Last night was the 27th annual Mercury Music Prize, a prize awarded to the best British or Irish album released over the past 12 months; voted on by a professional judging panel. Previous winners have included the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal and Primal Scream; with Sampha claiming the award last year for his passionate debut album Process, but who took home the prize this year?
Well the nominees were an illustrious collection of wonderful British artists, varying from soulful R&B singers to post-punk rock bands and politically charged solo singers. The full list of nominees was:
• Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
• Everything Everything – A Fever Dream
• Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded
• Florence & The Machine – High As Hope
• Jorja Smith – Lost & Found
• King Krule – The Ooz
• Lily Allen – No Shame
• Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
• Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?
• Novelist – Novelist Guy
• Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is a Reptile
• Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
From the moment the list was announced there were plenty of intense discussion points, varying from surprise omissions and inclusions to who the favourites to win would be. Early frontrunners came in the form of King Krule with their trippy atmospheric attempt at chaos on The Ooz, as well as Everything Everything with their blend of infectious yet emotionally touching art-pop on A Fever Dream. For a while it really did seem as though they were the two albums fighting it out to win the Mercury this year, but that was not the case.
In the end it was Wolf Alice who won the infamous award thanks to their encapsulating and powerful sophomore album Visions of a Life, a moment which had such a raw, feel-good atmosphere when their name was announced. The band, consisting of lead singer Ellie Rowsell, guitarist Joff Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis and drummer Joel Amey, were previously nominated for the 2015 Mercury Prize for their debut album My Love Is Cool; but they managed to go one better this year.
I think for me the greatest triumph of this result is that the Mercury Prize continues it’s traditions of rewarding truly great music, not just settling for a big name winner. Although I did enjoy the innocence and honesty of Florence & The Machine’s High As Hope, and I appreciated the daring charm of Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, neither of those albums came close to what Wolf Alice accomplished on Visions of a Life. It was, in my most humble opinion, the correct decision as it is easily the best album released by a British act over the past 12 months.
Nadine Shah had an exceptionally powerfully driven album in Holiday Destination and was rightfully acknowledged for her bravery and intellect on that project, Lily Allen bounced back better than ever on her rough around the edges, unapologetic album No Shame; while Jorja Smith proved she is destined for an incredible career with her slick and refined debut work Lost & Found.
As for changes to the shortlist itself, I personally think Noel Gallagher was a little lucky to make the cut, as I wasn’t that blown away by Who Built The Moon? and I also feel as though Novelist Guy by Novelist was given that place due to the bubbling success of UK grime music over the past few years, helping him ride this wave. I personally would have replaced those two with former winner Benjamin Clementine’s follow-up album I Tell A Fly, a truly bizarre but intriguing and imaginative experience, and Rejjie Snow’s Dear Annie, an album which feels like a lifetime in the making and is full of honest poetic justice in the most relatable ways imaginable.