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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Critics' cool verdict for Mercury
Craig David
Craig David: A key omission?
If one of the purposes of the Mercury Music Prize is to stir up discussion about the talent side of the music industry, it certainly succeeds.

Each year the shortlist prompts lively discussion about - and sometimes ferocious criticism of - the artists and groups chosen.


The obvious omission is Craig David who's brought R&B Two-Step into the mainstream

Ajax Scott, Music Week
Ajax Scott, editor-in-chief Music Week group, believes that whatever the controversy, the award shortlist has a positive effect.

"It works well when it helps new artists, who need a leg-up to reach the mainstream, as happened with Roni Size," he told BBC News Online.

Sales

"Ed Harcourt, Tom McCrae, Turin Brakes and Zero 7 are like that this year - just at that point where getting mainstream exposure could help with record sales."

Scott also believes that shortlisting can boost sales dramatically - especially for lesser-known names: "The effect on sales depends on who you are - if you're selling records out of your bedroom it makes a huge difference.

"The good thing about this year's list is that they've avoided having one of this, one of that - the quota driven formula."

But Scott is concerned about the range of music the list represents: "It doesn't cover that much ground stylistically - there's a lot of worthy guitar-band music, which suggests that the judges are a certain sort of music fan.


No-one seriously suggests that this is a list of the 12 best records of the year

Joe Taylor, The Tip Sheet
"There's no dance, no pop, no R&B - the obvious omission is Craig David who's brought R&B Two-Step into the mainstream."

Joe Taylor, editor of music industry insider weekly The Tip Sheet, agrees.

"Dido and Craig David are serious omissions - they should be there and it would help artists like Susheela Raman if they were," he said to BBC News Online.

"It's all quite worthy - too worthy in fact.

"But no-one seriously suggests that this is a list of the 12 best records of the year."

Andrew Male, features editor of Mojo magazine, believes the 2001 list is an improvement on the recent past.

"But it's a bit like those teachers who give out lots of prizes so everyone's done well - it's a bit bland," he told BBC News Online.


It's like a round-up of records people have often forgotten about

Andrew Male, Mojo magazine
"Having said that, this year's better than the last couple of years.

"There's a couple of examples of pop genius - Super Furry Animals and Elbow.

'Useful'

"They've also covered sensitive young songwriters, like Ed Harcourt and Turin Brakes."

"It's incredibly useful for reminding people how wonderful British music is - it's like a round-up of records people have often forgotten about," said Male.

But Jody Thompson, news manager of NME and NME.com, believes that the shortlist omits too many significant players in the contemporary scene.


It's still an industry award, not a reflection of what people are buying

Jody Thompson, NME
"It's a coffee table list," she said to BBC News Online.

"There's no UK Garage, for example - the only dance records they've got is Gorillaz, which is a band that doesn't exist.

Publicity

"There's no Oxide or Neutrino, no Beta Band, no Artful Dodger or Craig David - lots who are not there."

And Thompson dismisses the argument that the list provides useful publicity to groups who need it.

"Anyone who knows anything about new music knows these bands, so it doesn't help a great deal.

"At the end of the day it's still an industry award, not a reflection of what people are buying," she concluded.

Links to more Music stories are at the foot of the page.


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