I know this is a bit old/out of date given that the Mercury Music Prize took place a few weeks ago, but recently I’ve been thinking of past winners and who should have won. So here is the list if I had been the sole judge.
1992: John Tavener & Steven Isserllis-The Protecting Veil
Not only is this a fantastic album, but it is the pinnacle of Tavener’s illustrious career. The main problem with the MMP is no one really knows what the criterial for winning is, other than being nominated, so making this the first winner would have sent a strong message about what the award was for.
I can’t really argue with this one, as it’s a solid album and, whether it knew it or not, laid down the blueprint for the next batch of bands to copy and improve on.
1994: The Prodigy-Music for the Jilted Generation
Remove M People from the list and 1994 is very strong. Any of those albums would have been a worthy winner. I’ve gone for the Prodigy as they were the first band I really got in to and felt were my own. This arguably their best album and their political message still feels valid.
1995: Guy Barker-Into the Blue
Out of all the albums on the 1995 list the two I’ve played the most since are Elastica and Guy Barker. This is a classic jazz album that still sounds great and exciting.
1996: Norma Waterson
Norma Waterson’s debut album could be the greatest British Folk album ever. As with all classic folk albums there is a mixture of trad. covers and originals. The stand out track is God Loves a Drunk. It sums up ever hangover I’ve had and everyone to come!
1997: Roni Size/Spiritualized-Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
While agree with this winner, the album that should have won was Spiritualized’s classic Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. This doesn’t really need to be discussed. You know it’s better than every other album on the list!
1998: Gomez-Bring It On
Gomez are a bit of a dirty word, even in 1998 they were a shock winner. But it felt, and still does for that matter, like a classic MMP winner. Their ability to transform Southport into a blues delta should be commended. Its aged fairly well too. Unlike a lot of 1998’s list, Propellerhead’s I’m looking at you…
1999: Talvin Singh-OK
What’s going on? I’ve agreed with the last three winners. Talvin Singh’s OK is a great album that push the boundaries of where Eastern and Western music could meet, have a drink and a laugh.
2000: Death in Vegas-The Contino Sessions
2000’s list is a bit of a non-event really. The Delgados, Nicholas Maw were good albums, but Death in Vegas’ second was chocked full of bangers and just pips the others at the post.
Another list to forget really. Amnesiac is the last great Radiohead album. It should win just for when the drums break on Pyramid Song!
2002: The Coral
The Coral’s debut album is a weird one. On one hand it’s one of the most exciting and inventive debut albums, but on the other, once you crack their code, it’s just ripping off all the best blues, cult psych and bubble gum pop tracks ever!
2003: Dizzee Rascal-Boy in da Corner
Another worthy winner, but mainly because it showed the mainstream how far the underground was from caring about their opinion of them. They were making music for themselves. They had their own language and style. After 2003 the UK music scene wasn’t the same again! Soweto Kinch’s debut is a close second to Dizzee though!
2004: Amy Winehouse-Frank
Not only is it Winehouse’s best album and one of the best debut’s ever, but compare it to Jamelia’s album, who was at the time a contemporary/rival, and you’ll see how forward thinking it really is! But Winehouse didn’t need to win the MMP to advance her career, but maybe Franz did…
2005: The Go! Team-Thunder, Lightning, Strike
This is possibly the most pop album that has ever been on any shortlist, and that might explain why it lost. In a list that was either cutting edge MIA/Polar Bear, MOR Pop Tunstall/Magic Numbers/Coldplay, or indie schmindie Bloc Party/Hard-Fi/Kaier Chiefs/Maximo Park, The Go Team stood out as the true winners by creating an album that encouraged you to have fun while listening to it. Oh and it had a amazing Nancy Sinatra sample on it too!
2006: Arctic Monkeys/Richard Hawley
The 2006 award was always going to Sheffield. I’m fairly happy with this winner, but I also would have liked Hawley to have won it, if only as a nod to is fine body of work.
2007: Basquiat Strings
On year the weird jazz/classical album will win the award and this should have been the year. Next to everything else on the list it’s miles ahead! This is an album everyone needs to own and play on a regular basis!
2008: Portico Quartet-Knee Deep in the North Sea
Another year the weird jazz album should have won. Portico Quartet’s is one of the most intriguing albums ever to grace a MMP shortlist. Even now, years and years later I’m still transfixed by that is contained in those 9 tracks. It can be played at any time of year, any time of day and it sounds different and exciting.
2009: Speech Debelle-Speech Therapy
Poor Speech Debelle. After winning the MMP it all feels like a downward spiral. Which is sad as Debelle has an interesting world view. The Invisible debut album would also have been a worthy winner.
2010: I Am Kloot-Sky at Night/Bring Me the Horizon
Only for being around for so long and never doing anything. Oh and that xx album is massively overrated and totally boring! However, BMTH’s second album was hands down the album of the year. Why doesn’t/won’t the MMP ever feature any metal on it…?
2011: Ghostpoet-Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
Ghostpoet is a talent and with every album he releases he gets that little bit better, but Peanut Butter is a pretty much flawless piece of work that describes what is was like to be alive in 2011. Maybe some of the production flourishes sound a bit dated now, but overall it’s a wonderful album.
2012: Django Django
Like The Go-Team before Django Django’s debut is a pop masterpiece and this is probably why it didn’t win. I think the MMP judges like their albums to be on a downer, rather than embracing the fun/happy side of life.
2013: Laura Mvula/Jon Hopkins
While James Blake was a shock winner, Laura Mvula’s debut would have been a magnificent winner, given how last three winners were white indie bands/music. Jon Hopkins also released the album of his career!
2014: Young Fathers/Kate Tempest
There is nothing I can saw to disagree with this one. A total punk-hop classic. On a personal note I would liked Kate Tempest, but her winning would have helped her career out, whereas it definitely helped out Young Fathers, in the short term. And that sadly is that the MMP is turning into. A list of artists they helped either break, or give their highest chart placing/sale boost too.
While I was happy with Benjamin Clementine’s win, like Debelle he has a great world view, Eska or SOAK would have been worthy winners. SOAK’s simple stories of inner city life was infectious but Eska’s folk-pop odyssey is something else!
Like Dizzee’s win in 2003’s Skepta shows how far the genre has come and how little regard it has for every other genre and the mainstream. For the first time ever 2016’s list left me cold, minus Skepta, Kano and Jamie Woon of course. It was full of people who had either been nominated before, Bat for Lashes, Bowie, Anohni, Radiohead, Savages or albums that fit the criteria of the MMP ‘breaking’ new bands i.e. The Comet is Coming.
Here is a playlist of who could of won each year’s MMP, minus Guy Barker and Basquiat Strings as his music isn’t on Spotify. Sort it out guys…