The first, natural reaction upon seeing the Mercury Music Prize nominations list is to have a shout about who has been carelessly omitted, and quite wonderfully, Wild Beasts are currently trending on Twitter as outraged fans do just that, but should we really be surprised? Over the past few years, the Mercury list has been embarrassingly predictable. The usual big breakthrough albums, a couple of obvious choices, the token jazz/world music act few people have heard of, and someone with an acoustic guitar, and the degree of outrage that this has happened again is unnecessary.
The big commercial hitters this year are Adele, with record-destroying second album 21, Katy B and Tinie Tempah. And fair enough. Big singles, big albums people have connected with. They’re not, perhaps, the works of art Mercury used to claim to endorse, but then neither was M People’s Elegant Slumming, and lest we forget that it received the prize in 1994. The token jazz act is there in the form of Gwilym Simcock (and oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the jazz act won? Just once?), while the ‘who?’ acts include Ghostpoet, Ana Calvi and, for anyone outside of Scotland’s central belt, King Creosote.
This year, there are two previous winners returning for the crown: PJ Harvey and Elbow. PJ Harvey is a fair enough shout – Let England Shake is her best album since 2001’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea – but a repeat nod for Elbow is unnecessary given that they won for their previous album, and the lumpy Build a Rocket Boys is already not ageing well. Twitter is also full of people moaning the Radiohead’s King of Limbs hasn’t been nominated, but here’s the thing: Radiohead do not need to win the Mercury Music Prize. They have long been established as the finest band of our generation, and since that they have been nominated without winning three times, giving it to them now seems pretty needless.
The deserving nominees, then, are Metronomy for the gloriousness of The English Riviera, and Everything Everything’s sublime Man Alive. But chances are neither of them will win. Looking back at the past few years, the winning act flip flops between the blindingly obvious choice and the least expected winner: 2004 – Franz Ferdinand, 2005 – Antony and the Johnsons, 2006 – Arctic Monkeys, 2007 – Klaxons, 2008 – Elbow, 2009 – Speech DeBelle, 2010 – omnipresent advert soundtrack providers The XX. So it could very well be Gwilym Simcock’s time to shine.
Ach, whatever, Wild Beasts were robbed.
Full list of nominees:
Adele – 21
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!
Everything Everything – Man Alive
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days at Schloss Elmau
James Blake – James Blake
Katy B – On a Mission
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Metronomy – The English Riviera
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy