The Mercury Prize, awarded annually since 1992, is sponsored by Barclays Plc’s Barclaycard. The prize has often been given to new or non-commercial acts and pits different genres against one another, ranging from folk and jazz to hard rock. The winner receives 20,000 pounds ($32,240), although the boost from album sales can be worth much more.
The award focuses on musical quality. It doesn’t take into account album sales, media profile or live performances. The leading titles all face handicaps. Because the judges often avoid CDs by big sellers, Adele's “21” may not be a likely choice despite its critical acclaim. Both Elbow and P.J. Harvey have won the prize before, which may reduce their chances. Tinie Tempah may be helped by his success at the Brit awards. The Mercury winner will be announced on Sept. 6.
Among acts boosted in the past by a Mercury Prize were rapper Dizzee Rascal (real name: Dylan Mills), who won in 2003 for “Boy in Da Corner,” and Badly Drawn Boy (a.k.a. Damon Gough), the 2000 winner for “The Hour of Bewilderbeast,” both on the independent XL Recordings label. Last year’s winner was the xx, with Speech Debelle the year before and Elbow’s “The Seldom Seen Kid” (Fiction Records) in 2008. The Klaxons won in 2007 with “Myths of the Near Future” (Polydor).
Previous hit albums that were nominated for the Mercury Prize but failed to win include Robbie Williams’s “Life Thru a Lens” in 1998, when the award went to “Bring It On” by Gomez, and “OK Computer” by Radiohead in 1997, beaten by Roni Size/Reprazent’s “New Forms.”
Shortlist (with betting odds from William Hill Plc): Adele -- “21” (XL Records) 4/1 Anna Calvi -- “Anna Calvi” (Domino) 8/1 Elbow -- “Build A Rocket Boys!” (Fiction Records) 20/1 Everything Everything -- “Man Alive” (Geffen) 12/1 Ghostpoet -- “Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam” (Brownswood) 10/1 Gwilym Simcock -- “Good Days At Schloss Elmau” (Act Records) 20/1 James Blake -- “James Blake” (A&M Atlas) 8/1 Katy B -- “On A Mission” (Sony) 12/1 King Creosote & Jon Hopkins -- “Diamond Mine” (Domino Records) 20/1 Metronomy -- “The English Riviera” (Because Records) 8/1 PJ Harvey -- “Let England Shake” (Universal) 3/1 Tinie Tempah -- “Disc-Overy” (Parlophone) 12/1
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)