THE MERCURY PRIZE 2023: Could history be made?
5-9 editor, Andrew Belt, considers what might transpire for this year's awards
If you’re like me, the Mercury Prize is a highlight in the music calendar. Celebrating the best albums over the course of the past 12 months by British and Irish artists, it creates debate and acts as a useful prompt to explore LPs I haven’t previously listened to.
It has also been present for most of my life whether it’s in reading news coverage of Miss Dynamite’s and Dizzee Rascal’s unexpected wins in 2002 and 2003, respectively, or watching the ceremony live in 2005 for the first time to see Anthony and the Johnsons take home the coveted prize up against the cream of indie-rock in Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and more.
The 2020 edition saw me take this one step further as I set myself the challenge to listen all 12 nominated albums and come up with my own order – a lockdown endeavour which has now become a new tradition.
Thursday’s upcoming announcement of this year’s list is cause for excitement and, here, I share some early predictions and choose my own list based on an admittedly lesser listening quota than that of the judges!
Two in a row?
It’s never been done before but two likely candidates for the Prize, if successful, would be delivering two winners in two consecutive releases. I am, of course, talking about Arlo Parks and Little Simz.
Parks, a little surprisingly, took the Prize in 2021 for her debut LP, Collapsed Between Sunbeams – a fine record, but not perhaps as accomplished as previous winners. This year saw Parks surpass that effort with My Soft Machine and, if not the winner, it’s surely a shoo-in for the shortlist.
More predictable was last year’s win for Little Simz such is the universal acclaim for the excellent Sometimes I Might Be Introverted. Simz then caught the entire music industry off guard with the release of fifth album, NO THANK YOU, in mid-December. Continuing to deliver with the panache which made Sometimes I Might Be Introverted the success it was, NO THANK YOU is another huge release from Simz and could well be in line to not only be the first double-album streak at the awards, but the first double-whammy in two consecutive award years.
As well as the two aforementioned records, plus the usual array of surprising selections across the spectrum of genres represented at the awards, I’d expect Jockstrap’s I Love You, Jennifer B, The 1975’s Being Funny in a Foreign Language, Young Fathers’s Heavy Heavy, Jessie Ware’s That! Feels! Good!, Squid’s O Monolith and PJ Harvey’s I Inside the Old Year Dying to be strong bets for the shortlist.
And just for fun, here’s my 12-album shortlist based on the entry criteria:
- Suede – Autofiction
- Little Simz – NO THANK YOU
- Connie Constance – Miss Power
- Big Joanie – Back Home
- The Murder Capital – Gigi’s Recovery
- Grian Chatten – Chaos for the Fly
- Gaz Coombes – Turn the Car Around
- Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine
- BC Camplight – The Last Rotation of Earth
- Billy Nomates – CACTI
- Jadu Heart – Derealised
- Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy
Roll on 11am on Thursday!