What is the point of The Mercury Music Prize?

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.

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7 Responses to What is the point of The Mercury Music Prize?

  1. jonanamary says:


    Nothing more to add to this, really. Although there are some excellent UK/Irish metal bands out there – both Fen and Altar of Plagues are recording new albums as we speak :)

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Somehow thought you’re appreciate that one, Jonana.

    My task in life seems to be reading through 200+ long comment threads on Guardian blogs, so that you don’t have to :)

  3. Iain Weetman says:

    I never watch these mainstream things – you can bet every year that it’s an award for another bunch of talentless indie hipsters. I couldn’t believe how bad they were – & all too predictably, Bowman & Whiley’s Geordie partner in crime – wasserface – was saying how brilliant she thinks they are! Give me strength!
    The BBC music programmers need a hefty kick in the spuds too – from Jools H’s show to their selective ‘only indie friendly’ coverage of bands at mainstream festivals (Coheed & Cambria were on at Glasto but OBVIOUSLY they wouldn’t show it – can’t have anything un-indie hipster now can we!?!?!). It must be very frustrating for musicians in the metal, rock, prog & blues genres to know they will never, ever (despite their talent) achieve the same exposure as 2 pointless twins with stupid pointy haircuts who neither, write or play instruments, yet even as ‘talent’ show failures, they still have their own TV show.
    We are truely going to hell in a tuneless handcart.

  4. Fat Roland says:

    I don’t know – I hear Willy Hague’s a sucker for a bit of Slayer. I think there have been some very good shortlisted nominations in the past, but if you look down the full list over the years, there’s definitely a strong streak of beige going on.

  5. Fat Roland says:

    Actually, do you know who I blame? It’s not Slimey Cowell. It’s the Stereophonics. Travis. Oasis. Bands that had blinding first albums, smelled the money, then blanded it out for the new Stella-n-footie dad generation.

  6. who’s on the judging panel? and why should anyone care what they think?
    I seem to recall them being rather cagey about revealing who was judging it.
    you can’t really expect much if that dunce Conor Mcnicholas (now editor of Top gear mag) is still on the panel.

  7. Tim Hall says:

    @Fat Roland:

    I’d go back further and blame everything on Paul Weller. He’s a po-faced miserable git who wouldn’t know a decent tune if you smacked him round the head with it. Everything he’s ever done has been an inferior imitation of earlier, better acts. Even The Jam were a watered-down version of The Who – and why would anyone want to water down The Who? Yet the guy seems to be revered as a god…

    He’s the musical equivalent of the ash cloud from Mount Doom, turning Britain into a musical Mordor.