Updated: Feb 4
Just like the BAFTA for the film industry, the Brit Awards are the most important British awards for the music industry. Today, the 40th edition of the ceremony will take place at the O2 Academy in London, UK.
Originally called the patriotic The BRITish Record Industry BRITannia Awards, the awards quickly became known as "The Brits". Additionally, the name works as an acronym for British Record Industry Trusts Show. The first-ever Brit Awards took place in 1977 as part of the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations, and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the very first sound recording. The event was broadcasted by Thames Television, in a show hosted by Michael Aspel from a conference room in Wembley. The show was broadcasted entirely in black and white and winners included The Beatles, Cliff Richard, and Shirley Bassey.
Since 1982, the ceremony has been run by the BPI (British Record Industry) who today has long established its status as the British equivalent to the American Grammy Awards. Ceremonies from 1982 to 1984 were untelevised, but the BBC broadcast them from 1985 on. From 1989 to 1992, the ceremonies were broadcast directly by the BBC. Since 1993, they have been broadcast on ITV.
Since the first edition of the Brit Awards in 1977 are includes the category British Female Solo artist.
Let's look back at some of the most memorable appearances of women (good and bad) at the Brit Awards:
1977: Since the very first edition of the Brit Awards, the category "British Female Solo Artist" was part of the show’s repertoire. The Welsh singer Shirley Bassey was the first to be awarded in this category. Bassey is known not only for having recorded the theme songs to the James Bond films in 1964, 1971, and, 1979, but also for being the first Welsh person to chart a No. 1 single in 1959.
1983: American artist Barbara Streisand became the first woman to win the "British album of the year" award, a category in which she competed against two all-male bands: Madness and The Kids from Fame. The award established her status as a rare female winner of the night, only accompanied by the winner of the "Best female solo artist" triad.
The singer Samantha Fox and musician Mick Fleetwood was hosted of the worst ceremony in the history of the awards.
1989: The ceremony was hosted by British singer Samantha Fox and musician Mick Fleetwood. It is remembered to this day as the worst ceremony in the history of the awards, because of the number of mistakes the presenters made, continuously missing directions and forgetting their lines. The disaster reached its peak when Samantha Fox mistakenly introduced Boy George as the Four Tops. The night was hilariously bad, and it seemed like a kind of tragically comedic parody - rather than an established award ceremony. This embarrassing show led to the ceremony being heavily criticized by the media, resulting in it being taken off the air (it had always been broadcast live) until 2007, with future events being recorded for broadcast the following night. Let's remember some of the moments (good and bad) played by women at the Brit Awards:
Annie Lennox became the woman who won the award most times as "Best Female Solo Artist", having 6 awards in the same category (1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1992).
1993: Annie Lennox becomes the first British woman to win the award in the category "British album of the year", for her debut album "Diva".
1997: Today, 23 years have passed since the Spice Girls first arrived at the Brit Awards. Although the British band was at the top of its game, the five Brit girls’ appearance was not highly publicized for having won the award for best song of the year for "Wannabe", but for the famous Union Jack branded British flag dress worn by Geri Halliwell. The dress immediately became one of the most iconic dresses in the history of music. This performance positioned the Spice Girls among the line-up of the most memorable fashion moments of all time. After the legendary performance, Geri's dress became the most expensive piece of pop star clothing ever sold. One year after the ceremony, Geri Halliwell sold the dress at a Sotheby's auction in London. It was bought by Peter Morton for £41,300 as a piece of pop memorabilia to be displayed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. The money Halliwell raised was donated to a charity helping children with cancer.
During that same ceremony, American singer Lauryn Hill and her group Fugees took home the award for Best International Group and gave a performance of ‘Killing Me Softly' for the story.
1999: For the first time since its inception in 1977, the "The Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music" (awarded in regard to the artists' careers) was handed to a woman: Annie Lennox, and her band Eurythmics. The following year, the Spice Girls, won the same award.
