So far there has been 21 winners of the Mercury Prize, or Mercury Music Prize as it was once called. It’s now officially called the Barclaycard Music Prize for sponsorship reasons, but we’ll stick with Mercury Prize from here on in I think.
Since it began way back in 1992 the Mercury Prize has been synonymous with weird and contentious decisions, and it has the reputation for rarely awarding the most deserving album with the prize. 2009’s ‘Speech Debacle’ stands as the high-water mark for the Mercury Prize’s seemingly random and crazy judging decisions – but it has got it right sometimes too.
Below is a run-down of the five albums that actually deserved to take the trophy and winner’s cheque in their year. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices in the comments at the bottom.
Primal Scream – Screamadelica
Other notable nominees: The Jesus And Mary Chain – Honey’s Dead, U2 – Achtung Baby
The Mercury Prize got off to a great start by awarding Primal Scream’s seminal Screamadelica with the inaugural prize. Looking at the list of nominees for 1992, it doesn’t look like a particularly good year for British music to be honest – but they still got it right by singling out Primal Scream’s best album for praise.
Suede – Suede
Other notable nominees: PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me, New Order – Republic
Suede’s debut album, which still represents their most consistently rewarding album to date, deservedly won the second Mercury Prize in 1993, so in its early years things were looking good. At the time Suede was the fastest selling debut album in UK history, and the glam revivalists were riding the ‘biggest band in the country’ wave, so their win was a no-brainer really.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
Other notable nominees: The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free, Amy Winehouse – Frank
I’m not a massive fan of Franz Ferdinand, but they deserved their win in 2004 more for the poor competition. British music was in a bit of a tailspin in the early 00’s following the Britpop implosion, and 2004’s nominees reflect that – Keane, Snow Patrol, The Zutons etc… Still, everybody loves ‘Take Me Out’ don’t they?
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Other notable nominees: Thom Yorke – The Eraser, Richard Hawley – Coles Corner, Muse – Black Holes & Revelations
A tough year this one, which was alluded to by Alex Turner’s acceptance speech declaring that Richard Hawley had been ‘robbed’. I think the judging panel got this spot on though, despite the subtle brilliance of Hawley’s fourth album, for the sheer impact the Monkeys’ debut album had.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Other notable nominees: Adele – 21, Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, James Blake – James Blake
PJ Harvey became the first artist to win the Mercury Prize twice with the awesome and harrowing Let England Shake in 2011 – following her 2001 win for Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea (which you will notice isn’t on this list as Radiohead were also nominated that year!)
Do you agree with my choices of deserving Mercury Prize winners or do you have some other winners in mind? Join the discussion in the comments below…