The Mercury Prize 2022 – Live Award Ceremony
After being postponed following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW finally happened, precisely 40 days since it was postponed, and it was one hell of an event. I was invited to attend one of the biggest nights in the British music calendar. Through this article, we’ll be dissecting each performance one by one, getting the gossip from the red carpet and, of course, I’ll be reacting to the winning album.
Firstly, the red carpet was filled to the brim with style and sophistication, with so many incredible outfits made by some very talented fashion designers. Even though, the outfits were very similar to the ones five weeks prior, they had been altered slightly to still feel unique and different. But as much as I want to discuss how beautiful everyone looked, I’ll leave that to a fashion journalist, I’m only here to discuss the music! Eleven of the twelve acts were in attendance, as well as some legends in the music industry like Jamie Culum, Jamz Supernova, Loyle Carner and Annie Mac, all of which looked so excited to be there, and so passionate about the awards. The excitement was brewing, with Lauren Laverne interviewing Joy Crookes for the BBC magazine show, The One Show outside the Eventim Apollo, with fans in their thousands gathering to witness the goings on in music’s most exclusive event.
Once BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne came onto the stage, the show began straight away with the band of the moment, Wet Leg beginning the ceremony with a performance of their debut single, Chaise Longue, one of the best songs of the 2020s thus far in my opinion, and what an opening it was! The band have so much energy, with the song having a more elevated rocky sound than on the original mastered recording, which also worked with the band’s energetic live performance, they were brilliant. Joy Crookes was up next, and her performance of Feet Don’t Fail Me Now had the potential to be brilliant. She had some sharp instrumentation and a stunning outfit, but unfortunately, it fell flat on its face due to Crookes’ flat vocals which were really disappointing. Meanwhile, Yard Act performed one of my favourite tracks by them, 100% Endurance, a song that they said symbolised the band perfectly, and it’s not hard to see why. Their provocative and explicit lyricism was the highlight of their poignant performance and it worked a real treat.
Kojey Radical was up next and did a quite frankly excellent performance of Gangsta, one of the most passionate performances of the night. The track was filled to the brim with sensational instrumentation, with the arrangement showcasing Radical’s debut album Reason To Smile, perfectly. Performing Footnotes On The Map, next was Jessie Buckley alongside musical legend Bernard Butler, and this was up there with one of my favourite acts of the night. Their gorgeous performance of Buckley’s incredibly vulnerable vocals, performing the lyrically raw poetry with such passion and delicacy, juxtaposed by Suade guitarist Butler’s remarkable playing with gorgeous passionate playing – the performance was tearjerking and it was lovely. The sixth act was Welsh musician Gwenno, who performed An Stevel Nowydh (translation – The New Room), and honestly, I couldn’t really see a lot as the stage lights were directly in my eyes (as well as the whole of the circle area, to the point where there were cheers from the crowd at the end of the performance because they were so bright!), but from what I saw, Gwenno had a great stage presence, and she had a gorgeous sounding voice which very much distracted me from being blinded by the lights.
Little Simz performed How Did You Get Here, an interesting choice of song but certainly one that worked. Simz had a choir which had some gorgeous vocals which accompanied the wonderful poetry perfectly, and alongside her remarkable stage presence, it worked very well. She let the music do the talking and my god it worked. Self Esteem performed her sensational track I Do This All The Time and this was by far the best performance of the night. Her distinctive Rotherham accent was more present during the spoken word sections of the song than on the original recording, and it was brilliant. I didn’t write any notes of this one because I was sucked into the whole performance. I not only had goosebumps but I also cried. I have never seen a performance quite like that in all my years of seeing live music, I was blown away. We then had a recorded message from the biggest name in music today, Harry Styles, who spoke about his appreciation for being nominated for the prize for his third album, Harry’s House, and then we got a taped performance of him playing As It Was at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Coventry earlier this year. I wish there could have been an additional section instead of this, like what Giles Peterson did with SAULT’s album Untitled (Rise) last year, where he did a quick video explaining the album rather than just showing a clip that BBC Music have shown a hundred times before. I won’t judge the performance as a whole as I wasn’t there in person for that show and so cannot give it a fair analysis.
