BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Entertainment  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Mercury Prize's guessing game
Badly Drawn Boy accepting the Mercury Music Prize in 2000
Badly Drawn Boy: 2000 win was highlight of his career

The nominations for the Mercury Music Prize 2002 were announced on Tuesday.

2002 shortlist
Beverley Knight
- Who I Am
The Bees
- Sunshine, Hit Me
The Coral
- The Coral
David Bowie
- Heathen
- The Last Broadcast
The Electric Soft Parade
- Holes in the Wall
Gemma Hayes
- Night On My Side
Guy Barker
- Soundtrack
Joanna MacGregor
- Play
Ms Dynamite
- A Little Deeper
Roots Manuva
- Run Come Save Me
The Streets
- Original Pirate Material
Half the fun of prizes like the Mercury is arguing over the merits of the nominees, then denouncing the judges in disbelief when they do not agree with your choice of winner.

Like the Turner Prize in art, the Mercury - which honours the best UK album of the last 12 months - is an often controversial award based on the decision of a group of people sat in a darkened room, but which still attracts a huge amount of attention.

For fans, as well as being the chance to have a good gripe about the judges, it is a way to discover acts who may not have had the exposure of the mainstream pop charts.

For the bands, it is variously seen as a massive boost or a poisoned chalice.

In the music industry, it is "highly valued" because it is about quality and creative integrity - not just sales, according to Martin Talbot, executive editor of trade magazine Music Week.

Talvin Singh
Talvin Singh beat off more mainstream competition in 1999
"It's a very subjective, creative, artistic judgement, which I guess is one of the reasons why it makes such a great industry guessing game," he says.

"It has no worse an image than the Booker Prize or the Turner Prize - it is basically a music version of that.

"Those awards come in for a bit of knocking - it is very easy to knock these things because it is so subjective, it's down to one person's view, and as long as people don't take it any more seriously than that, then that's absolutely fine."

He says that no matter what bands say in public, they all secretly want to win.

"I think every artist, whatever they say, trying to act cool and trying to act distant, any artist likes recognition, in whatever field they operate," he says.

"Every artist enjoys winning awards like this - there's no doubt about that."

But when Damon Albarn's cartoon band Gorillaz resigned from the Mercury Music Prize shortlist in 2001, they said winning would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity".

It's a bit like winning an Oscar - you think, ooh crikey, it's all downhill from here

Andy Gill
The Independent
The previous four winners - Badly Drawn Boy, Talvin Singh, Gomez and Roni Size - all had their reputations sealed by a Mercury triumph.

The trouble is - none of them seem to have been able to match that success since.

"I think it's in danger of getting itself a reputation of killing the acts," The Independent's music critic Andy Gill said.

"It's a bit like winning an Oscar - you think, ooh crikey, it's all downhill from here.

"It did strike me that everybody who was being awarded the Mercury Prize - that seemed to be it, they just seemed to die in their tracks."

It's actually become very important in recent years

Gennaro Castaldo
Whatever the long-term career effects, a nomination or win always gives a band's sales a boost in the short-term.

Sales figures can increase by up to 300% on the back of a win, according to HMV sales expert Gennaro Castaldo.

"It's actually become very important in recent years," he says.

Past Mercury winners
1992 Primal Scream
1993 Suede
1994 M People
1995 Portishead
1996 Pulp
1997 Roni Size and Reprazent
1998 Gomez
1999 Talvin Singh
2000 Badly Drawn Boy
2001 PJ Harvey
"For a long time, in the first few years, I think it was seen as a very worthy thing, but it didn't necessarily make a connection with the mainstream record-buying public.

"But over the last four or five years, it does seem as if the public have reacted a lot more."

Music fans are now a lot more open-minded and willing to take a chance on an album after it is nominated for the Mercury Prize, Mr Castaldo says.

"Something like the Mercury has been perfect because they can promote themselves as this esoteric awards ceremony that gives people the chance to appreciate the full breadth and depth of the music in this country," he says.

'Really boring'

But the argument about which albums should be nominated and win will probably go on for as long as the award is around.

The nominations usually range from the worthy to the trivial, according to Andy Gill, who says the shortlists have tended to be "really boring" in the past.

He also says the 12 nominated albums "very rarely" match the real 12 best albums from the last 12 months.

"But you would expect that - no-one's going to agree on what are the 12 best British albums in any year, I suppose."



BBCi Music reviews



See also:

11 Sep 01 | Entertainment
03 Sep 01 | Entertainment
24 Jul 01 | Entertainment
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

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

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |