Brian May. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Queen guitarist Brian May has blasted the BRIT Awards for binning gendered categories in a bizarre rant against “woke cancel culture”.
This week, the BRITs announced that artist of the year and international artist of the year awards are replacing the traditional male and female categories.
Organisers said the move was a small but seismic way of ensuring artists of all genders are celebrated. Bringing the focus on their “music and work, rather than how they choose to identify”.
But in an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, May, 74, took aim at the ceremony for its “knee-jerk reaction” before claiming that Queen “would be forced” to be diverse if remade today.
‘Does Bryan May think Freddie Mercury was a straight, white guy?’
May bristled with anger at ITV’s Palooza at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Tuesday (23 November) as he slammed the BRITs.
“I feel very uncomfortable about some of the decisions that are being made, often out of fear,” May explained.
“It’s a decision that has been made without enough thought,” he said of the move that has been in the pipeline since at least 2019.
“A lot of things work quite well and can be left alone. I think some things need to go back. What matters is justice and equality of opportunity, no matter who you are.”
“I get so sick of people trying to change things without thinking of the long-term consequences,” he added. “Some of these things are an improvement. Some of them are not.”
May then spoke of an apparent “atmosphere of fear” that has seized the music industry, one he claimed stops people from “saying how they really think”.
“I think so many people are feeling: ‘Hang on, this isn’t quite right’. But they don’t say anything. Eventually, there will be some kind of explosion.”
Speaking again about a completely imaginary scenario, May said that if the four BRIT awards-winning Queen were formed as a band now, it would not be considered diverse enough.
“I am sure if Queen started now we would be forced to have people of different colours and different sexes and a trans [person],” May added.
“But life doesn’t have to be like that. We can be separate and different.”
He added: “For instance, Freddie came from Zanzibar, he wasn’t British, he wasn’t white as such – nobody cares, nobody ever, ever discussed it.
“He was a musician, he was our friend, he was our brother. We didn’t have to stop and think: ‘Ooh, now, should we work with him? Is he the right colour? Is he the right sexual proclivity?’
“None of that happened and now I find it frightening that you have to be so calculated with everything.”
Twitter users were sufficiently bemused by Brian May’s outburst, with many pointing out that Queen itself was fronted by a queer person of colour living with HIV.
Is Brian May not aware he worked with a queer person of colour for most of his career or…?
— David Chipakupaku 🏴🇿🇲 (@David_Chippa) November 25, 2021
If I was someone like Brian May or John Cleese, who owe a large part of their success to a gay writing partner/band member, I would simply not complain about woke culture in a desperate bid to stay relevant
— Ross Sayers (@Sayers33) November 25, 2021
Does… does Brian May think that Freddie Mercury was a straight white guy? https://t.co/BUvfq32Wm1
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) November 25, 2021
Brian May pic.twitter.com/kp4DJnla09
— Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) November 25, 2021
LGBT+ artists, such as Sam Smith and Will Young, have for years called on the BRIT Awards, one of Britain’s top music ceremonies, to abolish gendered categories for excluding non-binary and gender non-conforming artists.
Tom March, BRIT chair and co-president of Polydor Records said in a statement: “It is important that The BRITs continue to evolve and aim to be as inclusive as possible.
“It feels completely the right time to celebrate the achievements of artists for the music that they create, and the work that they do, irrespective of gender.”