My new favourite jazz artist Fergus McCreadie was up next, performing The Unfollowed Fields from his sophomore album Forest Floor and the performance was gorgeous. The instrumentation between McCreadie and his band was flawless and gave off beautiful energy, chilling out the crowd after Harry Styles’ energetic VT played just moments before. That vibe wasn’t at all replicated with Nova Twins’ performance of Antagonist, which was crazy and filled with formidable energy, danceability, stunning instrumentation and so much passion. No album was represented as well as Supernova tonight, and Nova Twins did a great job. The final performance of the night was Sam Fender and his TikTok hit, Seventeen Going Under from the album of the same name, and what a performance. Everyone was singing along, they were all dancing in their seats, some even standing up. The energy that was created at the Apollo during Fender’s performance, was one I have never seen matched at the Mercury Prize in the four times I’ve been previously. What’s even crazier, in the ten years I’ve followed the Mercurys, I have never seen full audience footage being filmed in the circle of the Apollo until tonight, denoting the presence Fender has in the industry. It also helps that his performance tonight might be his last time performing in a venue of that size as he embarks on two sell-out stadium shows in Newcastle next June.
After Sam Fender’s performance, the tension around the auditorium could be cut with a knife. No one knew who was going to win, it was anyone’s game, and after passing the legendary Guy Garvey, the lead singer of the sensational band, Elbow, after fangirling for a little bit, I eventually asked him who he thought was going to win, when he said this: “I think all of them are brilliant, but I’d be happy to see either Joy Crookes, Self Esteem, Little Simz or Wet Leg win – I love all of their work”, a list I very much approved of (that man is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met), but everyone kind of had the same opinions, though I did see a lot of love for Nova Twins in the crowd too, but the overall concensus was that Self Esteem’s sophomore album, Prioritise Pleasure was going to win.
Once we got back to our seats, there was a VT with an interview with last year’s reigning champion, Arlo Parks, describing her thoughts and feelings when winning the prize one year prior, which was entirely wholesome, especially as a big fan of Parks’. Afterwards, BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter, Jamz Supernova came onto the stage to announce the winner, and said the following about the winning album:
“On behalf of the judging team, what an amazing year it has been for British and Irish music. We have twelve remarkable albums of the year, and as a judging panel, we have listened, we have analysed, we have critiqued and most importantly, we have been passionate. So it has been really tough to choose an overall winner. However, we have come to a decision. The album that we have chosen deals with themes both personal and political. The music is as sophisticated as it is varied. This is a truly exceptional album.”
The chosen record was the album I predicted was going to win ages ago when I wrote my predictions article. The winner of the 2022 Mercury Prize with FREE NOW is Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz. Even though this is the record I knew deep down was going to win, it still came as a massive shock, especially with the number of people supporting Self Esteem, and one of my music friends who was there was “certain” that Prioritise Pleasure was going to take it. But overall, I’m very happy. This is the Mercury Prize’s 30th year, and the album that deserved to win was one that felt like a solid album, in which Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the most like an album compared to the rest of the records on the list. It’s a phenomenal album that fully deserves the win, and I didn’t think anyone else could have won other than Little Simz.
The Mercury Prize once again delivered, it’s a fantastic award ceremony that celebrates the album artform, British and Irish music in all its genres and new artists. It’s the only award show where you can go from indie to Celtic psychedelic pop to hip-hop to spoken word to full-blown pop to jazz to rock to a TikTok viral hit in the space of seven consecutive performances. I’m disappointed that records such as “to hell with it” by PinkPantheress didn’t make the bill in favour of weaker albums such as Harry’s House by Harry Styles and Skin by Joy Crookes, and I wanted something to celebrate the Mercury Prizes’ 30-year history, but this year has been one hell of a success and I can’t wait for the next one.
The Mercury Prize 2022: Nominees
- “For All The Days That Tear The Heart” by Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler
- “Forest Floor” by Fergus McCreadie
- “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles
- “The Overload” by Yard Act
- “Prioritise Pleasure” by Self Esteem
- “Reason To Smile” by Kojey Radical
- “Seventeen Going Under” by Sam Fender
- “Skin” by Joy Crookes
- “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” by Little Simz
- “Supernova” by Nova Twins
- “Tresor” by Gwenno
- “Wet Leg” by Wet Leg
- Wet Leg: Chaise Longue
- Joy Crookes: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
- Yard Act: 100% Endurance
- Kojey Radical: Gangsta
- Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler: Footprints On The Map
- Gwenno: An Stevel Nowydh
- Little Simz: How Did You Get Here
- Self Esteem: I Do This All The Time
- Harry Styles: As It Was (Live at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2022)
- Fergus McCreadie: The Unfurrowed Field
- Nova Twins: Antagonist
- Sam Fender: Seventeen Going Under