Mercury Prize

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Barclaycard Mercury Prize
Mercury Prize logo.png
The Mercury Prize logo
Awarded for Best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland
Location United Kingdom
Presented by Barclaycard
First awarded 1992
Official website mercuryprize.com

The Mercury Prize, formerly called the Mercury Music Prize and currently known as the Barclaycard Mercury Prize for sponsorship reasons, is an annual music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was established by the British Phonographic Industry and British Association of Record Dealers in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards. The prize was originally sponsored by Mercury Communications, a brand owned by Cable & Wireless,[1] from which the prize gets its name. It was later sponsored by Technics[2] (1998 to 2001), Panasonic[1] (2002 and 2003), and the Nationwide Building Society (2004 to 2008). Barclaycard became the Prize's current sponsor in March 2009.[3]

Any album released by a British or Irish artist, or by a band where over 50% of the members are British or Irish, may be submitted for consideration by their record label. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the music industry in the UK and Ireland.[4][5][6] The prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Presentation of the awards usually takes place at an Awards Show in October, after the shortlist is announced at the Album of the Year Launch in September. It is often observed that bands whose albums are shortlisted, or win the prize, experience a large increase in album sales, particularly for lesser known acts.[7] Each shortlisted artist receives a specially commissioned 'Albums of the Year' trophy at the Awards Show. Unlike some other music awards, the overall winner of the Mercury Prize also receives a cheque; as of 2014, the value of the prize money is £20,000. The winner also receives an additional winner's trophy.[8]

To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the award on more than one occasion (in 2001 and 2011). She was also the first female solo artist to receive the award and ties with Radiohead as the most shortlisted artist, although Radiohead has never won the prize.[9]

Criticism[edit]

The Mercury Prize is regarded by many as the most prestigious prize in the music calendar [10][11][12] and can have a considerable effect on sales for those artists who are shortlisted. Elbow saw a 700% sales increase of their album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ after winning the Prize in 2008.[13][14] In their winner’s speech, Elbow’s frontman Guy Garvey said that winning the Mercury Prize was ‘Quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to us’.[15][16] Similarly, sales of The xx’s winning album rose by 450% the day after they won the 2010 Mercury Prize [17][18] and 2013 winner James Blake saw a 2,500% sales increase on Amazon after he was announced as the winner of the 2013 Mercury Prize.[19][20] 2011 winner PJ Harvey’s album ‘Let England Shake’ jumped from number 181 to 24 in the UK official charts the week after the 2011 Awards Show.[21]

Despite being regarded by many as highly prestigious, it has been suggested that having an album nominated for or winning the Mercury Prize could be a curse on a career in music.[22][23]

In 2001, the band Gorillaz requested that their eponymous debut album be withdrawn from the shortlist, with cartoon bassist Murdoc Niccals saying that winning the award would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".[24][25]

All genres of music are eligible for entry, and it is stated that all are treated equally, with only the music on the album being taken into account.[4] Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury Prize judging panel, has said that albums are chosen because they are the "strongest" each year, rather than according to genre.[26] However, the presence of classical, folk and jazz recordings has been cited by some as anomalous, arguing that comparisons with the other nominees can be invidious.[27] Classical acts to have an album nominated have included Sir John Tavener, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Gavin Bryars and Nicholas Maw. None has ever won, and there has not been a shortlisted classical album since 2002.

The Mercury Prize also has a reputation for being awarded to outside chances rather than the favourites.[28][29] The 1994 award winner was Elegant Slumming by the pop act M People, which some felt was a controversial decision considering the shortlist included popular albums from Britpop figureheads Paul Weller, Blur and Pulp, and electronica band The Prodigy.[30][31][32]

Other music journalists critical of the awards stated that the 2005 award should not have been given to Antony and the Johnsons for their album I Am a Bird Now as, although they are British-born and therefore eligible for the Prize, the band were based in the United States.[33][34] In 2006, Isobel Campbell's collaboration with Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas, was included in the shortlist, despite Lanegan being American, as the album was eligible due to Campbell's British citizenship, while Guillemots, whose album was also shortlisted in 2006, contained band members from Brazil and Canada, although the majority were from the UK.[35]

Current eligibility criteria state that all albums must be available to buy as a full release on CD in the UK and as a digital download.[4] In September 2013, My Bloody Valentine vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields expressed concerns about the award in an interview with The Guardian, accusing the Mercury Prize's organisers of "banning" the band's self-released album, m b v, from the shortlist nominations and addressing the nomination criteria, which he claimed branded the album "virtually illegal".[36]

Lack of metal participation[edit]

Of all the Mercury Prize shortisted acts from 1992 to 2014, not one has been from the genre of heavy metal. In 2011, Mercury chair of judges Simon Frith said "[Metal] is a niche that a lot of people don’t listen to."[37] However, Mercury Prize shortlists have featured albums from the rock genre, including Royal Blood (2014), Biffy Clyro (2010) and Glasvegas (2009).

