A Few Thoughts On The Hyundai Mercury Prize 2017

Right now, everybody loves Sampha...

If the Hyundia Mercury Prize didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent it.

After all, what greater musical conversation starter than a list of the year’s best albums, picked by a series of broadcasters, musicians, songwriters, and past winners?

Last night (September 14th) proved to have its fair share of talking points, with Sampha’s wonderful debut ‘Process’ scooping the trophy in emotional circumstances.

A record fuelled by love, family, grief, cancer, and the restorative power of music itself, ‘Process’ is a wonderful emotional journey, one sculpted by an individual yet unassuming talent.

But that wasn’t the only talking point of the evening. Here’s a few things that struck Clash when watching the ceremony back…

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Loyle Carner is here to stay.

The UK rapper’s debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ may not have picked up the final trophy, but Loyle Carner’s humble, sparkling performance won countless new fans.

A record sparked by family, ADHD, and a love for word play, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ was an outside bet that matched a penchant for immediacy to an ability to construct intricate, meaningful songwriting.

Bounding onstage with an impish grin on his face, Loyle Carner’s gospel choir backed performance lit up social media. We eagerly await Album #2.

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Ed Sheeran didn’t seem particularly confident in his chances.

The inclusion of ‘Divide’ on the shortlist ruffled more than a few feathers earlier this year. A globe-shagging, multifaceted pop record, it broke all records in its path yet couldn’t seem to overcome the naysayers who wanted the Mercury to represent something a little more underground.

Ed Sheeran himself didn’t seem to fancy his chances. An outright pop record has never won the Mercury, and his video message to the viewers at home – though undoubtedly humble and self-effacing – certainly seemed to reflect that.

If an international superstar doesn’t rate his attempts to win the Mercury, then what hope do us mere mortals, eh?

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South London run tings.

A total of five artists on the final shortlist were from South London. It’s not even as if this could attributed to the success of one genre – sure, Stormzy emerged from grime but the likes of Kate Tempest, Loyle Carner, and Sampha are busy creating their own deeply individual paths.

It was a sensational night for everyone south of the river in London town, reflecting the sheer breadth of music being creating across the S postcodes.

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The list was incredibly London-centric.

The success of London artists can’t be noted without also pointing out that the rest of the country was, well, a little under-represented. Idris Elba perhaps put it best when he accidentally praised the strength of English music – the award is designed to represent the UK and Ireland.

There were no Scottish, Welsh, or Irish artists placed on this year’s shortlist, and precious few who live above the Watford Gap.

Perhaps this is due to the sheer creative strength of the capital – after all, these things tend to run in cycles – but last night’s event did feel remarkably London-centric.

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Everybody loves Sampha.

Seriously. Everyone. Sampha’s performance on the night earned the biggest cheer, while his quiet reserve seemed to impress everyone lucky enough to stumble into his path.

Let’s not beat around the bush: ‘Process’ is a wonderful album, a record that could have won the award in almost any year it was placed. A rich, enveloping experience, it helps that its creator is such a warm, humane personality.

Right now, everybody loves Sampha.

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