Mercury Prize: Sam Fender, Harry Styles and Self Esteem Lead First-time Nominee Group | Mercury price

First-time nominees dominate the 30th Anniversary Mercury Awards, which celebrates the best British and Irish albums of the year and accounts for 11 of the 12 shortlisted albums.

Little Simz is the only artist with Mercury history here: her third album “Grey Area” was nominated in 2019. Her second nod comes for the follow-up, Manual I Might Be Introvert, which reached #4 in the UK Albums Chart and was widely regarded as one of the best UK albums of 2021.

It was number 3 on the Guardian’s year-end list: “Sometimes I could be an introvert, a narrative journey in every sense of the word, speaks frankly about the keen sense of self-doubt that so often chases the sweet rush of success,” one reviewer wrote to Jenessa Williams.

Simz leads a female-dominated pack, with seven of the 12 albums by solo artists or mixed groups. Isle of Wight indie rock duo Wet Leg are among a handful of acts nominated for their debut album – one “far more nuanced and three-dimensional than the maddeningly repetitive song that made them famous,” wrote Rachel Aroesti from the Guardian her debut single Chaise Longue.

“We’ve seen so many bands we admire have been nominated for this award over the years,” Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers told the Guardian. “It’s just so surreal to be one of the nominees now. When we played our first gig at the Latitude just over a year ago, we never expected something like this to happen and we’re just so thrilled that we can do it every day.”

Joy Crookes performed at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

London songwriter Joy Crookes has been nominated for her long-awaited debut album Skin, released five years after her first singles. “By pulling the strings of her identity – her Bangladeshi-Irish heritage; She grew up in south London – and interwoven them with broader socio-political issues. She has created a record that is vibrant, urgent and full of life,” said The Observer’s Alim Kheraj.

Self Esteem (aka Rebecca Lucy Taylor) receives her first nomination for her sophomore album Prioritize Pleasure, which topped the Guardian’s Album of the Year list for 2021 marked a tremendously understandable uncorking of not just the festering emotions of the last 18 months, but a lifetime.” , wrote the Guardian’s Michael Cragg.

Elsewhere, Welsh synth-pop artist Gwenno is poised for her third album, Tresor, her second collection of Cornish language songs; Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler for their debut album together, For All Our Days That Tear the Heart; and London rock duo Nova Twins for their second album Supernova – one that blends metal, EDM, horrorcore hip-hop, house music and R&B into a “completely cohesive and authentically powerful style,” wrote Guardian pop critic Alexis Petridis.

Guitarist Amy Love told the Guardian they were happy to have been nominated for their second album, which they recorded during lockdown. “So much was happening in the world and in our personal lives that making this album was really therapeutic: we allowed ourselves to be more vulnerable, to experiment with more dynamics. We are really proud of that.”

Nova Twins are the first black rock act to be nominated for the award. “It means everything to us,” said bassist Georgia South. “At first you think we’re two guys who want to rock out and make music, but the more we got involved and realized how much diversity is missing in the music scene and the heavy music scene. When we play shows, people say to us, “We felt so seen” or “We’ve never seen so many black people at one show.” We’re proud to open doors to more diverse bands – women, non-binary, POC, from the LGBTQIA+ community – and say everyone is welcome.”

Nova Twins... (LR) Georgia South and Amy Love (R) of English rock band Nova Twins perform at this year's Glastonbury Festival.
Nova Twins… (LR) Georgia South and Amy Love (R) of Nova Twins perform at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

After several years in which Mercury’s shortlist reflected at least some of Britain’s fertile jazz scene, it appears to have returned to its infamous ‘token jazz album’ years with just one nominated artist from the genre: the Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie for his Trios third album Forest Floor. It was inspired by the Scottish countryside, thanks in part to the time he lived in his parents’ country house.

“It’s great to represent Scotland and Scottish jazz,” McCreadie told the Guardian. “I’m not only excited for myself, but also for the possibilities this could mean for our scene. The jazz festivals in Glasgow and Edinburgh got me started – both really great places.”

