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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Does the Mercury Prize get it right?
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The nominations for this year's Mercury Music Prize are announced on Tuesday - but, in its 13th year, do winners stand the test of time?

Primal Scream's Screamadelica with other Mercury winners
Primal Scream's Screamadelica was the first Mercury winner
Winner - Primal Scream, Screamadelica
In the award's first year, the judges gave it to a band with both wide commercial appeal and independent credibility. Judges said it was ''sleazy, decadent and compulsive" and it was a popular choice.

U2's Achtung Baby was nominated but lost out, and is regarded by many as the band's high point. The favourite had been Simply Red's Stars, one of the biggest-selling albums of the decade, while other releases included the Manic Street Preachers' explosive debut Generation Terrorists.

Winner - Suede, Suede
The debut album from the glam indie rockers heralded the emergence of the most exciting British group for years. Brimming with sex and attitude, it was seen as opening the door for Britpop, although it was soon overshadowed by others who followed.

The year's biggest contributions were breakthrough early releases from Radiohead, Blur and The Prodigy.

Heather Small from M People
M People were up against Blur, Pulp and Take That
Winner - M People, Elegant Slumming
Although disco, soul and deep house all went into Elegant Slumming, pop dominated the album. Many critics derided the choice and the album is now seen as a period piece rather than a timeless classic.

Britpop was building a head of steam and Blur's landmark album, Parklife, was among the losing nominees. As was Pulp's His and Hers, which shot them to stardom after 15 years of trying.

Winner - Portishead, Dummy
In one of the most fertile years for British music in years, Bristol group Portishead won for breaking the mould. They remain unsurpassed in their particular genre of blended jazz, blues and rock that became known as trip-hop.

There should have been several winners in 1995 because the shortlist also included Oasis' clarion call Definitely Maybe and Tricky's dark masterpiece Maxinquaye, among others. But somehow left off the shortlist were Radiohead's The Bends and Massive Attack's Protection.

Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis Cocker has struggled to live up to the standard of A Different Class
Winner - Pulp, Different Class
Jarvis Cocker and co hit their peak with Different Class and, in particular, Britpop anthem Common People. The album succinctly summed up a slightly addled, restless generation and, as such, now sounds slightly dated.

History has been kind to Oasis' What's the Story Morning Glory, mainly because it includes Wonderwall, which will go down as a classic. The Manic Street Preachers completed an unlikely comeback with the majestic Everything Must Go.

Winner - Roni Size and Reprazent, New Forms
New Forms was a ground-breaking opus that helped bring a new, British musical style - jungle - to the fore. Size was rewarded for innovation - but the album now sounds a little primitive given the speed of change and the fact that his achievements were built on by other artists.

The album that made Radiohead one of the biggest bands in the world, OK Computer, was on the shortlist - but lost out. It is now seen as one of the best rock albums of recent times. Also released in that year were hits from The Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, the Spice Girls and Jamiroquai.

Winner - Gomez, Bring It On
The creativity in British music was beginning to dry up and, although it was an accomplished and appealing blues-rock album, Bring It On was not a world-beater. The win failed to put them in the top division.

For many, The Verve's Urban Hymns was a modern masterpiece and Bittersweet Symphony an elegy for Britpop. It was also the year that Robbie Williams became the UK's favourite male singer - a status he still enjoys - with the album Life Thru A Lens, which included hit Angels.

Talvin Singh
Talvin Singh: Added Asian sounds to dance culture
Winner - Talvin Singh, OK
Another award for innovation from a relatively bare shortlist, Singh combined Indian sounds with cutting-edge dance beats. It was a fair soundtrack to an urban, multicultural millennial Britain - but has disappeared from most coffee tables now.

Albums by two of the biggest artists of the time were not even on the shortlist. Travis' The Man Who made them one of the biggest groups in Britain while Fatboy Slim's crazy beats came of age in You've Come A Long Way Baby.

Badly Drawn Boy
Badly Drawn Boy has had more critical than commercial success
Winner - Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast
The idiosyncratic Badly Drawn Boy was unearthed as one of the biggest singer-songwriting talents for years. The album had bittersweet songs - but not quite enough power to earn a place in the rock annals.

It was another lean year - but one album that stands out from the shortlist is Coldplay's Parachutes, which established them as rock heavyweights both in the UK and around the world.

Winner - PJ Harvey, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
With this album, Harvey - who had been plugging away for the last decade - punched through to the mainstream consciousness. It contained a winning formula of strong, passionate tunes and individual, slightly eccentric personality.

A very different female singer-songwriter, Dido, came into her own and her debut solo album, No Angel, became the biggest-selling album of the year.

Ms Dynamite
Ms Dynamite: Hoping to build on her UK success in the United States
Winner - Ms Dynamite, A Little Deeper
Ms Dynamite was forging new ground in British urban hip-hop, soul and R&B - and was generally regarded as the UK's brightest new talent.

Ms Dynamite narrowly pipped the alternative voice of UK hip-hop, The Streets, while The Coral's charmingly eclectic rock debut looks set to be the foundation for greater success.

Winner - Dizzee Rascal, Boy In Da Corner
This uncompromising 19-year-old UK garage MC became the first rapper to win the prize. Boy In Da Corner, with its ultra-modern, abstract street sounds, was certainly one of the freshest releases of the year.

In the rock world, 2003 belonged to The Darkness - but the Mercury judges are not known for their love of retro sounds and camp showmanship. Coldplay's second album was also on the list.


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