Non-binary singer Sam Smith excluded from gendered categories at 2021 BRIT Awards

Sam Smith excluded from best solo artist categories at 2021 BRIT Awards

British singer Sam Smith has been excluded from the best solo artist categories at the 2021 BRIT Awards, which despite two years of public pressure have not taken steps to become more inclusive.

The best artist categories at the BRIT Awards have been split into two genders, male and female, since the awards began in 1977. All other BRIT Awards categories are open to people of all genders.

Smith, whose album Love Goes is eligible for British album of the year, said of their exclusion that they “look forward to a time where awards shows can be reflective of the society we live in”.

Love Goes reached number two in the UK charts after its release in October 2020, and remained in the top 40 until a fortnight ago.

Smith is one of the most successful British pop artists of the last decade. They have previously won three BRIT awards from 12 nominations: the critics’ choice (now rising star) award in 2014, and British breakthrough act and the global success award in 2015.

In a 13 March statement posted on Instagram, Sam Smith said: “The BRITS have been an important part of my career, one of my earliest achievements was winning Critics Choice in 2014.

“Music for me has always been about unification not division. 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.”

A BRIT Awards spokesperson said in response: “Sam Smith is an extraordinary British artist and we agree with what they have said today. The Brits are committed to evolving the show and the gendered categories are very much under review.

“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 counterproductive to diversity and equality. We need to consult more widely before changes are made to make sure we get it right.”

A historic change to the rules was made in February 2021 after Rina Sawayama forced the competition to change discriminatory rules.

The pop icon was born in Japan but has lived in the UK for 26 years. Despite this, she learned last year that she was not eligible for consideration by both the BRIT Awards and the Mercury Prize because she is not a British citizen.

Both contests changed their rules in February after Sawayama publicly criticised them for deeming her “not British enough” to be considered.

The “Cherry” singer was shortlisted for the 2021 Rising Star Award this month, and said: “I really can’t put into words how much this means to me given that I wasn’t eligible for this award a few weeks ago and now that door has been opened for future generations of artists like myself. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me, it means the world.”

The BRIT Awards are usually held in February but were delayed by the pandemic. The ceremony will now take place on 11 May.