Four awards for Harry Styles, Wet Leg winning best new artist – in many ways the winners of the Brit Awards 2023 were… predictable. Did Harry really deserve to sweep the board? Who was snubbed this year? How relevant even are awards shows like the BRITS anymore?
The overarching feeling from this year’s BRIT awards is perhaps one of mediocrity. While a couple of lesser-expected artists secured a win, like Fontaines D.C. beating Blackpink for Best International Group, when the majority of awards were announced they were met with a, “makes sense”, rather than a shocked reaction. The BRITs are a celebration of mainstream popular music, not underground artists, but they missed the opportunity to celebrate a range of music. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the Pop/R&B category where not one of the nominees was actually an R&B artist.
Another act to steal the show was the alternative duo Wet Leg
In what was essentially the Harry Styles show, the artist walked away with four BRITS: Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Song of the Year with ‘As it Was’, and Pop/R&B Act. He recovered from his Grammys bizarre speech slip where he said “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often”; this time saying, “I’m aware of my privilege up here tonight”. Picking up the Artist of the Year award he commended the great female artists who missed out on a nomination: Florence Welch, Rina Sawayama, and Charli XCX, acknowledging the BRITs’ lack of female representation.
At the awards after-party, Charli XCX brandished a t-shirt that read “Real Winner”, a comment on her loss against Harry Styles in the Pop/R&B category, and she took a stand on the red carpet: “I was in album cycle and I had a Number One album […] We’re doing everything right. I don’t think it’s our fault. I think it might be theirs”. If the BRITs place value on artists following traditional album cycles over the production and performances of great tracks and albums this in itself falls short of celebrating the best music.
Another act to steal the show was the alternative duo Wet Leg. They picked up awards for Best Group and Best New Artist. While Best New Artist was well-deserved, having sprung up since their viral hit ‘Chaise Longue’ with eccentric performances and witty lyrics on their debut album, winning Best Group saw them defeat other artists that have had incredible years and tours. Arctic Monkeys were snubbed, having released their album The Car in October, older brother of the suave-spacey-soundscape Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino in 2018. The 1975 equally missed out despite their visual and auditory delight of a “show-within-a-show” live tour in a Talking-Heads-esque backdrop. Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale awkwardly delivered Alex Turner’s famous “That rock and roll just won’t go away” BRITs speech from 2014, but it fell flat rather than being the cheeky comment or praise it was meant to be. Nonetheless, the female duo’s double win was satisfying considering the overwhelming absence of female artists this year.
While the individual categories of rap, dance, and alternative act allow recognition to be made to each of these genres, the risk is that the winners of these categories then become expected. Any artist deviating from “Pop music” might pick up the award in their respective genre category, but they struggle to win the biggest awards like Best Song or Best Artist which go to pop stars. Equally, the removal of gender categories has not eased the celebration of a range of artists it expected.
The BRITs should be taken with a pinch of salt
Fan-voted awards also leave room for improvement. While in theory, these allow democracy as the public can vote, it’s simply the artists with the most enthusiastic, active-online fanbases that secure wins. Last year the BRITs introduced fan-voting for the four genre-based awards, the vote taking place on TikTok. This led to awards this year for Aitch, Harry Styles, The 1975, and Becky Hill. Carrying out the vote on a platform with a personalised for-you page, however, means the vote is placed in the hands of the keenest fans. It is no wonder that here the Harries could secure another award. Likewise, Aitch has a large fan base, one that’s grown due to TikTok. There is no clear solution for who should decide the awards, but perhaps doing an audience vote on TikTok is not as inclusive as it appears on the surface.
After picking holes in the BRITs it seems those awarded are certainly deserving because of their massive-scale popularity. But the award format also means many are missed out – be that in underrepresentation by gender, internationality, or music genre. The BRITs should be taken with a pinch of salt, but ultimately any awards show is going to annoy some and not others, in the hyper-subjectivity of the music world.