A Horror result for bookies?

Sep 1, 2009 by

The Mercury Music Prize is only a week away and for those who think they know their Speech Debelle from their Sweet Billy Pilgrim, there could be money in them there hills.
As awards ceremonies go, the Mercury is one of the trickiest to unravel, often seeming to exist purely to thumb a nose at perceived musical wisdom, as evidenced by the perplexing decision to award the 1994 prize to M People for ‘Elegant Slumming’ ahead of the likes of Blur, Pulp and The Prodigy.
Having given a cursory listen to the 12 shortlisted albums, I would not expect favourite Florence & The Machine to win mainly because favourites usually don’t win Mercury Music Prizes. And, much like fellow nominee La Roux, Flo & co have already been hyped to death and their best known tunes are far too embedded in the mainstream psyche to get the endorsement of the Mercury panel.
Bat For Lashes failed to win when nominated in 2007 and only Elbow last year were a previously nominated act to go on to win the Mercury so a tentative line can be put through them, while Friendly Fires, Kasabian and Glasvegas serve up sounds that are far too unremarkable, at least to this ear. So that’s six crossed off already. This is easy.
Hip hop act Speech Debelle, on first listen, sounds very Mercury but Speech Debelle could be too Dizzee Rascal and Dizzee won in 2003. The Invisible (prog pop) and Led Bib (token jazz collective) would appear to be making up the numbers for an arts award that likes to acknowledge all musical genres. And then there were three.
For such a leftfield prize, it usually pays to think outside the box. Sweet Billy Pilgrim, a former office maintenance man, created his album in his garden shed. This is just the sort of kooky initiative that might swing the vote his way in a very ordinary year that could be ripe for a shock. His melancholic sound could be too close to last year’s winners Elbow, however, and a win for him would be kind of like an Irish setter winning Crufts two years in a row – in other words, it just doesn’t happen.
On the grounds that a folksy female is due, Lisa Hannigan is an interesting contender with debut solo album ‘Sea Sew’. Another tick in her box is that eleven of the seventeen Mercury winners have been debuts. Countering this, Beth Orton, Kath Williams and Laura Marling were all nominated in recent years but didn’t win suggesting her fate may be sealed as an also-ran.
Which leaves… drum roll… The Horrors, arguably the only act on the list that can be said to be pushing new boundaries as they have moved from goth rock to their own unique brand of hypnotic psychedelia.

Really, your guess is as good as mine. This is a betting market that requires your intuition to get into the minds of a counter-intuitive judging panel. This year’s winner will be announced during a live BBC2 ceremony next Tuesday.

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  1. Love the site. Keep it up! The Mercurys is a very tough call. The only point I’ll add is Glasvegas song “Daddy’s Gone” has been known to make grown men weep. They deserve a shot at it!

    I saw Lisa Hannigan on BBC Glasto coverage. Very good. I’d go with one of those two but then I’ve never called it right in the past..!

  2. Jonathan

    Historically Mercury winners flit annually from one genre to another — but most notably, from urban/dance one year, to indie/rock the next. Which of course corroborates the criticism of many — that the prize is governed by political correctness and fashion rather than actual quality. The only exception to this pattern was when Ms Dynamite-teehee and Dizzee Rascal won in consecutive years in 2002-03 (and let’s face, it those were pretty dark days for indie anyway).

    So my bet would be whatever is the polar opposite of Elbow — and much as I’d love the excellent Bat for Lashes album to win, I think it’s going to be La Roux.

    Thanks for a great site

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