Brit Awards 2021: Rina Sawayama, Griff and Pa Salieu shortlisted for Rising Star award

Winner will be announced later this month

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 11 May 2021 17:06
The Brit Awards 2020 in numbers

Rina Sawayama, Pa Salieu and Griff have been shortlisted for the Brit Awards 2021 Rising Star Award.

The prize, which evolved from the Brits “Critics’ Choice” award last year, aims to predict the future stars of UK pop.

Previous winners include Adele, Sam Smith, Rag’N’Bone Man,Florence + the Machine, and last year’s winner Celeste.

The shortlist is selected by a panel of music editors and critics, radio and music TV station heads, plus songwriters, producers and live bookers.

Griff, 20, began making music when she was 11 years old. She signed to Warner Records in 2019 and went on to release two successful singles during lockdown: “Forgive Myself” and “Say It Again”. She also placed in theTop 5 of the BBC’s Sound of 2021 Poll.

“It’s kinda terrifying how many legends have been nominated for this award,” Griff said in a statement.


“I never ever ever expected making beats in my music room after school could eventually lead to a BRIT nomination. Super lame but I remember after school, catching up on the BRITs and crying watching Stormzy perform. And I don’t think I really knew what that emotion was at the time butI think it was just an overwhelming sense of aspiration. So to be nominated for a Brit award three years on is completely surreal”

Rapper Pa Salieu, who won the BBC Sound Of Poll this year, was recently featured as a guest artist on Jimmy Fallon’s US talk show and has collaborated with artists including FKA twigs, Backroad Gee and Yussuf Dayes.

“I am very grateful to be shortlisted for this Brit award. Love and blessings every time! Thanks to everyone supporting my journey so far,” he said.

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Then there’s 30-year-old Rina Sawayama, who until recently was not actually eligible for the Brit Awards or the Mercury Prize (both run by the BPI). This was because the British-Japanese artist did not hold a British passport or dual citizenship, as Japanese citizens are forbidden from holding dual nationality.

After Sawayama raised awareness of her situation last year, a BPI spokesperson said the eligibility criteria for both the Mercury Prize and the Brits would be reviewed.

It was then announced on 24 February 2021 that the criteria had been changed, provided the artist was either born in the UK, holds a UK passport, or has been a permanent resident in the UK for more than five years.

Sawayama released her critically acclaimed debut album, SAWAYAMA, last year and made a number album of the year lists, including The Independent’s.

“I literally fell to the floor when I found out that I’d been nominated for Rising Star. I really can’t put into words how much this means to me given that I wasn’t eligible for this award a few weeks ago and now that door has been opened for future generations of artists like myself,” she said. “Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me, it means the world.”

The winner of the 2021 Rising Star Award will be announced on Friday 19 March.

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