Mercury Music prize to stay underground

Still considered to be a cultural touchstone and barometer of musical taste, The Mercury Music Prize has grown in stature over the 16 years.  In an age of consumerist driven award ceremonies, the Mercury is the one respected accolade, based soley on artistic merit.   This however is both its strength and its weakness.   Judging a piece of music without any reference to media profile, record sales or recognition is virtually impossible, the judges of the prize single handidly prove this point. 

If a piece of music is to be judged solely on its ability to create a mood, induce excitement, exact wonderment or truly inspire then why is the award usually predictable in its final outcome?                           The Klaxons – although worthy winners were always likely to win ahead of The Arctic Monkeys ( they could never give the award to an artist two years running) or Basquait Strings (there are always token albums from the classical or Jazz worlds that never have a hope in winning)                            

Sometimes the prize measures the Zeitgeist just right and affirms the feelings of the critics and the public – Arctic Monkeys in 2006 and Portishead in 1995.  Although at times their decisions have backfired – M People in 1994 and Talvin Singh in 1999.  Surely it is their job to award an album they think will become not only timeless, but define the moment it was released.  If this guideline was taken into account then Coldplay – ‘Parachutes’ would have won over Badly Drawn Boy, The Streets – ‘Original Pirate Material’ would have won over Ms Dynamite and The Prodigy – ‘Music for a Jilted Generation’ would have won hands down over M People.  If we can’t trust the judges of the most culturally astute prize in music to be our soothsayers then who can we trust?

Another problem with the prize is the inevitable snub of the recognised artists.  If media profile doesn’t influence the decision then why have so many of the publicly endorsed classic albums like, The Verve – ‘Urban Hymms’, Radiohead – ‘Ok Computer’ and Coldplay – ‘A rush of blood to the head’, been ignored?  It seems the true great albums have as much chance of being ignored than the quirky left field Jazz albums – only there to make up the numbers!

With all the above evidence it seems there can only be one winner this year, Burial with ‘Untrue’.  A slightly left field innovative choice that the judges seem to thrive on, similar to Talvin Singh or Roni Size.  It seems Radiohead are to miss out again, even though In Rainbows is regarded as a work of extraordinary beauty


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