2002: Although originally released in 1999 in the United States, DIDO's debut album "No Angel" appealed to a massive audience when it was released worldwide in February 2001. This, positioned her as the second English woman to win the "British album of the year" award with a debut release.
2004: Similar to the live concerts of the artists, the awards ceremonies’ live performances are almost always the most awaited moments by the fans. The collaborations between artists on stage are usually the most awaited moments of the ceremony, as they often become historically remarkable events. Madonna's performance alongside Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and, Missy Elliott at the 2003 VMAs is a clear example of this. Another of the most memorable moments occurred in London, at the 24th edition of the Brit Awards when Alicia Keys appeared in an iconic red outfit alongside Gwen Stefani and Missy Elliott to cover the Prince classic "Kiss". In that same ceremony, Beyoncé also performed her superhit "Crazy in Love", a single that had been released just 8 months earlier.
2005: At the 25th edition of the Brit Awards, soul singer Joss Stone had the honor of being invited by Robbie Williams (the most awarded artist in the history of the Brit Awards) to sing "Angel", the song, that (according to the British awards) turned out to be the best single of the last 25 years. The spectacular show attracted over 6 million viewers.
2007: Although she received nine nominations (two of which posthumous), Amy Winehouse was only ever awarded one Brit Award in the category of best British female solo artist.
2008: It might be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when not many people had heard of Adele. That moment was in 2008, when she performed for the first time on the stages of the Brit Awards together with producer Mark Ronson, in one of the most remembered performances in the history of the awards, not only because it was her debut, but also because she shared the same stage with Amy Winehouse.
2011: When she was awarded a spot to perform at the Brit Awards alongside stars such as Take That and Rihanna, Adele's biggest hit to date was the song "Chasing Pavements" from her album 19, a single that had scored her a nomination in 2009 but failed to win. Elegant and discreet, her simple and electrifying performance of "Someone Like You" at the 31st edition of these awards left viewers instantly mesmerized. To this day, the performance is considered to be one of the best things the British had seen in years. The song soon reached the top of the charts, and in December of the same year, "21" - the album it was released on - became the best selling album of the century.
2015: Live audiences provide a certain adrenaline rush that often makes each performance even more charged and powerful than anything planned for or showcased during rehearsals. This also applied to Madonna’s 2015 performance at the Brit Awards. She was the protagonist of the most talked-about moment at that year's award ceremony - not because of a prize she won, but because of her dramatic fall during her LIVE performance. Her cape had broken, and in the effort of wanting to perform as she had planned, she did not get rid of it as she was supposed to, so when the dancers threw her back, she fell down the stairs. Later, she announced that she was fine via Instagram, and explained that her cape was too tight when the dancers tried to take it off her neck.
2016: With a moving introduction by Annie Lennox, and a powerful tribute speech by Gary Oldman, Lorde took on the enormous responsibility of using her voice in a tribute to David Bowie, who had died a few days prior to the event. At the performance, the New Zeland singer was accompanied by Bowie's band.
2019: For the first time in the history of the Brit Awards, the career award (given to artists for their contribution to music) was received by an American artist: Pink. After receiving the award for everything she achieved in her 20 years on stage, Pink stated she would be looking at at least 20 more years to go, and explained - amidst a sea of tears - that being considered in the same category as David Bowie, The Beatles, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and many other established icons was beyond her comprehension. This award, dedicated to the career path of artists, has been won by three women since the first edition of the Brit Awards in 1977.
Among the 21 most awarded British artists, there are only five women: Adele (9), Annie Lennox (8), Spice Girls (5), Dido (4), Emeli Sande (4). Adele has been nominated in 6 ceremonies (2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017), and took home an award in every single one of them. She has received nine awards through a total of fourteen nominations. She already won the album of the year category twice. Annie Lennox became the woman who won the award most times as "Best Female Solo Artist", having 6 awards in the same category (1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, and 1992).