Frith elaborated in a 2011 article by The Daily Telegraph saying, "Every year I get angry emails from academics in metal studies. There is a sort of music out there that doesn’t really get entered, for whatever reason. It probably should because it’s out there and there is an audience. But I suppose the big problem for metal is that part of the function of the Mercury Prize is to say, ‘Here is some music you will never have heard of, and you’ll like it’. I’m confident enough to argue that people outside jazz or folk will like those kind of albums. But some metal is so niche. It’s under the radar."[38]

A 2011 article by NME argued that Bring Me The Horizon's LP There Is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret. should have been included in the 2011 nominees.[39]

A 2011 article by The Guardian touched upon this subject saying that "the British mainstream media is institutionally biased against heavy metal," but ultimately argued that "the worst thing that could happen would be for the Mercury to acquiesce to the protesters' demands and introduce a token metal nomination to go alongside the token jazz and folk ones."[40]

A 2013 article by Vice on the Mercury Prize stated "Metal certainly never gets a look-in, not even on the official entry information form: 'The Prize is open to all types of music, including pop, rock, folk, urban, dance, jazz, blues, electronica, classical…'"[41]

A 2014 article by Clash argued that Bring Me The Horizon's LP Sempiternal should have been included in the 2013 shortlist,[42] although a subsequent article praised the 2014 shortlist and the choice of winner.[43]

There does however seem to be some celebration in heavy metal that they are not represented by the awards. In 2014, James McMahon, editor of Kerrang!, said, "I think that the rock community has just decided that the Mercury is a load of tosh, and so aren’t bothering to put any entries in. I can think of loads of albums that should be considered, but they won’t because a) rock is such an insular, us versus them scene and b) because the labels and bands know they wouldn’t stand a chance if they were nominated." Whilst James Sherry of Division Promotions, who represent metal act Black Sabbath, said "Who gives a shit? The Mercury is for the bland and the mainstream. Why would metal even want to be a part of it?"[42] However, for many, the 2014 shortlist was far from bland and mainstream with critics praising the award for recognising some of the most exciting music to be released in the UK during the previous year.[43][44][45][46]

Winners and shortlisted nominees[edit]

