The most talked about music awards ceremony is back – and unsurprisingly, there’s a lot to talk about.
Billing itself as a celebration of the best British and Irish music of the past year, the Mercury Prize is one of the most prestigious honors in the business. Styled as more artistically aware than the commercially-led likes of the BRITs and Grammys, the Mercuries have always caused some controversy: either thanks to who they shortlisted; What have they added, or who have they left out?
This year will be no different. But what are the main talking points on this year’s 12-strong shortlist? Check out the contenders below, and read on to find out what impressed us.
Mercury Prize 2022 Shortlist
- Fergus McCready Forest Floor
- Gwenno – Tresor
- Harry Styles – Harry’s house
- Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler – For All Our Heartbreaking Days.
- Joey Crooks – Vol
- Koji Radical – Reason to smile
- Little Sims – Sometimes I can be an introvert.
- Nova Twins – Supernova
- Sam Fender – Seventeen Gong Under
- Self-esteem – Prioritize happiness.
- Wet Leg – Wet Leg
- Yard Act – Overload
Rock is God (again)
Who said the stone is dead? The genre suffered a disturbingly visible, trilby-wearing identity crisis towards the end of the nineties, and a few years of starvation in the early 2010s, but it never really disappeared. And on this year’s shortlist, rock is, at least in a very loose sense, the presidential genre. There’s a healthy variety—Sam Fender’s Glasto-smashing singalongs are a world away from the Nova Twins’ nu-metal-meets-grime mashups. Yard Act’s verdy, spiky post-punk stands apart from heavyweight indie pop rock. It’s a genre symbol in rude, selective health.
Women Rule (again)
The Mercury Prize’s 2020 shortlist made history by selecting more female and female-fronted bands than male for the first time in 29 years. They hit it off in 2022 — with four solo women (Little Sims, Self-Stem, Gwino, Joy Crooks), two all-female bands (Nova Twins, Wet Leg) and the mixed-gender duo of Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler. Includes work in front of only five men or men. If the male-dominated shortlists at awards ceremonies aren’t already a sign, the Mercury Prize is proof that it can (and should) be much more.
Harry Styles is officially the best One Direction member.
If sold-out Wembley gigs, massive streaming numbers and general super-mega stardom hadn’t already tipped you off, Harry Styles is having the best time of his post-One Direction era. He already has a burgeoning trophy cabinet—wins at the BRIT Awards, Grammys and Ivor Novellos far surpass those of his former bandmates—and is now well on his way to completing his collection of Mercury Prize gongs. Is it supposed to be a surprise that the left field award goes to an all-out pop star? Yes. Is it beyond the realms of possibility? Definitely not.
Cornwall for the win?
Here’s a fact you can count on without looking at the list of past winners: never before has a predominantly Cornish-language album won the Mercury Prize. Not surprising, since only a handful of people still speak it fluently, but there’s an outside chance that Gwino’s catchy album Tracer could fly the flag for this ancient language. Sung entirely in Cornish, bar one song in Welsh, it’s a wonderful listen — if it wins, prepare for a surge in Cornish dictionary sales.
Little Sims cemented its place as a great.
If the 2019 Mercury Prize hadn’t gone to the very deserving winner of Dave’s Psychodrama, it certainly should have been handed over to the gray area of Little Sims. The fact that the Islington rapper has topped this release alongside his most recent album, Sometimes I Might Be Introverted, and earned a second Mercury nomination, speaks volumes for an artist who excels at Performs. The capital has produced some era-defining rappers over the decades — from Stormzy to Skepta, Ghetts to Giggs — and you can certainly add Little Simz to that pantheon.
Hurry up for Token Jazz!
It’s a running joke that every set of Mercury Prize shortlists will feature a “token jazz” album somewhere. With the genre’s resurgence in recent years, though, it’s been anything but formal—albums such as Nubia Garcia’s Source, SEED Ensemble’s Driftglass and Sons of Kemet’s Your Queen Is a Reptile have all demanded their places on the list. What did It doesn’t feel like a crime to think that, maybe, just maybe, the judges could include more than one jazz album. Alas, 2022 isn’t the year, and this time it’s Fergus McCready flying the flag. More power to him.
The dynamic duo is back.
For whatever reason — rampant Instagram-fueled narcissism, the post-Jedward lull, who knows — the musical duo has become unfashionable in recent days, with solo artists or fully formed bands taking precedence. Is. But double acts are firmly back on this year’s shortlist, with Wet Leg, Nova Twins, and Jessie Buckley and Bernard Butler all in the running. Sometimes, two will do.
Save a thought for…
…Kae Tempest, Fontaines DC, Dave and Black Country, New Road, all of whom were named among the bookies’ favorites to win the Mercury Prize in 2022, but were ultimately not even shortlisted. Sadly, such is the nature of the 12-strong competition. They all released great albums though — put them on your listening list if you haven’t already checked them out.
The Mercury Prize 2022 Awards Show will take place on Thursday 8 September at the Eventium Apollo, Hammersmith. Tickets are available from eventimapollo.com