The Mercury Music Prize – What are the 10 most controversial winners?
The Mercury Music Prize is announced tonight (October 29th), giving one artist a cheque for £20,000 and a metric tonne of publicity. The likes of Jungle, Royal Blood and Damon Albarn are all in contention, with the full list of nominees here.
Whoever wins the prize, the decision will always be scrutinised and debated to the Nth degree, but there are some years when things are more straightforward. Some years, the decision is inarguable; 2010 for example, when The xx won for their self-titled debut album, or 2006 when the Arctic Monkeys picked up the cheque for their debut record Whatever People Say I Am… That’s What I’m Not. But then there are others when the decision have seemed odd, controversial and, sometimes, downright baffling. Here are 10 of the best of them…
PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake took home the award three years ago, which was fair enough, it’s a fine piece of work, scooped lots of 'album of the year' awards and made Harvey the first artist to win the award twice. It was, however, competing for the prize with Adele’s 21, the album that had been keeping the UK record industry in business…
Ms Dynamite won in 2002, netting the £20,000 prize for her debut album A Little Deeper, an exceptionally well-crafted album, buried in the heart of British urban life. But is it a better record that The Streets’ Original Pirate Material?
Most years you’d have had no argument that Pulp’s 1995 record Different Class was a worthy winner of the Mercury Music Prize, but this was the year where Oasis’s Definitely Maybe, the album that redefined a generation, was unleashed….
Roni Size and Reprazent’s collaboration New Forms is a damn fine winner, it’s an experimental, confrontational look at dance music and a worthy winner. But is it as good as The Prodigy’s The Fat Of The Land or Radiohead’s OK Computer?
This one isn’t controversial so much as bizarre. Antony Hegarty, frontman of Antony And The Johnsons won for their luscious album I Am A Bird Now, which would have been fine, except Hegarty hadn’t lived in the UK since he was six years old and had been a New York resident since the age of 11. Technically, of course, he qualified, but he and his band were, to all intents and purposes, an American band and the Mercury is supposed to be exclusively for Brits.
This was the year The Verve swept all before them with Urban Hymns, an album which spent three months at the top of the UK Album Chart, selling 10 million copies in the process. It didn’t earn them a Mercury Prize though, that went to Gomez for Bring It On. To be fair though, the band could probably afford to go without the £20,000
Last year’s crop was an exceptionally strong shortlist. You had Disclosure’s wonderful debut Settle, Foals’ brilliant Holy Fire and David Bowie’s stunning comeback The Next Day, so it was a bit of a surprise when James Blake took home the award for his second record Overgrown. It’s not a bad album and it has some great moments, but there was a profound sense of befuddlement when the name was called.
Anyone remember the name of the 2009 winner? Was it The Horrors? Critical darlings with their exceptional second record Primary Colours? Was it Florence And The Machine for their powerhouse debut Lungs? How about La Roux? Or Kasabian? Nope, it was Speech Debelle, she looked just as shocked as everyone when her name was called.
This was Blur’s year. Parklife had been hailed as a modern classic by critics and was flying off CD shelves, shifting over two million copies. It looked a shoo-in for the Mercury Prize, but on the night, the judges decided instead to award the gong to M People’s Elegant Slumming…
This was the year where the Klaxons took home the prize for their debut Myths Of The Near Future, which is a fine album, critically acclaimed and still holds up to this day. So why so controversial? Well, not only was it up against Bat For Lashes’ exceptional debut album Fur And Gold, it was also up against Amy Winehouse’s seminal Back To Black. Winehouse performed on the night too, delivering a stunning rendition of ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, and sending everybody home thinking that the year’s finest album wasn’t the one going home with the gong.