Quit moaning about the Mercury

Can anyone get me a list of everyone who entered the Mercury Prize this year? I really want to see it. Yesterday I had no real opinion on this year’s shortlist (it’s just a list of albums that some people who aren’t me have chosen, after all), but thanks to the medium of Twitter, I have now seen levels of moaning I would normal avoid.

Standard gripes:

  • The shortlist is too mainstream
  • The shortlist isn’t mainstream enough
  • The shortlist is too major label focussed
  • The shortlist doesn’t feature my favourite artist/genre
  • The shortlist only features bands I don’t like

Well, let’s ignore the third one, because less than half the artists on this year’s list are signed to major labels, so anyone saying that is officially wrong. Unless you want to argue that only one artist from each major should be allowed to be nominated. Or that no major label artists should be allowed at all.

Maybe the list is a little mainstream, or maybe there are a lot of artists who you have heard of on it. The Horrors’ new album may have gone down well with critics but the droney shoegaze sound on it is unlikely to get them on the cover of whatever magazine it is that teenage girls read these days. However, the fact that La Roux and Kasabian are on there does suggest that to some extent this thing is based on sales, rather than talent.

The fact that your favourite artist or genre isn’t represented may not be down to the ignorance of the judges (though I’m not necessarily saying it isn’t). Did they even enter? Yes, you actually have to enter this competition. The judges don’t, as an alarming large number of people seem to think, just listen to every single album released by British artists in the last twelve months. It would take too long – there were quite a lot of them.

So, going back to my original request, until I have seen a list of every artist who entered this year, I’m going to assume that certain genres are under represented because very few artists and labels from those genres submit their work for consideration. Probably because they assume they won’t get nominated. And when you think you’re not going to get nominated the £200 entry fee and 25 copies of your album that you have to send over to Mercury HQ seems like a lot. Maybe that fee is more restrictive than it needs to be, but if I start talking about that we’ll be here all day.

But, hey, I’m coming at this from an underground angle. There are plenty of people complaining at the other end of the spectrum that bands are missing from the list who definitely will have entered. But anyone who thinks that Snow Patrol, Coldplay and Take That have been robbed can shut up.

In the end though, it’s just a list of twelve albums. It’s not a list of the twelve best albums, it’s a list of the twelve albums most people on the judging panel could agree that they liked, and the winner will be chosen on the same grounds. Last year Elbow won because they divided opinion less than Burial and because the judges realised they probably should have given the award to the band’s second album ‘A Cast Of Thousands’ in 2004. Plus, the overall list was pretty weak.

There are actually some albums I really like up for the prize this year – Bat For Lashes, Florence & The Machine and Friendly Fires. ‘Primary Colours’ by The Horrors is pretty good, but probably not really in with a chance (because of that whole dividing opinion thing again), and Speech Debelle is already getting written off as ‘the token urban artist’, which completely ignores the fact that she’s made some really good music. But let’s not get so worked up about it. If I made you a list of my twelve favourite albums, I bet you wouldn’t agree with it, and I hate almost everything you like.

Plus, let’s not forget that they once gave the Mercury Prize to M People. M People! Anyone who wins this award is basically the same as M People. If I was in a band, I’d be begging my label not to enter me.

Here, if you’ve somehow managed to miss it, is the full shortlist:

  • Florence & The Machine – Lungs
  • Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
  • Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
  • Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
  • La Roux – La Roux
  • Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
  • The Horrors – Primary Colours
  • Glasvegas – Glasvegas
  • Led Bib – Sensible Shoes
  • Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
  • The Invisible – The Invisible
  • Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
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