So it’s that time of the year again when every music fan asks themselves “Really?! They could win it?!” because no one, not anyone, agrees with every nominee for the Mercury Prize. This year’s list could be more controversial than any I can remember, so who is who and who can win?
Anohni – Hopelessness
Anohni has used her music as a political force this year, causing a lot of shockwaves when she refused to turn up to the Academy Awards despite being nominated for best song (Manta Ray), and a lot of people are paying attention. She was the first transgender artist to be nominated for any type of Oscar and pointed towards the greed and naivety in the American media system as why she didn’t want to be associated with it any further. The Mercury bosses are obviously a fan, as she won the award with Anthony and the Johnsons back in 2005 but with this album having a much more electronic feel it will be interesting to see how she fares.
Best Tune: Drone Bomb Me
Bat for Lashes – The Bride
Natasha Khan is a musical machine recently, churning out records that never seem to disappoint and take you down completely different avenues each time. This edition is a story about a bride’s fiance dying, not the most common topic inspiration for the average pop princess, but her expertise over a variety of instruments once again has to be commended. I’ve never been the biggest fan but the girl knows how to tell a story and is very popular with the judges at Mercury HQ.
Best Tune: Joe’s Dream
David Bowie – Blackstar
I’m pretty sure no one reading this will need any explanation of who this guy is. One of the few who deserves the title of legend, ever the craftsman Bowie decided to leave this album with us just before his disease became too much, leaving us to enjoy it while he rested. Sentiment aside it may not be Bowie’s greatest work but shows yet another string to his masterful bow and has one or two worldies.
Best Tune: Lazarus
Jamie Woon – Making Time
One of the smoothest artists around at the moment and one that I have really enjoyed in 2016. The BRIT School graduate has been around for years but it’s with this record he has really found his feet, even if it did only just make the top 50 in the charts. If you are after some new songs on your ‘sexy’ playlist give this lad a listen but he is still a definite outsider for the win.
Best Tune: Sharpness
Kano – Made in the Manor
With grime experiencing the resurgence of a lifetime last year a lot of attention was on the celebrity appeals and spats between artists. Away from the madness Kano produced one of the most mature records that the genre has ever seen, offering accessible storytelling about his up-bringing in London and polished production that reminds me of 90’s American hip-hop. He has definitely spent his time away wisely because I’ve never been the biggest Grime fan but this is making me listen.
Best Tune: This is England
Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room
Wrote in her very own Dreaming Room, her producers garden shed, one of the most soulful artists around at the moment is back with another masterstroke. In a time where everyone is obsessed with being ‘different’, Mvula seems to radiate avant-garde with ease. Her use of external contributors is particularly interesting, Wretch 32’s appearance in People is oddly creepy but massively impressive. My favorite for the win, loved by critics and the public alike.
Best Tune: Overcome
Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate
I’m going to be honest I haven’t really listened to this one much. It debuted at number one last month, whilst I was abroad, and I wasn’t aware of it until it was nominated. However I do know one thing for certain, a lot of people bloody love it. Laura Mvula has already said she’d like it to win over her own record and the fact that something so lacking in mainstream expectations, is excelling so well in the charts shows he is ticking a lot of boxes. The one tune I have heard is the very personal “Black man in a white world” and it is gorgeous, with added feeling of course due to the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement. Big big chances of a win.
Best Tune: Black Man In A White World
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
I’m not going to sit here and tell you Radiohead are over rated, but you know, read between the lines. Everyone has their tastes and they are not mine, which is surprising when you listen to a list of my favourite bands, and their latest album doesn’t change my mind. It is of course very cleverly produced, I can imagine they spent hours on it going back and forth and back forth, but I just don’t find it very listenable at all. They’ll probably go and win now, maybe it’ll grow on me.
Best Tune: Ful Stop
Savages -Adore Life
The ingrained, unintentional sexism that was born in my brain through years of only listening to frontMEN made me ignore a lot of female bands when I was younger. It was eventually Haim that made me fully appreciate how stupid I had been, but for some reason Savages still remained off my radar until very recently. Before the nominations were announced I had only listened to Adore off the punk queen’s new album, an absolute classic btw, but having given the rest of it a proper listen, I’m starting to feel very silly. I don’t know if they will win, but I’m very keen to know where they are touring.
Best Tune: Adore
Skepta – Konnichiwa
If you’re a student in the UK and haven’t heard about this man last year you’re deaf. Even the Scousest of white boys like me know the lyrics to That’s Not Me and the start of Shutdown is one of the most recognisable noises in clubs up and down the country. Away from the music Skepta has impressed me with the way he has composed himself, obviously intelligent, involved with the community, touch of arrogance that just about makes him likeable. He’s going to carry on getting bigger and bigger in my opinion, but Mercury Prize? Very Surprised.
Best Tune: That’s Not Me
The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
There’s not really much I love about The 1975. Chocolate was a decent tune but everything from Matt Healey’s hair to this unnecessarily long album title just annoys me. That being said this record tackles massive problems that not only the band has faced but many young people are struggling with right now. And they do this in a better, more funky style that can definitely get you dancing. I may not like the fact they’re nominated but at least they’re growing up.
Best Tune: UGH!
The Comet is Coming – Channel the Spirits
By far the most fun out of all the nominees this year. I’m quite embarrassed I hadn’t given them a listen before this week and I’m quite surprised that they are involved in what is normally a very serious list. Cosmic Jazz is the super cool genre that they reside in and some of the sounds they make really are outstanding, a scrap book of samples for DJs to remix, perfectly put together to make something captivating. I’ve had it on repeat whilst writing this article.
Best Tune: Journey Through The Asteroid Belt
So I hope that makes things a little bit more understandable. Is understandable a word? Well any way there are some belters on this list, so if you don’t know who they are they are definitely worth a listen. My favourites to win are probably Laura Mvula and Savages, but with this competition there really is no telling who the judges will decide on, but it’s a pretty big deal if they do.