What is the point of The Mercury Music Prize?
I’m not going to comment on the merits or otherwise of winners The XX – they’re so far removed from my own tastes in music that I’m simply not qualified to judge them. But I think it is fair to comment on the very obvious exclusion of entire genres from Mercury shortlists.
Apart from the token jazz and folk entries, it does seem dominated by various sub-genres of indie plus the odd hip-hop record. Far from being as broad as it’s apologies claim, it’s pretty much restricted to the sorts of artists that Apple Macintosh-owning urban metrosexuals might have heard of. I recognise that prog is too niche, but it’s unthinkable, for example, for a metal band to make the shortlist. Admittedly a lot of cutting-edge metal seems to be Scandinavian these days, and The Mercury is restricted to British and Irish acts. But why have Iron Maiden never got nominated? And when was the last time an out-and-our pop album got nominated? Surely Simon Cowell’s karaoke drivel hasn’t killed pop completely?
Alexis Petridis’s Guardian Article gives the game away – he doesn’t quite come and out and say it, but I think the subtext and inference is pretty clear. The main purpose of The Mercury Music Prize is indeed not to celebrate the best of British music in all it’s diversity, but is merely a cynical ploy to sell records to the demographic that doesn’t know much about music, but wants to think of itself as cool and sophisticated.
Which is a perfect justifcation of why, despite the genre’s eternal popularity, you’re never going to get a Metal band in Mercury shortlist. Metal just isn’t a genre you can sell to people like David Cameron or William Hague.