Grime time: UK urban acts make BRITs breakthrough following voting overhaul

Grime time: UK urban acts make BRITs breakthrough following voting overhaul

After last year’s #BRITsSoWhite controversy, all eyes were on Saturday night’s ITV nominations launch to see what kind of complexion the 2017 BRITs line-up would take. Would the shortlist deliver a more representative reflection of the UK’s diverse music scene? Would it embrace grime after its supposed snubbing of arguably the UK’s most vibrant musical genre? The answer to both was a resounding yes, as a raft of urban acts were nominated across some of the awards’ most coveted categories.

In the wake of 2016’s now infamous outing, BRITs organisers made pains to ensure that the 2017 ceremony would not be a repeat of last year. The voting academy was overhauled in order to promote greater diversity, while talks were held with grime icon Stormzy as to how the BRITs could be more inclusive. Clearly these measures have made an impact.

A quick glance at the nominees and the contrast with last year’s line-up is glaring. In the British Male Solo Artist stakes you have Craig David, David Bowie, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Skepta. For British Female Solo Artist you have Anohni, Ellie Goulding, Emeli Sandé, Lianne La Havas and Nao.

Meanwhile, the nominees for British Album Of The Year are The 1975 (I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It), David Bowie (Blackstar), Kano (Made In The Manor), Michael Kiwanuka (Love & Hate) and Skepta (Konnichiwa).  

Grime also gets a strong showing in the British Breakthrough category, with Skepta and Stormzy up against Anne-Marie, Blossoms and Rag’N’Bone Man.

Of course, there is no guarantee that a grime artist will win big on the night, but it would surely come as a shock if at least one of its shining lights didn’t walk away with an award. Especially given the media attention thrust upon both the genre and the awards over the past year.

When Skepta emerged victorious from the 2016 Mercury Prize with Konnichiwa, the industry hailed the moment as the biggest breakthrough in its history – an accolade that would surely be trumped in the face of a BRITs win.

The big question is where grime goes from here. While mainstream recognition for a genre built largely upon a DIY, independent work ethic is no doubt a commendable feat, maintaining its credentials as an anti-establishment scene will likely be its biggest challenge. As with any trend or movement that breaks into the wider public conscience, the potential for dilution and pale imitators rises.

Who knows what’s going to happen over the next 12 months. Perhaps grime will be able to deftly balance mainstream success with an underground edge. Or maybe it’ll go the way of so many other genres, spawning a slew of copycats and radio-friendly imitators.

One thing that is for sure is that any doubts as to its mass appeal have been well and truly trounced.

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