workers in attendance for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. Taylor Swift, Global Icon
American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift became the first woman to receive the Global Icon award at the Brit Awards. As one of the best-selling music artists, Swift used her acceptance speech to encourage new artists and everyone listening to push forward with their goals.
“There is no career path that comes free of negativity,” Swift said. “If you’re met with resistance that probably means that you’re doing something new.”
She also took the time to honor the health care workers in the audience who are part of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
“I’m really, really proud to be part of this musical community, especially in a year when we all needed music so much,” Swift said. “But what we needed even more was the help and support that we got from the NHS and the key workers who are here tonight. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for us.”
The 2021 Brit awards was the UK’s first large-scale indoor event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an audience of over 2,500 frontline medical professionals who won tickets to the awards ceremony.
The event was part of the UK’s Events Research programme, which is orchestrating a series of activities to examine the risk of COVID-19 transmission at live events and understand how the world can safely return to hosting large group gatherings.
As so many artists took the time to honour the work of health care workers during their acceptance speeches, the night was a celebration of the people who are paving new ways forward for the global community. The record number of women who were nominated for and won awards at the ceremony are a testament to that.