This morning, the nominees were announced for the 16th annual Mercury Prize, a prestigious award given out each year to the best British or Irish album of the previous 12 months; past winners include Pulp, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, Portishead, and PJ Harvey. Then again, they also include M People (wah?) and Talvin Singh (ha!). (Yes, those are two artists we moderately enjoyed at the time, but some stuff just really doesn’t stand the test of time.)
Anyway, the noms this year go to: Bat For Lashes, Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, Dizzee Rascal, Klaxons, Fionn Regan, the View, the Young Knives, and several other NME favorites. The Arctic Monkeys and Dizzee Rascal have actually both won before — the Monkeys only last year, for their debut, and Dizzee in 2003 for his. Personally, we’re fans of several artists on the list, especially Bat for Lashes (more on her later) but aside from small splashes for the Klaxons and the Monkeys, do most Americans know anyone on this list, with a single glaring exception? You’ve guessed by now, of course, whom we refer to, The One Who Is Not Like the Others? Could it be Amy “Maybe you’ve seen me on the cover of Spin and Rolling Stone with the hair and the tattoos and what have you, and okay I said no no no to ‘Rehab’ but yes to eloping, and P.S. I cancel a lot of shows too, possibly because of my destructive personal habits” Winehouse (pictured)? As Cookie Monster would say, “You so smart!”
Yes, Ms. Winehouse is clearly the far-and-away front-runner. Afterall, are U.S. tabloids following the dalliances and follicular folliesof singer-songwriter Jamie T? How about classic orchestral outfitBasquiat Strings? Not so much. Now, we’re not saying everybody has tobe in Us Weekly’s “Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us!” sectionto warrant a good shot at the prize, but as recently as two years ago,it felt like more of a fair game; the preternaturally gifted cult actAntony & the Johnsons won out (correctly, we feel in retrospect)over bona fide marquee names (Coldplay), critical dazzlers (M.I.A.,Polar Bear, the Go! Team) and rollicking, well-loved rockers (BlocParty, the Magic Numbers, the Kaiser Chiefs). This year it seems that,Stateside at least, only one act will really galvanize the armchairawards-show jockies.
But maybe we’re being unfair, or simply too American. Readers, whatdo you think of this year’s nominees? Are they everything they can be?Who will take home the honors on Sept. 4? Who, if anyone, deserves abigger shot at our great nation, and its Billboard chart so full of Daughtrys, T-Pains and Hannah Montanas?