Brit Awards face major headache with gendered categories and fear they’ll ‘offend non-binary Sam Smith’

AFTER a year of no gigs, few albums and very little in the way of pop sparkle, I’m ecstatic to say the Brits are back.

And against the odds, they will be the same as ever — with big names performing to a live studio audience — and male and female award categories kept in place.

Plans to scrap gender-specific gongs have proved a bridge too far, with bosses already scrambling to find ways to comply with Covid regulations for the ceremony at London’s O2 Arena in May.

It means the issue, which had been the subject of speculation since last year, will now more likely be addressed in 2022.

Members of the voting panel, including yours truly, begin casting their nods today. Big names in the frame include hotly tipped Dua Lipa, who already looks set to dominate the event as the favourite for two of the major gongs.

Other A-listers, including Paul McCartney, Little Mix, The 1975, Biffy Clyro and AJ Tracey, are also expected to ­feature heavily among the nominees.

But the decision to keep gender-specific categories does spark one conundrum.

After the success of their brilliant third album Love Goes, released last year, gender non-binary star Sam Smith is predicted to be among those in line for an award.

I’m told Brits chiefs, eager to avoid causing any offence, plan to speak to Sam’s team in advance of the voting opening to ensure Sam is happy with whichever ­category they are placed in.

A source said: “It’s very exciting to be able to get the event on after all the upheaval this year.

“There has been a lot of discussion about plans.

“The concern is that looking at the artists who have released this year — with all of the restrictions and problems — scrapping separate male and female awards categories might actually have had more of a negative impact across the board.

“It’s definitely something that is going to be looked at again in subsequent years.

In light of the challenges of the past year, I’m thrilled the Brits is going ahead at all — and I couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of the UK’s biggest stars all in one place.

Here’s hoping it’s a wild night — there’s plenty to ­celebrate.

Holy cow, Gwen

Gwen Stefani is still shining at 51 – not least because she’s dressed up as a rhinestone cowboy.

The former No Doubt frontwoman wore this outfit – which looks more fancy dress than Wild West – to promote her new single Slow Clap which came out last night.

Gwen, who has scored ten Top Ten singles in the UK, uses the tune to insist her music career isn’t dead and buried quite yet.

Embracing her resilient side, she sings: “Been the champion, rang the bell. Rocked the bottom, been through hell. Climbed the mountain, now I’m well. I just feel like coming back for the belt.”

As well as her music career, which she relaunched in December with her song Let Me Reintroduce Myself, she has been busy planning her wedding to US country music star Blake Shelton.

The pair got engaged in October after five years together.

Between them, they should have the entertainment sorted for the big day.

KSI has ’Blud on his hands

I expect to see them go head to head for Best Male when the Brit Award nominations are announced, but for now KSI and Yungblud, are pally enough to have worked together.

KSI has today released Patience featuring Yungblud & Polo G which, just like his track Don’t Play with Anne-Marie, is an absolute banger.

Speaking about working with the YouTuber-turned-rapper, Yungblud said: “KSI is an artist who came into music from a non-traditional route.

Something I relate to a lot. He has become a really close friend of mine and my favourite thing in the world is to make music with my friends.”

Girls tour is on hold

The Girls Aloud reunion has been put on hold while Sarah Harding ­battles cancer.

Nadine Coyle has revealed Cheryl, Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh and herself have vowed not to discuss the potential return for their 20th anniversary next year until Sarah has recovered.

She said: “I would love to be like, ‘Yes, this is what we’re doing’. At the minute, it’s very much thinking about Sarah, being there for Sarah. 

“It’s a really unfortunate time for her and the whole thing is like, ‘Come on, come on’, because then that could be the priority – talking about, ‘Should we do a tour? Should we do something?’. Instead we’re worried about Sarah.

“We’re just focusing everything there. That is the main priority.”

Sarah first revealed the ­devastating news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer last August, just months after it was revealed the group were all back in touch and wanted to mark the 2022 milestone.

