And The Winner Is? Mercury Music Prize! How Many Do You Own? Or Remember?
Who is he? This 22-year-old singer-songwriter’s debut album was nominated for the prize two years ago, but lost out to PJ Harvey. The north Londoner’s critically-acclaimed second album, Overgrown, beefed up his austere electronic pop with elements hip hop and soul. For fans of… Bon Iver, Burial, The xx
Continuing the Mercury Prize’s tradition of honouring sharp, smart indie debut albums, last year’s winner was Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. This fresh-faced quartet formed at Leeds Metropolitan University, and impressed chairman of judges Simon Frith with their “hypnotic” qualities and “melodically interesting” sound. An Awesome wave was also named BBC Radio 6 Music’s album of the year, and the band have since performed on the main stage at Glastonbury 2013. Last year’s nominees also included Jessie Ware and Plan B.
In 2011, Harvey became the first person to win the Mercury Prize twice, for her album Let England Shake (she has also been nominated on two other occasions). During her acceptance speech, she refered to her win a decade before, which was announced on the day of the 9/11 attacks: “It’s really good to be here this evening, because when I last won I was in Washington DC watching the Pentagon burning from my hotel window.” Adele and James Blake were among 2011’s other nominees.
London quartet The xx won the prize in 2010 for their self-titled debut album of nocturnal, minimalist indie. They became the 12th band out of 19 Mercury Prize winners to triumph with a debut album, beating competition from Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling. The group’s second album, Coexist, was released earlier this year.
British rapper Speech Debelle – Corynne Elliot, to her mother – won the 2009 Mercury Prize for her debut album Speech Therapy, becoming the first female winner in seven years, and beating higher profile names such as Kasabian and Florence and the Machine. Her album failed to achieve the sales boost usually associated with winning the award, and had only sold around 15,000 copies by 2012, peaking at number 65 in the UK charts.
Seventeen years after they first formed, anthemic indie quintet Elbow were a popular choice for the 2008 Mercury Prize, which they won for their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid. The band have since enjoyed a surge in popularity, while frontman Guy Garvey now also DJs for BBC 6 Music. At the Mercurys, Radiohead were unlucky losers for the fourth time, in a year that mysterious electronic musician Burial, nominated for his album Untrue, did not attend the ceremony.
London quartet Klaxons were seen as a key band in 2007’s popular “nu rave” scene which featured groups who mixed indie music with elements of dance and rave culture from the late-Eighties and early-Nineties. Their critically acclaimed debut album, Myths of the Near Future, won the prize ahead of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.
A decade on from fellow Sheffield-natives Pulp’s win, indie rockers Arctic Monkeys were a popular choice for the 2006 Mercury Prize. Their album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not had become the fastest selling debut in UK chart history that year, shifting 363,735 copies in its first week of release. The band, who were barely out of their teens, were nominated again the following year for their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare.
Chamber pop group Antony and the Johnsons’s second album beat debuts from Bloc Party and the Kaiser Chiefs to win the prize in 2005. The band is a vehicle for the work of singer-songwriter Antony Hegarty and various collaborators – Lou Reed and Boy George both appeared on I Am a Bird Now. Despite the win, Hegarty and co have still never had a top ten album in the UK.
Scottish indie rock band Franz Ferdinand’s chart-topping self-titled debut album saw off competition from Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone in 2004. The same album helped the band to win two Brit awards in 2005. They last released an album this year.
At 19, rapper Dizzee Rascal became the youngest winner of the Mercury Prize in 2003, when his debut album Boy in da Corner beat efforts from The Darkness and Radiohead (who lost out despite making the shortlist for a third time). The Londoner, whose real name is Dylan Mills, was nominated again in 2007.
Singer and rapper Ms. Dynamite was originally a member of the UK garage act So Solid Crew. After leaving the group, she release her debut solo album A Little Deeper, which spawned the hit single Dy-Na-Mi-Tee and won the 2002 Mercury Prize. Dynamite – real name Niomi Arleen McLean-Daley – donated the £20,000 prize to the NSPCC, and the 21-year-old won two Brit awards the following February.
Dorset-born singer-songwriter Polly Jean – ‘PJ’ – Harvey became the first solo female winner of the Mercury Prize in 2001, at the third time of asking, for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Other nominees for the prize that year included Radiohead and later winners Elbow. Damon Albarn’s “virtual band” Gorillaz were favourites but requested that their nomination be withdrawn, with cartoon “bassist” Murdoc describing the nomination as “like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity”.
Thirty-one-year-old Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) won the prize with his debut album The Hour of Bewilderbeast in 2000, which beat Coldplay’s debut Parachutes. The Bolton-born singer-songwriter, who typically appears with a thick beard and woolly hat, released his eighth album earlier this year.
The London-born producer and composer Talvin Singh became the most obscure winner to date when his debut album, which fused classical Indian tabla music with drum and bass, triumphed in 1999. Despite the win, OK only managed to reach number 41 in the UK charts. Singh later collaborated with Madonna on her Music album in 2000.
The Mercury Prize shortlist was lengthened from 10 to 12 acts in 1998, the year quirky Southport indie band Gomez won with their album Bring It On. The band enjoyed moderate success in the UK after their win, and released their seventh album last year.
Born in Bristol to Jamaican parents, Ryan Owen Granville Williams – aka Roni Size – was a little-known 27-year-old when his drum and bass collective, Reprazent, won the 1997 Mercury Prize. Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers and the Spice Girls were among the other nominees that year.
Sheffield quintet Pulp originally formed as an arty pop band in 1978, but didn’t achieve popular success until they became part of the Britpop boom of the mid-Nineties. They were nominated for the Mercury Prize in 1994 for His ‘n’ Hers, but won it in 1996 for Different Class, their fifth album, and donated their winner’s cheque to charity. In 2011, the band, led by Jarvis Cocker, reformed after a nine-year hiatus.
Bristolian trip-hop trio Portishead’s debut album, Dummy, emerged triumphant at the 1995 Mercurys from a field which included debut albums from Oasis, Supergrass, and fellow Bristol-native Tricky. The band have released two subsequent albums, in 1997 and 2008, both of which reached number two in the UK charts.
The Mancunian dance-pop act, led by singer Heather Small, were surprise winners in 1994, when their album Elegant Slumming beat Blur’s Parklife and The Prodigy’s Music For the Jilted Generation, among others. The album contained the hits Moving on Up and One Night In Heaven.
Indie quartet Suede’s self-titled album became the fastest-selling debut in British history when it was released in 1993. It picked up the Mercury Prize ahead of albums by Sting and Apache Indian. Then in their twenties, the band – who formed in 1989 – would go on be key players in the mid-Nineties Britpop movement, before splitting in 2003. They re-formed in 2010, and are currently recording a new album.
Glaswegian indie-rockers Primal Scream changed tack for their dance-influenced 1991 album, Screamadelica, which won the inaugural Mercury Music Prize the following year, beating Simply Red’s Stars and U2’s Achtung Baby. The band were nominated again in 1997, for Vanishing Point, but lost to Roni Size.