What’s Wrong with the Mercury Prize

Every year the Mercury Prize nominations are met with mixed reactions, some are elated to see some of their favourite artists nominated whilst others are more concerned for the lack of diversity that seems to only grow year on year.

The real beef comes from the fact that The Mercury Prize was intended to be an alternative award where artists who would be overlooked at other award shows could shine and get the recognition they deserve, but it’s safe to say that nominees such as Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine and that small time, upcoming band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds aren’t short of major award show attention. Last year Ed Sheeran’s ÷ was nominated. The best global selling album of 2017, by one of the most successful artists of all time

Reading a list of the panellists it’s not surprising that the nominees are who they are, this year for example panellists are Marcus Mumford, Jessie Ware, the Editor in Chief of Q and Mojo and Jamie Cullum were hardly going to select a grime or hardcore punk album to win the prize. The prize is merely a product of the voting panel, naturally people who create rock and pop are going to vote for rock and pop.

The Mercury Prize, beyond being awarded to the best album of the year, is supposed to represent the most culturally significant album of the year also. There’s no way to argue that Noel Gallaghers’ High Flying Birds’ Who Built The Moon? was that significant when it was released, even less so at the end of the year or even worse, in a decade’s time.

Looking at 2018, it would be more significant to take a rock/indie act that actually is moving toward new things or making a mark. There’s obviously no point in over saturating the short list with acts from this genre even more than has already been done so why not boot out Noel Gallagher for the likes of Shame’s Songs of Praise which everyone, including other nominees Lily Allen and Wolf Alice, seems to agree is worth a mention. 

The actual prize beyond the award is £25,000, which it’s safe to say means nothing to big artists like Arctic Monkeys or Radiohead. Radiohead probably earn more than that per night of their tours. Imagine the good that money could go toward for small band, that’s a European tour, it’s a new van and better instruments. It could even be the financial security to quit the day job and properly take on music.

What do you think? Is the Mercury Prize fair? Has it ever been fair? If you’re interested, keep an eye out as next week there’ll be a collaborative piece with a whole bunch of wonderful writers, fighting it out to see who should or shouldn’t be on the list.


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