She will release her auto- biography Hear Me Out next Thursday, in which she has vowed to, “Show people the real me”.

While Nadine shed some light on Girls Aloud’s plans, she added more mystery to what’s going on with her ex-partner Jason Bell, who she has been linked to once again after they moved in together in October to co-parent their seven-year-old daughter Anaiya during lockdown.

Asked whether she was single, Nadine – who separated from former American NFL star Jason in 2019 after 11 years together – told Sink The Pink’s Pop Tarts Instagram Live: “Do you know, it’s always complicated. You’re never really single.”

JLo is all aglow in bed

I’m used to seeing Jennifer Lopez in the spotlight at red carpet events, but it turns out she even looks ­glamorous while working from home.

The singer posted this photo on ­Instagram of her lying on a bed in her dressing gown while next to an iPad.

Unfortunately, I don’t look quite as alluring while slumped on the sofa in my trackies.

Eurovision king Dunc backs UK

The UK’s entry for Eurovision has been released and it’s got the backing of the reigning champion, the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence.

He won the competition in 2019 with his tune Arcade – which has had a resurgence following its growing popularity on TikTok and hit the Top 40 here last month.

Duncan reckons the UK’s James Newman has a good shot with his upbeat single Embers, which debuted yesterday.

In an exclusive interview, Duncan said: “The song itself is a huge step forward from the other entries I’ve seen from the UK.

“It has quite a Eurovision sound but a very modern twist to it, so it will work very well on a Eurovision stage. It’s fun and a well-produced song. It’s everything I wouldn’t do but it’s James’ thing, because he’s more of a dance music singer.”

That’s a good sign, given the UK’s Michael Rice finished last in Tel Aviv with Bigger Than Us when Duncan claimed his victory.

That said, bookies Ladbrokes last night gave James odds of 50/1 to win in Rotterdam on May 22, but 3/1 to finish at the bottom of the leaderboard.
We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed, then . . . 

Not again Nelson

JESY NELSON has hinted she’s once again split from her boyfriend, Our Girl actor SEAN SAGAR.

The couple, who started dating last spring, separated in January before getting back together weeks later.

But now they have unfollowed each other on Instagram, suggesting things have ended between them once again.

Demi 'too queer'

Demi Lovato has ­suggested she is done with dating men – as she feels “too queer”.

The American singer got engaged to US actor Max Ehrich last July before splitting with him in Sept-ember, and has now ­admitted the end of their six-month romance was a “relief” to her.

Demi explained: “When I started getting older, I started realising how queer I really am. This past year I was engaged to a man and, when it didn’t work, I was like, ‘This is a huge sign’.

“I felt this sense of relief that I could live my truth. I hooked up with a girl and was like, ‘I like this a lot more’.

“It felt better. It felt right. I didn’t want the ­romance from anybody of the ­opposite sex.”

McCartney III

PAUL McCARTNEY’s No1 album McCartney III, which came out in December, is being recreated by his musician pals who have each covered a song from the record.

McCartney III Imagined will be out on April 16, featuring new versions of the tracks from the likes of DAMON ALBARN, DOMINIC FIKE, JOSH HOMME, ST VINCENT and IDRIS ELBA.

Aloe plan to co-Lab

He’s worked with big names including Pharrell Williams and the late DJ Avicii, and now Aloe Blacc has his eye on some of our best talent.

The American singer-songwriter said he’d like to team up with UK artist Labrinth. He added: “I would love to work with Labrinth, because he’s brilliant.”

Aloe, who today releases the deluxe version of his latest album, All Love Everything, also talked about co-writing Avicii’s mega-hit Wake Me Up – which went to No1 in 22 countries.

He said: “When I hear the right music, I can invent the melody to go with it. That’s largely how Wake Me Up came about.

“I had the lyrics written before I got into the studio. When I heard the chord progressions with Avicii and Mike Einziger, I sang my words with a melody and I invented it on the spot.”

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