It’s that time again. When the nation turns its ears to a group of artists most have never heard of, when hipsters flock to betting shops, when obscure jazz-fusion-dubstep-punk beat combos from the Outer Hebrides garner more attention than ever. Yes, it’s the annual Mercury Prize, won in recent years by The xx, Elbow and, erm, Speech DeBelle. For those unfamiliar with the award, to be nominated, albums have to have been released in the last year or so by a British or Irish artist. The shortlists tend to be on a scale from big crossover success to the aforementioned “no one’s ever heard of them, or will again after this” jazz anomalies. But without further ado, the nominees are:
- Adele - 21
- Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
- Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
- Everything Everything - Man Alive
- Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blue & Melancholy Jam
- Gwylim Simcock - Good Day At Schloss Elmau
- James Blake - James Blake
- Katy B - On A Mission
- King Creosote & John Hopkins - Diamond Mine
- Metronomy - The English Riviera
- PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
- Tinie Tempah - Disc-overy
First off, the big omissions. Wild Beasts and The Horrors can feel rightly snubbed, as both albums were previously seen as surefire inclusions and likely winners. Arctic Monkeys also should feel like they’ve missed out, Friendly Fires too; Radiohead also seemed likely nominees, purely for having written a record about trees. Smaller acts such as Gold Panda, Esben & The Witch, Cat’s Eyes and The Joy Formidable could’ve all staked a claim for a nomination with their superb debut albums.
On to the actual nominees. Of the more well-known names, the list is curiously made up of albums that you feel people have been told to buy. Adele, James Blake, Tinie Tempah; all usually stock names for those in middle age to reel off in an effort to seem cool and eclectic. The inclusion of Katy B is slightly baffling considering she’s the most boring popstar since Ellie Goulding, whilst Tinie Tempah has to be the least threatening rapper since Will Smith. Anna Calvi is good, producing is atmospheric gothic rock, with a few Jeff Buckley-esque guitar flourishes here and there, but nothing worthy of nomination.
Elbow arguably have the best album on the list, but whether Mercury would want to give them the prize twice in such a short space of time is doubtful. Metronomy's third album is a more mature and slick affair than previous efforts and it would be great for them to gain the recognition and wider exposure. The same goes for Everything Everything and their unclassifiable brilliance. Ghostpoet could be a dark horse, purely for having the best album name on the list, but also for an excellent debut, combining the everyday touch of Mike Skinner with the atmospherics of The xx and their dub influenced peers.
If you’re looking for a safe bet, then PJ Harvey looks to be it. A former winner in 2001, Polly Jean’s eighth album has been superbly-received across the board, even earning a rare 10/10 from the NME. It’s folksy, poetic and has just the right amount of weirdness to win over the Mercury judges. This writer is yet to be charmed by “Let England Shake”, but it does seem a likely winner.
However Hitsville U.K.’s Mercury Prize pick is:
METRONOMY - THE ENGLISH RIVIERA
It would’ve been Ghostpoet, but he’s quite a longshot. It would’ve been Elbow, but it’s unlikely the judges will pick them so soon after “The Seldom Seen Kid” grabbed the prize in 2008. So Hitsville U.K. is getting right behind the Devon four-piece.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on September 6th.
- Radiohead announce a European tour for 2012, hitting up Rome, Milan, Bologna, Udine and Berlin. Wonder when rockstars will realise four dates doesn’t maketh a tour.
- Katy Perry announces she is to take a year long break from music. Sensible people worldwide rejoice.
- Sigur Ros will release a new album next spring. Looks like the BBC will have some more songs to soundtrack Attenborough documentaries.
- Tyler, The Creator claims Earl Sweatshirt is back, trolls entire fanbase in the process.
- Adele's album 21 surpasses 12 million sales. WHO THE FUCK IS STILL BUYING THAT RECORD?
- Want to see how Batman and Bane look in The Dark Knight Rises? Go vote on Empire.com to reveal the covers of the upcoming special issues.
- Is Matt Smith dressed as The Doctor stripping off for charity your kind of thing? Then this skit from last night’s Children In Need is for you.