Forest Floor also reveals the inspiration of Scottish folk music – another genre historically close to the Mercury committee’s love. “Jazz is what I learned, but it’s very hard to ignore where you come from as a musician,” McCreadie said. “I grew up with a pipe band in my town, my parents listened to a lot of folk music – you can’t escape that in Scotland. I love the music so much and it’s nice to be able to bring this out in a different way than how it’s been done musically before.”

The price has faltered compared to the last few years in terms of representation. This year, only 33% of nominees are people of color, down from a peak of 64% last year. And 2020 remains the benchmark for gender diversity, with 66% female nominees versus 58% this year.

Kojey Radical.
Kojey Radical.

Perhaps the least surprising of the male nominees is Sam Fender. The rousing indie rock of his second album, Seventeen Going Under, has sparked festival crowds and political outcry.

London rapper Kojey Radical’s nominated debut album, Reason to Smile, was nearly a decade in the making. It’s an album reminiscent of A Little Deeper by former Mercury winner Ms Dynamite, wrote the Observer’s Kadish Morris, both “epoch-making works that blend hip-hop with neo-soul and jazz, and storytelling that evokes the black experience.” Brits at its finest represents brushes”.

Those who believe the Mercury should be left-wing music’s preserve – as opposed to its mainstream equivalent, the Brit Awards – can glean their pearls from the presence of Harry Styles for his third album, Harry’s House, a disc from “Really.” well-crafted pop songs” reminiscent of yacht rock and the sounds of the mid-’80s, Petridis wrote.

They are joined by the four-piece Leeds band Yard Act, whose debut album The Overload is based on “skippy but muscular post-punk funk: punchy disco drums, piercing guitar, the bass-driven melodies,” Petridis wrote. “It all helps, doesn’t it?” Singer James Smith told the Guardian about her nomination. “You don’t expect it when you make an album, so you’re grateful when it happens.”

He suspected The Overload resonated with listeners because it tells the “universal story of a man in his late 20s or early 30s who has spent his entire life living by a set of principles that he begins to question and then abandons for the sake of an easier life – essentially sold out.”

Awards like the Mercury Prize “help artists in an ever-shrinking financial landscape,” Smith said. “It sheds more of a spotlight – which you clearly need – on her. There will be acts that have given similar attention to Yard Act; affects there who has had much more; and doesn’t trade with anyone. Putting all of that into a TV show and giving a lot of coverage about it is helpful.”

He added, “For what it’s worth, I don’t think we’re going to win,” and tipped little Simz for the prize.

The jury, which includes musicians Anna Calvi, Loyle Carner and Jamie Cullum, said in a statement: “It wasn’t easy coming down to 12 albums this year simply because there were so many notable ones to choose from. This is testament to the fact that British and Irish music thrives in troubled times in history, with the albums selected covering everything from imaginative pop to pioneering rap and Cornish-language folk-rock. We believe each of these 12 great albums has something to say artistically and socially, all in their own unique, enriching ways.”

The ratio of independent to major label albums has also fallen, with a ratio of five indies to seven majors this year, compared to eight indies and four majors last year.

This year’s Mercury Awards Ceremony will be held at the Eventim Hammersmith Apollo on 8 September 2022 and the winner will take home £25,000. Eligible were albums by UK or Irish artists released between 17 July 2021 and 15 July 2022.

The nominees for this year’s Mercury Awards

Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler – For All Our Days That Tear the Heart
Joy Crookes – Skin
Sam Fender – Seventeen goes down
Gwenno- Vault
Kojey Radical – Reason to Smile
Little Simz – Sometimes I might be an introvert
Fergus McCreadie – Forest Floor
Nova Twins – Supernova
Self Esteem – Prioritize pleasure
Harry Styles – Harry’s house
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Yard Act – The Overload

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.