Sarah Freeman: Here come the girls as breath of fresh air blows through Brits

It's been a long time coming.

In years gone by the best female category at the Brits was nothing short of an embarrassment. During the 1980s, whether they had released a new album or not, the nominations were generally shared between Kim Wilde, Alison Moyet and Sade. It was a decade accompanied by the sound of barrels being scraped and one when Annie Lennox and Kate Bush were always on standby to make up the numbers. So scarce were new, credible female acts that in 1988, Samantha Fox and Sinitta were both nominated for Best Female.

The 1990s were no better. Britpop may have ushered in a new wave of bands, but for female artists it remained the same old story.

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Which was why the announcement of this year's nominations has been such a breath of fresh air and, for once, the headlines of girl power finally conquering the charts may actually be justified.

Lily Allen, Florence and the Machine and the gloriously bonkers Lady Gaga are all up for three awards – the most of any act – and the trio have not only produced some of the most memorable tracks of the last few years, but are unlikely to have disappeared into obscurity before the ceremony next month. With Pixie Lott, Norah Jones, Bat For Lashes, La Roux and Ellie Goulding, who has already been announced as the winner of the Brits critics' choice prize, also toning down the

usual testosterone-fuelled atmosphere, this year's Brits will be a very different affair. There's even a female presence in the notoriously male-only category of best album.

In fact, there was just one woman who apparently had grounds to feel snubbed. Susan Boyle. Hearing she had not been nominated in any category, it didn't take long for her supporters to rally. They pointed

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out that having recorded the biggest-selling British album of last year and with I Dreamed A Dream having topped the charts in the UK and the US with sales totalling more than six million, she should have been a shoo-in.

Had this been 1988, they might have had a point. But her omission is good sign for the music industry. Chosen by a panel of 1,000 music and media experts the nominees are judged on commercial success and artistic talent. Susan Boyle may have bucket-loads of the first, but little of the latter. Let's remember she didn't achieve global fame because of her voice, but because we all found it impossible to believe that a plump woman who had never been kissed could actually hold a note.

In fact, all we need for 2010 to be a truly golden year for the Brits is a little old-school controversy. It's 18 years since the KLF fired blanks from a machine gun before dumping a dead sheep at the official post-awards dinner, and 14 since Jarvis Cocker deftly earned infamy as an unwanted extra during Michael Jackson's performance of Earth Song. So should anyone be considering revenge on behalf of poor old Subo, we suggest they get their thinking caps on now.

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