Two people (one vocalist and one guitarist) performing on stage
Inaugural winners Primal Scream
Five men sitting at a table at a press conference
Suede won in 1993.
Heather Small of M People, winners in 1994
Portishead, winners in 1995
1997's winner Roni Size
Gomez, winners in 1998
A man playing a guitar and singing on stage. He is wearing a denim jacket and woolen cap
2000 winner Badly Drawn Boy
A girl singing and playing a guitar on stage
PJ Harvey, winner in 2001 and 2011, the only artist to win the award twice
A man rapping on stage, with purple spotlights behind him
2003 winner Dizzee Rascal
Franz Ferdinand, winners in 2004
Arctic Monkeys won in 2006.
2007 winners Klaxons
2008 winners Elbow
2009 winner Speech Debelle
2010 winners The xx
2012 winners Alt-J
2013 winner James Blake
Year Winner Shortlisted nominees Ref(s)
1992 Primal Scream – Screamadelica [47]
1993 SuedeSuede [48]
1994 M PeopleElegant Slumming [49]
1995 PortisheadDummy [50]
1996 PulpDifferent Class [51]
1997 Roni Size/ReprazentNew Forms [50]
1998 GomezBring It On [50]
1999 Talvin SinghOk [52]
2000 Badly Drawn BoyThe Hour of Bewilderbeast [12]
2001 PJ HarveyStories from the City, Stories from the Sea [54]
2002 Ms. DynamiteA Little Deeper [55]
2003 Dizzee RascalBoy in da Corner [56]
2004 Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand [57]
2005 Antony and the JohnsonsI Am a Bird Now [34]
2006 Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not [58]
2007 KlaxonsMyths of the Near Future [59]
2008 ElbowThe Seldom Seen Kid [60]
2009 Speech DebelleSpeech Therapy [61]
2010 The xxxx [62]
2011 PJ HarveyLet England Shake [63]
2012 Alt-JAn Awesome Wave [64][65]
2013 James BlakeOvergrown [66][67]
2014 Young FathersDead [68]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Dann, Trevor (9 September 2003). "'By the time the list is agreed you wonder whether you like music at all'". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  2. ^ "Manics lead Mercury shortlist". BBC News. 27 July 1999. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  3. ^ "Barclaycard Mercury Prize sponsorship announced". European Sponsorship Association. 30 March 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2010. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c "Mercury Prize - About". Mercury Prize. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Mercury Prize 2008". BBC Music. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  6. ^ Beech, Mark (9 September 2008). "U.K. Band Elbow Wins Mercury Prize as Judges Surprise Again". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 24 June 2009. 
  7. ^ Innes, John (15 September 2004). "Band's debut album soars back into charts after Mercury success". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  8. ^ "About Us – Barclaycard Mercury Prize". mercuryprize.com. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "PJ Harvey wins Mercury Music Prize for second time". BBC News. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  10. ^ Burrell, Ian (21 July 2004). "Shortlist of 'eccentrics' for Mercury music prize". The Independent. Retrieved 23 June 2009. ...the most prestigious prize in the music calendar... 
  11. ^ Poole, Oliver (8 September 2004). "Scots rockers Ferdinand win Mercury Prize". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 June 2009. The Mercury Prize, now in its 13th year, is considered the most prestigious in British music... 
  12. ^ a b "PJ Harvey wins Mercury prize". BBC News. 11 September 2001. ...Britain's most prestigious music prize... 
  13. ^ "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Mancunian band Elbow, who won in 2008, enjoyed a 700% rise in sales of their album The Seldom Seen Kid in the week following their Mercury victory 
  14. ^ "Mercury Prize 2010: The xx are left stunned as they scoop the coveted music award for their debut album". Daily Mail. 8 September 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2014. And their win tonight could bring a huge boost in sales, just like it did for the 2008 winner's Elbow, who saw their album sales increase by 700% that year. 
  15. ^ "Elbow elated at Mercury Prize win". BBC News. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2014. "This is quite literally the best thing that's ever happened to us," singer Guy Garvey told the ceremony in London. 
  16. ^ "Elbow: 'Mercury win is best thing that's ever happened to us'". NME. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Elbow claimed that their Nationwide Mercury Prize victory is "the best thing that's ever happened to us" during their acceptance speech tonight 
  17. ^ "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. It was a similar tale for the XX after their 2010 win. Sales of their debut album soared 450% the day after they won, according to figures from music retailer HMV 
  18. ^ "The xx "terrified" after Mercury win". Digital Spy. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Their debut album, which had sold 125,000 copies prior to winning the prize, has experienced a jump in sales of almost 450% since Tuesday's award ceremony. 
  19. ^ "Young Fathers likely to be touched by unreliable magic of Mercury prize". The Guardian. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. After winning the 2013 prize, James Blake saw sales of his album Overgrown jump more than 2,500% on Amazon. 
  20. ^ "James Blake album sales increase 2500% on Amazon since Mercury Prize win". Music Week. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "Pixie Lott and Example - all about number one!". Official Charts. 11 September 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2014. Finally, the double Mercury Award winning PJ Harvey sees Let England Shake, last week’s prize winner, jump a phenomenal 151 places from last week 181 to this week’s 24. 
  22. ^ Gill, Andy (14 July 2006). "Curse of the Mercury". The Independent. Retrieved 18 June 2009. ...the Mercury Prize has acquired a well-established reputation for destroying its winners' futures... 
