- Mon, 2010-08-02 17:53
The Mercury Prize looms once more on the horizon, and with the recent announcement of the nominations the speculation can begin in earnest. And speculation there will undoubtedly be, as The Mercury Prize’s reputation as the most unpredictable accolade in music will ensure. For those of you who enjoy a flutter, the odds currently place The XX and Wild Beasts as the most likely winners. Which almost certainly means they won’t win.
The unpredictability of the award is due in large part to the uncertain criteria that are required of a winning album. Without any official guidelines, it’s down to each member of the small panel of judges to put forward the case for their chosen album and, if necessary, convince their peers to agree. It’s a process that has given rise to a number of contentious outcomes - some of which have only become more remarkable with time - and a list of runners-up that is nothing short of eye-watering…
Nominated an impressive four times, Radiohead have still never won. While the failure of In Rainbows (2008), Hail To The Thief (2003) and Amnesiac (2001) to nab the prize may not be completely shocking, that OK Computer was nominated but missed out on the prize is not far off unbelievable. Then again, the album that pipped it to the post, New Forms by Roni Size/Reprazent, has since gone quintuple-platinum.
Oasis were nominated two years running with Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, but missed out both times. The former lost to Portishead’s Dummy, a relatively uncontroversial decision, but the latter was beaten by britpop rivals Pulp and their album Different Class. You can’t envy whoever had to make that call!
Despite bringing rave to the mainstream like no other act, neither Music For The Jilted Generation nor Fat Of The Land were deemed good enough to fight off stiff competition, leaving Britain’s premier dance act without a Mercury Prize to their name. Still, they've sold upwards of 20 million albums worldwide, so it's not all bad news.
At the very least Blur are britpop royalty. More than that though, they’re one of the most adventurous and sonically varied bands to have come out of the U.K. in the past two decades. It therefore comes as a surprise that only two of their albums have been in the running for the Mercury – Parklife and 13 – neither of which walked away with the prize.
Mike Skinner and crew rose through the ranks of the U.K. garage scene in the early noughties with a sound and style entirely of their own. It was a fact recognised by the nominations for both Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, but one of the most unique voices in modern British music has never seen his work progress further than the final shortlist.
These are just five of the bigger names that have failed to clear the Mercury Prize’s final hurdle, though there have been many more fantastic bands and albums that have fallen short despite expectations. Despite the constantly unpredictable nature of the award, one thing we can rely upon is that more folk than usual get involved in a good old fashioned debate about the merits of modern music. Not a bad thing.