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PJ Harvey wins Mercury prize

By | Published on Wednesday 7 September 2011

PJ Harvey

So, around the table of business journalists I spent the evening with, in a sneaky corner safely away from the cameras at Barclaycard’s big mercurial dinner in London last night, only the FT’s representative guessed correctly that Team Mercury would hand PJ Harvey their big award for the second time.

And this time in slightly more celebratory circumstances, Harvey’s 2001 win being somewhat overshadowed by the fact that year’s Mercury Prize took place on September 11.

In business terms, and assuming the Mercury organisers and/or their backers Barclaycard like their award to have a tangible impact on record sales, which they do, it was a good choice of winner.

It’s a critically acclaimed album, accessible – more or less – to a mainstream, slightly older audience, which has not previously reached market saturation, and which is backed by a major label able to capitalise on the benefits of a Mercury win. Though I should add that the FT’s correspondent, hopefully like the Mercury judging panel themselves, picked ‘Let England Shake’ because she thought it was a brilliant record.

Accepting her second Mercury Prize, Harvey said: “Thanks for the recognition of my work on this album. It took a long time to write. I wanted to write something that was meaningful, not just for myself but for other people – something that would last.  I’m delighted and happy to have won the Prize tonight because I put so much into this album. It’s wonderful to have this recognized and to have the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience”.

Meanwhile the chair of the Mercury judging panel, Simon Frith, remarked: “In a very fine year for British music, PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’ is a record off exceptional depth, passion and imagination: a musical meditation on Englishness that is gripping and profound “.

Harvey beat competition from fellow short-listers Adele, Anna Calvi, Elbow, Everything Everything, Ghostpoet, Gwilym Simcock, James Blake, Katy B, King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Metronomy and Tinie Tempah, all of whom performed on the night, with the exception of Adele who, having recently cancelled some live shows because of a chest infection, and therefore was unable to play live.

Elsewhere in London, with Mercury fever in the air, Popjustice presented their Twenty Quid Music Prize for best pop song of the year to The Saturdays for ‘Higher’, while Drowned In Sound presented their Neptune Prize to the eponymous debut long player from ‘SBTRKT’. We don’t have a Mercury-like prize here at CMU, though I am quietly starting a campaign for meat instead of fish for next year’s Mercury dinner.