  23. ^ Williamson, Nigel (13 July 2003). "Uneasy listening". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  24. ^ Youngs, Ian (30 July 2002). "Entertainment | Mercury Prize's guessing game". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  25. ^ "Gorillaz taken off Mercury list". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Mercury prize puts black artists to the fore". The Guardian. 23 July 2003. Retrieved 4 December 2014. .Simon Frith, the head of the judges, yesterday rejected the age-old complaint that the Mercury shortlist featured "token" jazz, folk, classical and soul acts who do not stand a chance. "We are not tokenist, we chose the albums that are strongest," 
  27. ^ Petridis, Alexis (20 September 2002). "Back to basics". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  28. ^ Adams, Stephen (5 September 2007). "Amy Winehouse performs at Mercury prize". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  29. ^ "Ms Dynamite wins Mercury prize". BBC News. 17 September 2002. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  30. ^ Waters, Darren (2 September 2005). "Judging music the Mercury way". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  31. ^ Millar, Anna (13 August 2006). "Why Mercury makes Isobel's blood boil at pop industry". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  32. ^ Youngs, Ian (4 December 2003). "Does the Mercury Prize get it right?". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  33. ^ Barlow, Karen (26 September 2005). "Inaugural Australian music prize announced". Australian Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  34. ^ a b "Antony and Johnsons win Mercury". BBC News. 7 September 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  35. ^ Sutherland, Mark. "Who can beat the Arctic Monkeys to win the Mercury Prize?". BBC 6 Music. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  36. ^ Deeovy, Adrian; Michaels, Sean (13 September 2013). "My Bloody Valentine frontman slams Mercury prize list | Music". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Clash - Five Points For Mercury Prize Reform
  38. ^ Daily Telegraph - Mercury Prize: Here Come The Girls
  39. ^ NME - Bring Me The Horizon For Mercury Prize
  40. ^ The Guardian - Alexis Petridis On Heavy Metal
  41. ^ Vice - Questions The Mercury Prize Doesn't Want To Answer
  42. ^ a b Clash - Does It Matter If Metal Doesn't Make The Mercury
  43. ^ a b "That Was The Best Mercury Prize In Years". Clash. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  44. ^ "Young Fathers: misfits deserving of their Mercury prize win". The Guardian. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  45. ^ "Mercury prize shortlist short on star names, and all the better for it". The Guardian. 10 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  46. ^ "Mercury prize 2014 ignores big stars in favour of FKA Twigs, Young Fathers and East India Youth". The Guardian. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  47. ^ Gill, Andy (10 September 1992). "The 1992 Mercury Music Prize: Andy Gill looks at the winner of the inaugural Mercury Music Prize". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  48. ^ "The London Suede". MTV. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  49. ^ Hughes, Jack (18 September 1994). "Cries & Whispers". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  50. ^ a b c "Mercury winners: where are they now?". Channel 4. 18 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  51. ^ MacDonald, Marianne (11 September 1996). "Pulp create a different class of award". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  52. ^ "Talvin Singh: Closing the divide". BBC News. 8 September 1999. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  53. ^ Youngs, Ian (30 July 2002). "Mercury Prize's guessing game". BBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  54. ^ "PJ Harvey wins Mercury prize – after witnessing Pentagon attack". The Guardian. 12 September 2001. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  55. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (18 September 2002). "Ms Dynamite's victory blasts Mercury norms". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2009. 
  56. ^ Imagee, Matthew (7 September 2004). "Still going strong after Dizzee rise to Mercury's peak". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  57. ^ Barkham, Patrick (8 September 2004). "Mercury rises for art pop of Franz Ferdinand". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  58. ^ "Arctic Monkeys win 2006 Mercury Music Prize". NME. 5 September 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  59. ^ Smart, Gordon (25 July 2011). "Amy Winehouse: 1983–2011". The Sun. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  60. ^ Paphides, Pete (10 September 2008). "Pete Paphides salutes Elbow's Mercury Prize victory". The Times. Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  61. ^ Swash, Rosie (21 July 2009). "Mercury Prize 2009 Nominations Announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2009. 
  62. ^ "Mercury Prize 2010 Nominations Announced". NME. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 
  63. ^ Topping, Alexandra (19 July 2011). "Adele leads Mercury prize 2011 shortlist". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  64. ^ Butterly, Amelia (13 September 2012). "Plan B hopes for his 'Dizzee Rascal' moment at Mercurys". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  65. ^ Topping, Alexandra (2 November 2012). "Mercury prize celebrates 20 years with award for Alt-J's debut album". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  66. ^ Clark, Nick (11 September 2013). "Mercury Prize 2013: List of nominees in full". The Independent. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  67. ^ "Mercury Prize: James Blake wins with Overgrown". BBC News. 31 October 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  68. ^ Beauchemin, Molly (30 October 2014). "Young Fathers Win the Mercury Prize". Pitchfork Media. Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 

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