Artist News Awards Business News

Mercury Prize shortlist announced – what a list (apart from that one act)!

By | Published on Friday 24 July 2020

Mercury Prize

The Mercury Prize shortlist was announced yesterday. And what a list it is! Seriously, there’s some really great stuff on there. Except for that one act. What a load of shit. How did they get on there? I mean it. It just makes a mockery of the whole thing, doesn’t it? That said though, everything else is great. Brilliant. Marvellous. Or, at the very least, fine. That one act though. Fucking hell.

Anyway, the shortlisted records were all announced on BBC Radio 6 Music yesterday, as is the norm. And, as is also the norm, the overall winner will be announced at a live ceremony in September. Either that or going against the norm, they won’t. No one seems to know yet. While various other September award events have already been called off, what with all that COVID-19 nonsense, organisers of the Mercury Prize are waiting a bit longer before making a final decision on that. However, they admit, “it is likely that a live awards show will not be happening in September as planned”. I probably should have said that straight off. This paragraph has gone on a bit long.

Whatever, I should probably tell you who’s on this shortlist shouldn’t I? Although, maybe before that I should – or at least could – let you know what the judges have said about that shortlist.

In a joint statement, all thirteen judges – so that’s Anna Calvi, Annie Mac, Danielle Perry, Gaz Coombes, Gemma Cairney, Jamie Cullum, Jeff Smith, Jorja Smith, Mike Walsh, Phil Alexander, Tshepo Mokoena and Will Hodgkinson – all of them, every single one, said: “In these difficult and uncertain times the Hyundai Mercury Prize is proud to celebrate the remarkable power of music to inspire and exhilarate”. And why not? Sounds like fun.

“The albums on the 2020 shortlist”, they went on, still in perfect unison, “showcase a great diversity of sounds, styles, ambitions and experience. What these albums share is an irresistible urgency, a belief that their music matters more than ever”.

Exciting! So, this shortlist. Well, the twelve artists on the shortlist are… oh, actually, I should just tell you what Geoff Taylor says first. Him being the boss of the BPI, which organises the Mercury Prize these days and all. It would be silly not to hear what Geoff Taylor has to say.

And that is this: “Extraordinary music for extraordinary times. The Mercury Prize is back, reminding us that the creative brilliance of our artists is a constant, even when the world is turned upside down”.

“We believe it’s all the more important this year for the Mercury Prize to shine a spotlight on twelve exceptional albums of the year”, he goes on, “spanning an eclectic gamut of genres and uniting the biggest names in music with the most exciting new talent”.

“These records tell stories”, he reckons, “dig deep into the personal experiences of their creators and represent the best in contemporary music. We congratulate all the shortlisted artists and thank our expert judges and our partners, Hyundai and YouTube Music, for supporting this year’s prize”.

I wish everyone would stop mentioning the sponsors. Bloody sponsors! I don’t know what they’ve got to do with it. They didn’t write any of these albums. Not even one. You know who did write them though? Well, no, you don’t, because I haven’t told you yet.

And I’m sure you’ve all been diligently waiting for the CMU report on this and didn’t check out the shortlist anywhere else. How do I know this? Because I’m sure you all hang on for our report simply as a show of solidarity, you know, in protest of the fact organisers insist on publishing their shortlist just as we’re pressing send on the CMU Daily, when it’s too late for us to include it in that day’s bulletin.

Sometimes we run a made-up shortlist to acknowledge this fact. Which is fun. Although this year the list was already partially announced at the point we hit send at 11am. So that ruined that. I don’t know what grudge the Mercury Prize has against CMU, but it’s getting old now. Maybe it’s because we moaned about the fish that time.

Anyway, you don’t need to know any of this. This is all backroom stuff that we should keep to ourselves. So, I’d request that none of you read the last two paragraphs of this story. Or, if you’re a rule breaker and you do read them, please forget everything we just said. It was unprofessional of me to bring all that up. Let’s just get on with it and type out that shortlist shall we?

Oh, but first, I should tell you that, for the first time ever, there are more albums by women (or bands fronted by women) than albums by men (or bands of men) on the shortlist. So that’s a positive development. Though Rina Sawayama isn’t included. Which is annoying. Because I was planning to write a whole thing about how she should definitely win. Now that I’ve realised that she’s not on the list, it makes it all the more annoying that that one awful act has been nominated. Honestly, I’m livid.

She’s not on the Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize shortlist either, but I think I’m fine with that. There is some crossover in terms of the artists that appear on that shortlist and the Mercury shortlist, but at least that one awful act isn’t up for the Popjustice Prize. Actually, now I’ve brought it up, I should probably tell you who is on the Popjustice shortlist, shouldn’t I? You know, for comparison. So, here we go, Popjustice’s shortlist for the best British pop track of the last year is:

Gracey – Alone In My Room (Gone)
Bastille and Alessia Cara – Another Place
Little Mix – Break Up Song
Bree Runway and Yung Baby Tate – Damn Daniel
Charli XCX – Forever
The 1975 – If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)
Ella Eyre – New Me
Dua Lipa – Physical
Raye – Please Don’t Touch
Jessie Ware – Save A Kiss
Ella Henderson – Take Care Of You
Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar

Probably Harry Styles, I’d say. Great song that. But we’ve not got any time here to be blathering on about how great that Harry Styles track was. Because we’re here to talk about the Mercury Prize shortlist. And that’s not about celebrating individual songs, is it? That’s a prize focused on the art of crafting a full album. Creating a complete body of work that sits together as a whole.

Some people thought the album would be dead by now, didn’t they? But I think this shortlist shows that it’s not. Even if Rina Sawayama’s album isn’t on there and that one terrible act’s album is.

You know, now I’ve come to think of it, there’s no jazz album on there either. And no folk album. I know it’s not the first time that’s happened, but it still seems strange. Actually, it’s ages since there’s been a folk album in the Mercury shortlist, now I think about it. Maybe there just isn’t any good folk out there. Or jazz. Or metal. There’s still no metal on there. There’s never any metal on there. One year they should put a bit of metal on there.

The Rina Sawayama album has bits of metal on it. Maybe that’s why it’s not on the list. But that just makes its omission more unforgivable. Because sticking that record on there would have been an easy way to get a bit of metal into the shortlist for the first time without having to go full metal. Use it to lay the groundwork so that something a bit more full-on metal could then be added next year. You see, these are the things a sensible Mercury judging panel would be considering.

Anyway, time’s getting on now and I’ve got other things I need to do. And I think we’ve covered everything we need to cover, haven’t we? Congratulations to all the acts on the shortlist!