Music Blogs

Is the Mercury Prize pointless?

  • By Art. Author Avatar
  • 27 March 2013

Every year we're told that the Mercury Prize is pointless.

You might agree, however, it seems to me that to take that outlook is just a little naïve. Is there more to lose than gain by losing the award show?

I’m aware that many Mercury alumni hangout sweaty and broke in pub venues, waiting for the older types to buy them a beer, but let’s just do something un-British and accentuate the positives.

In terms of success stories, there are a fair few on the list that we should be proud of. Take PJ Harvey for example, she finally wins her first Mercury in 2001 after having had two albums in ’93 and ’95 come runner-up, and returns 10 years later to receive the accolade again with Let England Shake. Next, we have Gomez, who many members of the British press love to tell you are failures yet they’re one of the few on that list to receive a US number 1 for their 2006 record, How We Operate. With their recent comback, Suede are just about one of the biggest groups in the country: aided by a win in ’93.

However, the reason I believe that the international press don’t take much interest in the awards is down to the records that have been nominated but didn't win the accolade. Consider that Radiohead lost out to Roni Size/Reprazent with their album Ok Computer in 1997 and In Rainbows didn’t surpass Elbow in 2008 – how ridiculous is it that the biggest British band of the last 20 years has been recognised and snubbed on nearly all of their albums (not that they'd really care)? Or that Blur and Parklife just couldn’t pip M People in 1994? There seems to have been a conscious ‘listen guys, we’re cooler than you because we ignore the counter-culture' about the decisions, which you could argue is an embedded neurosis in the British press anyhow…

Here is the past winners’ list - what do you think is the best album on there? I’d probably go with Pulp, PJ Harvey or Alt-J… However, if we included the nominees, it’d be a WHOLE different story.

1992 - Primal Scream – Screamadelica
1993 - Suede – Suede
1994 - M People – Elegant Slumming
1995 - Portishead – Dummy
1996 - Pulp - Different
1997 - Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms
1998 - Gomez - Bring it on
1999 - Talvin Singh - Ok
2000 - Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of Bewilderbeast
2001 - PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
2002 - Ms. Dynamite – A Little Deeper
2003 - Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner
2004 - Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
2005 - Antony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now
2006 - Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2007 - Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future
2008 - Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
2009 - Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
2010 - The xx – xx
2011 - PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
2012 - Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Whether the infrastructure of support for British bands is good enough is a totally different question but it seems that this is something small yet positive for British bands and our industry, even if recent winners Alt-J admitted it would be barely enough to pay off their student loans. It is a bit of a chance for the British press to masturbate in the spotlight by snubbing great material. It’s a long road for the Mercury’s to be credible but it's a chance to enhance band's profile's in both the early and later stages of their career.

I mean, what the fuck are you going to watch anyway, the NME awards? Bring me a noose.