LONDON – It was Harry's night at the Brit Awards.
Harry Styles won four prizes, including album of the year, at the U.K.'s leading music awards Saturday, while female-led indie rock band Wet Leg took trophies for group of the year and best new artist.
Beyoncé added two Brits to her crowded shelf of awards — international artist of the year and international song of the year, for “Break My Soul.”
Styles took the album of the year trophy for “Harry’s House,” less than a week after winning the same category at the Grammy Awards. He also won for pop/R&B act, song of the year for “As It Was,” and artist of the year.
Accepting the best-artist trophy, the global pop heartthrob thanked “my mum for signing me up for ‘X Factor,’” the talent show that brought him to fame with boyband One Direction.
“I am very aware of my privilege up here tonight,” said Styles, who drew criticism for saying at the Grammys that “this doesn’t happen to people like me very often.” Some saw the comment as deaf to the struggles faced by artists from diverse backgrounds.
Styles gave shoutouts to Charli XCX, Rina Sawayama, Mabel, Florence + The Machine and Becky Hill — performers who failed to make the Brits' all-male artist of the year shortlist.
Two years ago the Brits replaced separate male and female performer categories with gender-neutral awards in a bid to become more inclusive. But the change drew some criticism this year when the Brits announced a best-artist shortlist with no female acts.
The move to gender-neutral prizes was among changes made in response to longstanding criticism that the Brits failed to reflect the diversity of British music. In 2017, the academy of more than 1,000 music industry professionals that chooses Brits winners was expanded in an attempt to make it more gender-balanced and diverse.
Some musicians said more needs to be done.
“There is a lot of diversity in artists but there is not enough diversity in record labels,” said Sawayama, a nominee for newcomer of the year.
Founded in 1977, the Brits have evolved from a rough-around-the-edges industry event to a slick showcase for U.K. talent that has boosted the careers of future megastars including Adele.
This year’s breakthrough acts include Wet Leg, the punky band formed by Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers on England’s rural Isle of Wight.
“This is so scary because being on the telly can feel like a real boys’ club thing,” Teasdale said, before thanking all the women involved in making the band’s self-titled debut album.
The Brits include four awards for different genres that are chosen by public vote. As well as Styles pop/R’n’B trophy, the prize for alternative/rock went to the 1975, Manchester rapper Aitch won the grime/hip hop category and Becky Hill was named best dance act for the second year running.
Ireland’s Fontaines DC was named international group of the year and David Guetta was declared producer of the year.
Styles opened the show at London’s O2 Arena performing “As It Was,” while Wet Leg delivered hit song ”Chaise Longue” on a sylvan set accompanied by whimsical folk dancers. Other performers included Lewis Capaldi, Lizzo, Stormzy, Cat Burns and Sam Smith.