The Hyundai Mercury Prize. An award that celebrates the art form of the album. First awarded in 1992 to Primal Scream’s debut album, “Screamadelica”, the Mercury Prize has helped elevate the careers of now massive artists. Previous winners have included Arctic Monkeys, The xx, Portishead, Franz Ferdinand, Wolf Alice and most recently, Michael Kiwanuka. Past nominees have included Royal Blood, Jessie Ware, Adele, Katy B, Jake Bugg, The Big Moon and Disclosure, helping elevate these artists to a level beyond anything else.
I first learned of the Mercury Prize in November 2012 while doing my very first session with the YMCA (who I now work for and have a show called Prospective Sounds on their radio station, YMCA Digital, Fridays from 4pm), when we were told to do a news report. The Mercury’s were on that night and even though the only album I knew on the list at the time was Plan B’s “ill Manors”, I started investigating more as part of this session, and have since fallen in love with many artists that it’s presented to me, who I may have never have heard of or had a strong enough love for if it wasn’t for the Mercury’s. These include Alt-J, who won that year with their debut album, “An Awesome Wave”, Foals, The Maccabees, Kae Tempest, Slaves, Bombay Bicycle Club, Sons of Kemet and many many more. Because of this, the Mercury Prize is an event incredibly close to my heart, and I’ve even attended two of the ceremonies, including when one of my favourite bands Wolf Alice won for “Visions Of A Life”, one of my all time favourite albums, it’s a moment I truly will never forget.
This will be my tenth year following the Mercury’s and I’m beyond excited for it. Last year, I decided to predict which 12 albums would be up, and I ended up getting four correct, five if you include my reserve list, which for the Mercury’s, an award that is well renowned for being incredibly unpredictable, was a good shout for me. I had a lot of fun doing it and I discovered lots of new music from it, so I’m doing it again.
So for this list, I’m predicting which 12 albums will be nominated for the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize. These albums must have been released between 18th July 2020 and 16th July 2021 from
British and Irish artists. I’ll be including albums that I’d like on the list, but also ones that I may not personally want, but can definitely see being nominated. Some albums will be records that are quite conventionally made for the Mercury’s, others are more bizarre choices that you don’t expect the Mercury’s to go with.
It’s also important to note that I hope that I don’t get 12 out of 12. The reason for this is because I want to discover some brand new artists from this line up which I can absolutely fall in love with. Last year, there were only two, in the form of Anna Meredith and Moses Boyd, both of which I now listen to incredibly frequently.
I’ll be creating two lists, the first is a reserve list of 12 albums, a list of records that could be nominated but are a little less likely. I’ll then be presenting my pick of 12 albums that I am predicting will be nominated this year.
Make sense? Good! Let’s crack on with my reserve list:
“Black To The Future” by Sons of Kemet
Sons of Kemet’s third record “Your Queen Is A Reptile” was the big favourite to win the Mercury in 2018 and was also my favourite British album which was released that year. I adore their fourth record, “Black To The Future” so much, despite it not being as strong as its predecessor in my opinion. The reason for Sons Of Kemet not being included is because the Mercury’s usually only include one jazz record and that there’s one that’s on par with this one that I’ve included on the overall list instead.
“Cavalcade” by black midi
Black Midi was nominated in 2019 for their batshit crazy debut album “Schlagenheim”. It was different, it was unique and everything else. The band’s sophomore album “Cavalcade”, although it’s great, is weaker than its debut. The Mercury’s don’t tend to nominate artists who’ve been nominated once before unless their new project is something even more special. “Cavalcade” isn’t as special as “Schlagenheim” for me, and so I doubt that black midi will have Mercury nomination number two, but it’s certainly a possibility.
“EDNA” by Headie One
“EDNA” is an album that certainly got people talking, as it is a great grime record. Is it strong enough for a Mercury? Potentially… but this wasn’t even nominated for the BRIT Award for the MasterCard Album of the Year. For an album as famous as “EDNA”, if it’s been snubbed at the BRITs, it will likely be snubbed at the Mercury’s too.
“Evering Road” by Tom Grennan
Tom Grennan’s had a great year, hasn’t he? His sophomore album “Evering Road” has been way more successful than everyone expected, and for good reason, it’s produced incredibly well and it works commercially and critically. Could he gain his first Mercury nomination with this record? It’s certainly possible… and I’d like to see it.
“Forest Of Your Problems” by Snapped Ankles
A band I discovered only this week while researching this list, Snapped Ankles are a band I think are extraordinary. “Forest Of Your Problems” is a captivating album that I can see being nominated, and with the Mercury’s going with the wonderful Lanterns On The Lake last year, another band that has been going for many years without a lot of recognition, there’s a potential that they could nominate this. The only reason why it’s not on my main list is that that’s already impeccably strong. This only just failed to make the cut.
“A Hero’s Death” by Fontaines D.C.
Fontaines D.C. is the band that has resurrected Irish indie rock. We saw that with their growing popularity and Mercury nomination in 2019 and with fellow Irish indie bands Girl Band and NewDad growing stronger and stronger. Their second album is lyrically raw and sensationally put together, but in my opinion, it’s not as strong as their debut album, “Dogrel”, hence why it’s not on the main list.
“New Long Leg” by Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning is a band I’ve followed for a little while now, and they keep going from strength to strength. Their debut album, “New Long Leg” has received critical acclaim and the band are becoming big on the independent music scene. A Mercury could be what is needed to catapult these guys to another level. The material is strong enough, so it could happen?
“POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR” by Bring Me The Horizon
I warned you there’d be some bizarre picks on this list! Bring Me The Horizon’s latest project is sensational, up there with their best work to date, and I think it’s about time that the Mercury’s acknowledges Bring Me The Horizon as well as this style of British rock music so that it can grow stronger and stronger. We’ve seen this in grime music when Dizzee Rascal won the Mercury Prize with his debut album, “Boy In Da Corner” in 2003. Should it be rock music’s turn? I certainly think so…
“TYRON” by slowthai
Slowthai is a rapper that has become a massive sensation over the last two years with his live performances. Following the success of his critically acclaimed Mercury Prize-nominated debut album “Nothing Great About Britain”, he’s back with “TYRON”, a record that shows new sides to his artistry while also maintaining his distinctive sound throughout. Is it strong enough to score a second Mercury nomination? I’m doubtful, but it could happen.
“Ultra Mono” by IDLES
IDLES have been on top form over the last few years becoming some of my favourite indie-rockers. On the bands third album, “Ultra Mono”, the lead singer, Joe Talbot’s remarkable vocals are incredibly punchy and IDLES’ lyrics are both political and inspiring at the same time. Can Ultra Mono give the band its second Mercury nomination?
“weird!” by YUNGBLUD
Whatever your opinions of YUNGBLUD are, you can’t argue that his style is certainly different. His sophomore record, “weird!”, although not perfect, does something different that not a lot of artists have captured in this way. Can his unapologetic sound gain YUNGBLUD his first Mercury? Seeing as we’ve seen The 1975 nominated twice, I think this is a record we shouldn’t overlook.
“We Live Here” by Bob Vylan
Bob Vylan has been very vocal about the fact that they want to win the Mercury Prize, and they think that their debut album, “We Live Here” could do it. Written about racism and immigration in the UK, the album is lyrically gorgeous and pulls no punches. Vylan’s distinctive sound works here too, so could this be it? Will this record make the nominations list? I genuinely don’t know, but I’d be over the moon if it was.
So they’re the 12 records that I think stand a chance. Part 2 to follow…
Written by EJ Scanlan