The Mercury Prize is always one of the most anticipated nights of the musical calendar, and this year’s list of nominees is an absolute peach, if we’re honest, dear readers. From the long-awaited debut from Sampha to Glass Animals’ fruity, fantastic ‘How To Be A Human Being’ via alt-J and The xx’s second nominations and DIY faves The Big Moon’s anthemic first offering ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’, there’s a hell of a lot of brilliant albums to celebrate tomorrow night (14th September).
If that lot isn’t enough to whet the proverbial appetite in advance of the 2017 Mercurys, we’ve compiled six reasons (six whole reasons!) why you should be excited about the event, even if, let’s be honest, we’re not gonna get any red carpet quotes that match up to East India Youth famously proclaiming that “music is the real winner” back in 2014.
Splash the cash
As the eternally wise East India Youth once pointed out (yes we’re still running with this one), at the end of Mercury Prize night, music is always the real winner. However, it’s not music itself that gets presented with a wodge of cash, oh no. The £25k prize money is a reward bestowed on just one victor, and over the years, artists have turned up for the red carpet with plans for how they might spend it. Last year Matt Healy essentially silenced all other ambitions by promising to spend The 1975’s winnings on “endless, endless drugs”.
Perhaps thankfully - for the sake of the afterparty, anyway - The 1975 didn’t suddenly find themselves with 25 grand spare to blow on pingers, and eventual winner Skepta ended up using the money to fund “a studio in my old estate to help the young kids do music.” Probably a much better cause, tbh.
Anyway, this year, we’re highly looking forward to hearing the most creative schemes from this year’s nominees, and in case a few of them are short of ideas, we’ve got a few of our own. Sampha could spend it all on literally hundreds of kilos of samphire, Ed Sheeran could buy himself a calculator instead of naming his albums after mathematical symbols, and Stormzy could hire out the whole of Thorpe Park for a second edition of his theme park birthday party. Elsewhere, The Big Moon might want to consider giving guitarist Soph her share to set up The Soph Nathan School for Kids Who Want To Learn to Play Shows in Four Different Bands in Ten Different Cities At Once Without Getting Tired, while her fellow bandmate Fern Ford could very easily set up the world’s best lifestyle blog exclusively dedicated to sandals (she’s halfway there already). The possibilities, readers, are endless.
The Big Moon are no strangers to planetary exploration; earlier this year the band went to the actual moon (sort of) for DIY’s April cover, and Jules Jackson brought a slice of the solar system to Glastonbury in a very fetching spacesuit, completed by a makeshift colander helmet. It makes sense, then, that now the country’s best new band is taking off to Mercury, with their debut ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ up for the prestigious gong.
We’d be lying, dear readers, if we tried to tone down our enthusiasm for a hypothetical Big Moon victory. It would, after all, be nothing short of epic, not least because they’d probably bring the most out there acceptance speech in the 26 year history of the awards. Still, though - victory or otherwise - the band look set to steal the show for the best outfits. Just check out this Steps-based fashion concept they’ve got in store below.
The continued rise and rise of UK grime
Last year, Skepta scooped the top prize with ‘Konnichiwa’ to almost universal agreement. If the Mercurys have occasionally been condemned for being unrepresentative of the real, on-the-ground UK music scene, then this was an example of them getting it absolutely right. Nothing at that point was making as big a noise as grime, and no one was a bigger figurehead for it than our boy Skeppy. He’ll be returning this year to perform at the ceremony and pass on the big spiky silver baton to the next winner, and though a full 12 months has passed, it’s still grime that’s front and centre. Are they likely to award Stormzy the prize this year, making it two-for-two? Tactically it might not be the variety-favouring norm, but you most definitely couldn’t fault them if they did.
Who will be the new ‘Skepta’s Mum’?
Last year, there was a new legend crowned at the Mercury Prize ceremony. No, not award winner Skepta (although, props to him too); the following morning, the internet (well, at least the memes) belonged to his shoulder-shimmying, very excitable mum. We dare you to try and find a woman having a better time than Mrs. Adenuga standing on that podium. But who will be this year’s gif-worthy star? Will Gus from alt-J go on a wild rampage around the venue? Will Romy xx and Stormzy have a fistfight? Will Ed Sheeran turn up after all, bursting through the door like a wedding crasher to stop the ceremony with a musical objection? We just do not know.
Glass Animals could bring a fruity victory
Glass Animals might’ve be the most talked-about band in the world across this summer. As well as all manner of pineapple-themed mayhem (leading the tropical fruit to be unsuccessfully banned from Reading & Leeds last month), the tour for their wonderful second album ‘How To Be A Human Being’ has taken them to the biggest stages of their career; from Glastonbury’s Other Stage to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the momentum behind the Oxford four-piece right now is frankly staggering, and a Mercury win would solidify their path to the top, and be thoroughly deserved to boot. There’s been no word from the Mercurys on any pineapple bans either, so we could be in store for a very fruity ceremony indeed…
Sampha’s waiting game could finally pay off
It’s been a long old road to Sampha’s brilliant debut album. Put on hold to look after his sick brother after the untimely death of his mother, the undeniable talent of Sampha Sissay lay away from the spotlight for too long. Collaborations with Drake and Frank Ocean, and guest slots with SBTRKT showed his potential, but it’s ‘Process’, the result of years of work and also grief, that stands out, and is a much-deserved nominee. Straddling the worlds of alt-pop and electronic wizardry, it just may be the perfect balance to get the nod from the judges. We’ll find out tomorrow.
Listen to the official Mercury Prize Shortlist 2017 playlist via Apple Music below.