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First Access Entertainment, Nwaka Oparaeke, The Weeknd

Five On It: can Zayn and the Weeknd calling out awards incur real change like Rina did?

Music awards season is here, and that means celebrities calling out awards season is here too. Can it lead to any real change? Plus great new music from Jorja Smith, Kasai and more.

12 Mar 2021

Ah yes, awards season is upon us. With the BRITs pushed back all the way to May courtesy of, you guessed it, Covid-19, it falls to this weekend’s Grammys to fill in the music industry opulence for the spring. 

The relevance of awards can always be called into question, especially for acts not affiliated with a major label, but it is always interesting to hear the perspectives of big talent when they express their own concerns on the “politics” of it all. 

This week, Zayn weighed in on the equation claiming that “Unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations”, going on to clarify that his tweet was “not personal or about eligibility but was about the need for inclusion and the lack of transparency of the nomination process and the space that creates and allows favoritism, racism, and networking politics to influence the voting process”.

In a week where The Weeknd received zero nominations in 84 categories despite spending a literal year in the US Top 10 with his single ‘Blinding Lights’ being confirmed as the most successful of 2020, it raises spectator questions of what is actually going on. Only yesterday did Abel Tesfaye, the man-behind-the-moniker, state that he will no longer allow his label to submit his music to the Grammys going forwards. The reaction is understandable – the blanket snub is illogical for 2020’s biggest commercial artist and the Grammys thousand-strong committee voting process is notoriously mysterious and divisive; think of it as the equivalent of a music industry illuminati, if you will. 

Thankfully, the BRIT awards’ process this year is far more cohesive and inclusive. Nominated by industry reps, songwriters and producers, journalists and cultural critics, the annual Rising Star award highlights burgeoning talent tipped to achieve great things in the next year. With last year’s winner Celeste continuing to smash it, it’s heartening to see this year’s trio of nominees.

gal-dem cover star, Rina Sawayama is in the running, alongside Griff (a former gal-dem one-to-watch) and rapper Pa Salieu. Rina’s inclusion is all the more sweet, given the singer was previously ineligible for nomination, as a non-UK citizen with indefinite leave to remain. Following a campaign by the star however,  industry trade association BPI updated their criteria last month. Given the tangible results achieved by Rina’s choice to be vocal about the issue, it will be interesting to see if The Weeknd’s Grammys critique – as the biggest commercial star in the world right now – has any impact on awards ceremonies the other side of the pond.

Jorja Smith – ‘Addicted’

The return of Jorja Smith is always sweet, and her new single ‘Addicted’ is no different. Its trip hop-inspired beats and low-key production highlight her sultry vocal tone; and it’s a switch-up from the dancehall sound of last year’s Popcaan collab, ‘Come Over’.

Kasai – ‘Drunk Diary, Weed and Liquor’

London label Dirty Hit have a knack for tapping into exciting undiscovered talent, and newest signee Kasai shows that they appreciate a bit of R&B as much as indie and pop. Propelled by moody and atmospheric bass, ‘Drunk Diary, Weed and Liquor’ sees Kasai call out boys’ alcohol-infused B.S because that is, after all, one thing that’s pretty boring.

Tamaraebi – ‘Brown Angel’

Smooth as they come, ‘Brown Angel’ finds neo-soul artist Tamaraebi celebrating the diverse beauty of Blackness. Sumptuous and indulgent, it’s lounge vibe taps into R&B and understated hip hop beats, balancing retro elements with a contemporary vision. 

Aziya – ‘Slip!’

A bonafide lockdown live champion following a performance on H.E.R’s Insta, BRIT school graduate Aziya has been catching the right kind of attention – including that of Grimes and Missy Elliott. Following up with her debut single, ‘Slip!’ is a surefire statement piece with its sludgy guitar work and Aziya’s commanding vocal. 

Temptress – ‘SOS’

A self-described lockdown anthem about “missing friends and family [but being] one call away”, Temptress’ ‘SOS’ is undeniably bittersweet. The duo’s slick fusion of pop and R&B is as reassuring as it is melancholy, with its funk bass and playful melodies being the audible equivalent of a much needed warm embrace ♥