Four Brit nominations for Robbie, but no Spice Girls

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ROBBIE WILLIAMS has gathered a slew of nominations for the Brit Awards, putting the seal on a year's growth from former teenybop idol into fully fledged rock star.

The former Take That singer, nominated as best solo artist and for best album, also has two nominations for best single and two for best video.

Gomez, whose debut album, Bring it on, was recorded in the drummer's dad's garage, has been nominated for best album, best group, and best newcomer. They are competing for the best-group award with Massive Attack, Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Beautiful South.

The ceremony, at the London Arena on 16 February, will see Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart - formerly the Eurythmics - performing together in public for the first time in eight years when they receive the award for outstanding contribution to British music.

Yesterday's nominations, drawn up by an academy of record retailers, band managers, the media and record companies, might disappoint pre-pubescent fans, as there is no room for the Spice Girls nor Boyzone. Best female solo artist nominees include Billie, Des'ree, PJ Harvey, Hinda Hicks and Billie Myers.

In the international section, Madonna, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette are nominated as best solo artists.

A spokesman for the Brit Awards said: "The nominations reflect that it has been very much a pop year for British music, with nominations for Steps, Five, Billie and B*witched. But at the same time there are five nominations for Massive Attack. And, along with Gomez and Manic Street Preachers, they show a different side of British music."

The chance to play live is a vital springboard for tomorrow's musical stars, Simply Red's Mick Hucknall told a government think-tank yesterday. The prominent Labour supporter urged Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, and the Music Industry Forum to encourage live musical venues where aspiring bands can launch themselves into Britain's hugely successful pounds 3.5bn industry.

At the forum's first meeting a year ago, Hucknall said: "I have already made my millions. This is not about me. It is about the 16-year-olds coming up."