It probably has not escaped your attention that this year’s Mercury Prize winner was announced on Thursday evening. Sampha, a South-Londoner, who has worked with some of the biggest names in the business; including Drake, Kanye West and Beyoncé, bathed in his own recognition last night, as he took home this year’s Mercury Prize.
The Mercury Prize aims to celebrate the best of British music, where home-grown talent is showcased across twelve nominated ‘Albums of the Year’. Artistic talent is recognised across a broad spectrum of genres, so there should be something for everyone. Even if your favourite doesn’t win, the accolade of a nomination itself is something that most artists dream of.
This year’s nominations were no different, with perhaps the biggest popstar in the world right now being nominated for the first time; Ed Sheeran claimed that, “playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and getting a Mercury nominated album”, were the two goals he had set in his career, and he finally achieved the latter two nights ago. A big achievment coming from the man who held the no.1 spot in the album chart for sixteen weeks with “÷” earlier this year.
First created in 1992, the Mercury Prize has showcased an array of talent from the British scene over the last twenty-five years. Winning acts include Primal Scream, Artic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, the XX and PJ Harvey, who is the only act to win the prize twice. Radiohead have made the shortlist five times, but never won. Every nominated act receives a trophy to note their album, but the winner takes home an additional winner’s trophy, and a cheque, which came to £25k this year. For many of the acts mentioned, the prize has helped launch their careers into a whole new level of success. However, the relevancy of such awards evenings has been questioned in recent years, as acts do not need to rely so heavily on awards or recognition from the industry to get their music out there.
That being said, I always look forward to the Mercury Prize nominations, and this year was no different, as I played the game, “How many of these artists have I listened to, downloaded, or played live on BURN FM?”. I can’t say I got a Bingo, but I was surprised that I had heard of all but one of them (…sorry Dinosaur). As the awards show consists of a night of performances from all twelve nominees, not only are you guaranteed a night of entertainment, but also it is a great way to expand your musical horizons and get a taste of just what these British albums have offered us for 2017.
In my mind, there was one obvious winner, which rightly was Sampha. However, other notable acts included Loyle Karner, Blossoms, Glass Animals, and of course the bookies favourite, Stormzy. If you missed any of these performances, or any from the other nominees for that matter, then I would really urge you to check them out. But like I said, the right man won.
Sampha. If you don’t know his album ‘Process’, then here’s an idea of what you can expect. A mix of Pop, Soul and R&B, Sampha’s album combines poetic, heartfelt lyrics, with beautiful melodies, and catchy beats, along with his distinctive voice. His thoughtful album provokes an emotional reaction as he literally takes the listener through his ‘Process’ of creating music. He describes his album as a therapy to help him overcome some of the harder times in his life. The album’s most showcased track, “(No one knows me) like the piano”, describes his struggle as he looked after his mother when she was battling with cancer, before she passed away. Another track, “Blood On Me” is all about him being pushed as an artist to keep moving and creating.
Sampha’s “Process” is a great example of the impact and influence music can have, as it has done on his life and the many who connect with his album. That is why, for me, he is the well-deserved winner of this year’s Mercury Prize, and we can all look forward to what he does next from this platform. 2018, watch out for Sampha.