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The 2019 Mercury Prize: Our Thoughts and Predictions

The annual Mercury Prize has come around again, with a professional panel of musical judges; which this year includes Stormzy and Jorja Smith, selecting the winner. Twelve nominees have been selected for the award of Best album released by a British or Irish artist over the past 12 months, but who are we backing to win?

First off let’s take a look at the nominees. I believe this is the strongest list we’ve seen in years and a huge testament to the sheer quality of the British music industry throughout the past year. Popular bands The 1975 and Foals are some of the more notable names, with punk-revival bands IDLES and Fontaines D.C. also gaining a nod. It’s been a great year for UK rap music too, as Dave, Little Simz and slowthai were recognised for their efforts with the prestigious accolade. The other nominees come in the form of emerging math rock group black midi’s debut record Schlagenheim, Seed Ensemble, folk singer Cate le Bon, electro-R&B mastermind NAO and art rock gem Anna Calvi; the latter of which has earned her third consecutive Mercury Prize nomination to coincide with her third album Hunter.

The genres are widespread but the message is universal; each nominated artist has used their craft and their art to have their voices heard. Personality as well as social awareness go a very long way with awards like this one, and all of these artists have that in abundance.

Notable omissions from the list include James Blake’s Assume Form album, The Japanese House’s Good At Falling And Loyle Carner’s Not Waving, But Drowning record. All three were truly stellar projects and although the list is stacked out with talent, I believe maybe two of these deserved a mention; mainly James Blake who made his best album since 2013’s Overgrown (a Mercury winner in it’s own right).

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So, winners. Honestly I could make a case for at least half the pack to win this and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit aggrieved. Following Wolf Alice’s victory last year, a Dirty Hit double in the form of a Mercury win for The 1975 would be huge, particularly given the mass aurora that surrounded the Manchester band’s latest album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.

Both Idles with Joy As An Act Of Resistance And Fontaines D.C. with Dogrel created punk rock albums for the ages in which cultural division and heritage were on display, so either would be pretty safe bets. I think Idles’ cutthroat approach to facing off against topics like toxic masculinity and immigration makes them the purist pick; they’re the favourites in my eyes.

Dave’s eagerly awaited debut album Psychodrama lived up to the hype and beyond with its deeply rooted subject matter and open honesty; not to mention the number of hits it possesses. It would be so wonderfully refreshing to see another young face from the grime scene win this award after the previous successes of Dizzee Rascal and Skepta, and I think Dave fits the bill for that.

Northampton born and raised, slowthai is a somewhat surprising choice for the Mercury given just how working class and rugged his album Nothing Great About Britain was; but he has that Mike Skinner-esque attitude that has seen new life brought into the British scene. It would be a colossal moment for someone like slowthai to win this award, and isn’t that a lot of what of this is about? Providing those keen moments to remember in the British music industry.

Foals, much like Anna Calvi in this year’s list of nominees, our up for the Mercury Prize for the third time in their careers; missing out before in 2010 and 2013. This year their return album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 was as bold as ambitious as it’s ever been for the Oxford band, and a Mercury nom feels like the perfect acknowledgement for one of Britain’s finest bands; but I’ll be surprised to see them win the whole thing.

If I were to rank these albums from least to most likely to win, I would go for:

12: SEED Ensemble – Driftglass
11: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1
10: Cate le Bon – Reward
9: NAO – Saturn
8: Anna Calvi – Hunter
7: black midi – Schlagenheim
6: Little Simz – Grey AREA
5: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
4: Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
3: slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
2: Dave – Psychodrama
1: IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance

As for who I WANT to win, my list would be a bit different:

12: SEED Ensemble – Driftglass
11: Anna Calvi – Hunter
10: Cate le Bon – Reward
9: Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel
8: black midi – Schlagenheim
7: NAO – Saturn
6: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1
5: Dave – Psychodrama
4: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
3: Little Simz – Grey AREA
2: IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
1: slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain

Who do you think will take the prize home? Who do you want to see win? Who do you think is missing from the list? Let us know your thoughts!

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