Okay, let’s start by getting one thing clear from the get-go – I am a huge Kate Bush fan and just why she hasn’t been nominated for the Mercury Prize this year is a mystery to me. The Mercury Prize shortlist includes Django Django, The Maccabees and Richard Hawley – but there’s no place for Kate.
Plan B, one of the few well-known names nominated, is on the list, but Kate is a surprise omission despite her being the bookie’s favourite prior to the announcement of the shortlist. It was certainly an unwelcome surprise for me because I had money on her. Oh well, There Goes A Tenner (see what I did there). In fact female artists barely register in this year’s Mercury awards with only two – Lianne La Havas and Jessie Ware – making the list.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The Front Runners are Alt-J (An Awesome Wave) At 9/4. [/quote] In a year when album sales are at a record low, some have said that the latest Mercury Prize shortlist is a reflection of Britain’s ‘floundering’ music scene. Mmmm, they could have a point there, apart from Plan B and Richard Hawley the rest might be described as ‘relatively unknown’ (unlike Kate). But then, the Mercury has never exactly been a celebration of commercial success and this year’s bunch are (what shall I call them?) interesting. Amongst others they consist of alternative Leeds quartet Alt-J (∆), ‘quiet storm’ singer-song writer Jessie Ware, soul-singer Michael Kiwanuka, South London band the Maccabees (one for the cider drinking students there), obligatory jazz band Roller Trio and Django Django, who sound like they should be a jazz band and whose nomination was described as ‘a bit surreal’ by the Django’s guitarist-vocalist Vincent Neff. I wonder just what he meant; surreal in a ‘how did that bloody happen?’ kind of way, or surreal as in a masterpiece by Salvador Dali?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]Plan B (Ill Manors) At 9/1 Is The Outsider.[/quote]But I digress; the 12 albums in the running include favourite, Plan B’s multi-platinum selling Ill Manors, the first film soundtrack to be nominated. The judges seem to like this one a lot commenting that it was “a brilliantly visceral soundtrack to an angry, troubling and harsh picture of life on the underside of London in 2012”. Not a pretentious statement at all then, and not quite 50 Words For Snow either.
Another favourite, ex-Pulp man, Richard Hawley makes a second appearance on the shortlist with Standing At The Sky’s Edge. His fourth album, Cole’s Corner, was nominated in 2005 but lost out to transvestite warbler Antony and his Johnsons. There are two other male solo artists deemed worthy by the judging panel, Ben Howard and Sam Lee and another pretty much unknown (but dark horse) band, Field Music.
Simon Frith, who seems to have been chairing the judges since time began, said: “This year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist showcases a wonderful variety of musical voices, emotions and ambitions. There are eight debut albums on the list and four albums from more established artists. The sheer range of music here celebrates the abiding ability of British musicians to find new ways to explore traditional themes of love and loss while making an exhilarating soundtrack for life in 2012.”
Yes Simon, but no Kate; a bit of an oversight don’t you think? Mind you, it’s hard to please everyone, although it would have been nice to see Florence, Laura Marling, Hot Chip, Emeli Sandé , Kindness, Wiley, The XX (who probably left it a little late with their second album coming out just two days before the nominations were cast), maybe even Coldplay – at least most people have heard of them.
And I’m not the only one moaning about the no Kate Mercury Prize and left wondering if the competition has finally lost its way completely. The Guardian’s, Alexis Petridis points out that this year’s list is more easily defined by who’s missing. “There’s no dance music, no hard rock, no curveball, no Kate Bush and no representation of out-and-out pop music.” Petridis goes on to add: “A cynical voice would say that’s probably because the charts are in a state of awfulness almost without precedent – they’ve been rotten before, but never this sonically homogenous – and a cynic might have a point.”
Call me a cynic then because I agree. But what do those lucky few who have made it through to the shortlist, chosen out of over 250 albums by a mysterious anonymous panel, make of it all?
Jessie Ware, nominated for her debut album Devotion said: “It’s the one that you really wanna get a nomination for. It’s such a wonderful prize and it really is about the music, so for me to be a part of this shortlist, I really am over the moon.” I wonder if she’ll be sick as a parrot when (sorry, if) she doesn’t win.
Ex- wilderness survival teacher, Sam Lee, received a nomination for his debut album Ground of its Own. Sam’s album was inspired by his ‘adoption’ by late traveller writer and musician Stanley Robertson. “I think the people that I’ve learnt the songs from, the gypsy traveller community, I think it would be a recognition.” Okay, I see… I think.
Michael Kiwanuka, another debut album nominee with Home Again, claims that the prize underlines the importance of the album as a format: “That’s the thing, I think it just makes people aware that you can still listen to something in a long-playing form. People think ‘I better check the album out, maybe, if it’s nominated’, and then they listen to the album, as opposed to one track that they hear on a compilation, or something, or off iTunes.” Really? Isn’t that all a bit nineteen seventies and doesn’t he have a shuffle setting on his iPod? Mind you, Kate would probably agree.
Of course Kate, who wasn’t nominated, was unavailable for comment.
So, who’s going to win? Well, the lucky winner will be announced at the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Awards Show at the Roundhouse on Thursday, November 1. To be honest though, the Mercury is known for the occasional surprise and it could be anybody’s game despite the odds. Yes, anybody could win, but there’s one thing you can be sure of – it won’t be Kate Bush, unfortunately.
Rupert Adams of bookmakers William Hill said: “This has been a year of musical excellence with these albums representing a diverse range of styles from UK artists. This quality is reflected in the closeness of the odds we’ve given to the 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize ‘Albums Of The Year’ – every album here could be a winner.”
The Mercury Prize Odds
Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ (9/4)
Richard Hawley – ‘Standing On The Sky’s Edge’ (5-1)
Plan B – ‘Ill Manors’ (9-1)
Sam Lee – ‘Ground Of Its Own’ (25-1)
Lianne La Havas – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ (16-1)
Django Django – ‘Django Django’ (6-1)
The Maccabees – ‘Given To The Wild’ (10-1)
Ben Howard – ‘Every Kingdom’ (8-1)
Jessie Ware – ‘Devotion’ (5-1)
Roller Trio – ‘Roller Trio’ (10-1)
Field Music – ‘Plumb’ (16-1)
Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Home Again’ (16-1)
You can bet on the Mercury Music Prize with Paddy Power