Right, ‘Mercury’ ‘Prize’. Our office. Now. We’re having words.
Every year, there are disagreements about the Mercury Prize shortlist. Of course there are – and there should be, too. Music is about big opinions. If we all agreed, it’d be well boring. But this year, we’re baffled.
It should be no shock to anyone that Dork HQ was looking out for a few albums. Some made the list. We’re made up for Wolf Alice, we always love a bit of Everything Everything, and we finally realised Arctic Monkeys were being (relatively) brave with their latest full-length, even if they are supermassive and don’t really need the limelight shone any brighter. It’s nice to see Nadine Shah get some attention, and Lily Allen has never sounded fresher.
But, come on. You’re having a laugh, right?
It shouldn’t need a panel of 12 judges to work out that Shame’s debut ‘Songs of Praise’ should be on this year’s Mercury list. It’s the kind of album that stops retail outlets locking their doors overnight, just to give the other records an escape route if it decides to kick off. If you look up the word ‘essential’ in the dictionary, you probably wouldn’t find a picture of it – dictionaries tend not to have pictures – but if they did, you would.
A panel of two potatoes, an absent-minded dog, a half-completed Panini World Cup sticker album and your nan should be able to tell you Let’s Eat Grandma’s ‘I’m All Ears’ sounds like the future of music. It’s a textbook Mercury-nominated album, and yet it isn’t. Honestly – we can’t explain how. There must be a thirteenth down the back of the sofa, right?
What’s happened to Hookworms? Their latest ‘Microshift’ is a certified five-star album showcasing a band at the height of their powers. If we can’t find room for that, what are we up to? There are records we love that could move their arse for that one.
That’s without us asking some serious questions about the lack of SOPHIE’s debut, or wondering where the criteria sits on Charli XCX’s ‘Pop 2’ – if that is an album, it had to be in, right? If we didn’t get Shame, surely Goat Girl should have made the cut? There’s an argument that the Mercury isn’t so much about acts that can make dents in the chart with legit bangers, but if it was ever going to be – surely they’ve heard Years & Years‘ ‘Palo Santo’? It’s so good we gave it 6 stars. SIX.
It’s not that we have beef with Noel Gallagher and his scissor orchestra. Noel’s fine, and yes, he did actually ‘try stuff’ with his latest album. But come on. You’re gonna tell us that makes sense with a straight face? Over the past few years, there have been some genuine attempts to make the Mercury Prize feel more relevant – but this feels like a throwback to the past. At this point, with ‘the world’ as it is, that’s the last thing we should be entertaining.
So, yes, congratulations to those fine artists making the cut, but 2018’s Mercury Prize is going to need an asterisk or two – the kind that make us question if we don’t need to revolt at the gates. There’s been a robbery, and it’s a fucking Shame.
Words: Stephen Ackroyd