Adele is a good singer. This is an established fact, which I wouldn’t dare contest.. But this doesn’t stop me from loathing her. It’s overkill. In the morning, all most people want is a coffee, a bit of toast, ten extra minutes in bed and maybe a cigarette if you’re one of the dwindling number of smokers out there (heads up, Adele.) However, as far as noises go, it seems most people want silence, or small talk; Radio 4 at a push - and could you turn it down a bit? Please? Nobody wants to be bombarded with anything too depressing; we have the rest of the day to go yet. Play it safe. In fact, Gold FM is a safer bet: Radio 4 could into the Archers theme tune at any moment, or start talking about genocide. What I certainly do not want is "Someone Like You" piped into the aisles of an already rather bleak corner shop in the early hours of the morning. Actually, make that ever.
Adele’s brand of pleading, soul-wrenching pop ballads are anthems for heart-broken women world-wide. In my mind’s eye, there’s a drunk girl, holding her shoes whilst stumbling home from a night out, singing (and sobbing) down the phone to her ex’s voicemail. Now, as previously stated, the girl has a cracking voice on her, and, she’s giving leagues of love-sick ladies (and men) two whole albums worth of songs which they can relate their personal tragedy to. You know, people can even collect a variety of ditties to make into iTunes playlists with names like, ‘Sad Songz Vol. 1,’ or ‘Luv u Brian,’ which they can eat ice cream to or whatever, call their BFFs and drink chardonnay. Okay, I’ll stop being sardonic aside, for a while. Adele has managed to sell more 17 million copies of her albums; no female recording artist has managed to attain more sales of an album in the digital age, and no singer from the UK has managed to crack the US successfully since the Spice Girls. So quite some time ago. She’s surpassed the late Ms Winehouse in terms of record sales, and won more Grammy awards than The Doors, Ramones, Beach Boys, Smiths and New Order put together. (Their collective total is zero, in case you were wondering).
So yes, Adele is helping our crumbling economy and boosting a dwindling legal music market. As well as record sales, her tours are regularly sold out, and in my book, anything that gets people off the computer to hear live music is a good thing. Perhaps I should re-title this “I hate how overplayed Adele has become, and hate how her music shall forever be the soundtrack of depression, recession, boredom and heartache”. She has joined leagues of miserable Bridget Jones’ who sit in bars, or at home, reeking of neediness and Impulse body spray. Another bugbear is reverence. Tell someone you don’t like Adele’s music - expect them to release the hounds. Expect them to tell you she has a wonderful voice. Yes, of course she does, she’s a SINGER. She’s not a lumberjack, not a chef; a singer. Have programmes like The X Factor and The Voice lowered our expectations of musicianship so such low levels that as soon as we hear a genuinely talented singer, they become a sacred cow? Have our ears become accustomed to contestants and finalists, warbling their way to finals, and mercilessly butcher classic songs, spitting the bones out as they walk of with a record deal (Alexandra Burke’s pointless cover of “Hallelujah”, anyone?)
But I digress; we have established that dictating ‘good,’ and ‘bad,’ music is wrong. The great Taste War One is not nigh. But, it does come down to taste: just because your friend likes cheese and tomato sandwiches, nobody wants him to come over and force feed you rounds of gruyere on rye. They might prefer Edam.. But wouldn’t it be lovely, if we could say we don’t like her? And wouldn’t it be really lovely if for once, people could go to the shop at 11am, hungover, and leave without “Someone Like You” going round their head like a drab merry-go round of misery. This has to stop. Give us an upbeat little number please, Adele? Maybe listen to some Vampire Weekend or Jackson 5 for inspiration. Give us a smile! And if you’re serious about going down the road of painful, bluesy songstress legends, at least listen to the buoyancy of an Ella Fitzgerald or Aretha Franklin. Please. For all our sakes.
There are kids at school who dress like everybody else, because they don’t know what to do, and there are musicians like that, too. I’ll hear TV commercials where the music’s ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it’s me. Half the time, it’s The Black Keys. The other half, it’s a sound-alike song because they couldn’t license one of mine.”
There’s a whole world that’s totally fine with the watered-down version of the original. Some people will hear that and say ‘Oh, Jack White thinks he’s the first person to play the blues.’ But certain acts open up a market for a certain style. Amy Winehouse: Did she invent white soul? Wearing a beehive? No. But she did something brand new and fresh, altogether as a package, and you see who’s in her wake, from the Duffys to the Lana Del Reys.
Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive. The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you’re gonna find someone to fill that. And you get a band like The Black Keys, who said they never heard of The White Stripes? Sure.Jack White, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, clearly not a fan of Adele, The Black Keys, Duffy, Lana Del Rey or any musical act sounding similar to another…