Grime dominated the Ivor Novello award nominations for the third year in a row as Ghetts and Dizzee Rascal’s songwriting was recognised, but there was once again a dearth of women nominated for the UK’s most prestigious songwriting awards.
Ghetts’ single Black Rose is up against Jorja Smith’s Blue Lights and the 1975’s Love It If We Made It in the contemporary pop category, while best album will be contested between Idles (Joy as an Act of Resistance), Young Fathers (Cocoa Sugar) and Let’s Eat Grandma (I’m All Ears).
It was another year in which politically charged work was well represented. Last year Dave’s Question Time, a song that took aim at Theresa May for her handling of NHS funding as well as her response to the Grenfell Tower fire, won the best contemporary song award.
This year Bristol punks Idles’s album Joy as an Act of Resistance, the 1975’s Love It If We Made It single and Ghetts’ track Black Rose are similarly political. Idles tackles xenophobia and Brexit, the 1975 discuss the fetishisation of black men, while Ghetts’ focuses on the representation of black women in the mainstream media.
With lyrics including, “Baby keep doing you/ Don’t let the world ruin/ No matter what they say, you are beautiful”, the grime act wrote the song for his daughter. “It’s really about self-hatred,” says Ghetts. “I wanted to make a song that she might not understand right now but will look back on and say my Dad did something with his platform.”
“It’s about songwriting craft,” says songwriter and DJ, Tom Robinson. “But songwriters can’t live in a vacuum from the society they live in.”
Female songwriters were poorly represented again in the two major categories of best album and best contemporary song, with Let’s Eat Grandma and Jorja Smith (whose song Blue Lights was co-written with Dizzee Rascal) both receiving one nomination.
“It’s been an uphill struggle to make the organisation more reflective of society and on the panels now it’s 50/50. There’s no gender bias in terms of the people who are choosing,” says Robinson. “Let’s Eat Grandma are as radical as you like and they’re two teenage girls from Norwich.”
Dizzee Rascal and Ghetts’ nominations continue the recent tradition of the Novellos recognising grime and UK hip-hop. Last year Stormzy and Dave both won awards, while in 2017, Skepta was named songwriter of the year and also won for best contemporary song.
Ghetts also discussed the backlash faced by Dave for his song Black, a track that tackles racism and stereotypes faced by Black Britons and which drew complaints when it was played on Radio 1 by breakfast show host Greg James in early 2019.
“Some people feel uncomfortable when you’re praising people of another culture,” Ghetts said. “It doesn’t mean we hate people of different cultures or backgrounds, we’re just uplifting ourselves and recognising the problems in our culture. It takes brave people to do so.”
Other nominees include Arctic Monkeys, who were nominated in the category of best song musically and lyrically, for their song Four Out of Five, alongside Ben Howard (Nica Libres at Dusk) and Hozier (Nina Cried Power). George Ezra’s Shotgun, Jax Jones and Ina Wroldsen’s Breathe and Rudimental’s These Days will compete for the PRS Music Most Performed Work award, which is given to the songs that have received the most performances in 2018.
Crispin Hunt, the Ivors Academy chair, said he was pleased with the diversity of the field and that this year 70% of the nominees were first-timers.
“The works nominated for the Ivors 2019 are brilliantly diverse, and we’re delighted to see so many first-time nominees recognised,” he said. “They are a fantastic reflection of the exciting emerging talent of British and Irish music creators today.”
The Ivor Novello winners will be announced on 23 May.