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Mercurys Rising, Credibility Dipping

July 21, 2010

Last night, while detouring home via the Oxford Street HMV, I was impressed to see that the said music retailer’s employees had stealthily crafted their annual Mercury Award Nominees display. A handsome gondola-aisle brimming bright with balanced genre choices that have become more generic than the checklist on a Big Brother casting director’s clipboard.

The Mercury Music Prize was established in 1992 to reward ‘innovation and creativity’ in British music. The antithesis to the Brits and all them other big awards shows/industry PR exercises. Great…and I think it was.

But in 2010, do we still need it?  Back then innovative and creative music struggled for an unsullied democratic podium where fans could get their kicks and where talented artists could unearth their recognition.

Now we have the internet. Blog hits and facebook ‘likes’ determine the real winners today. The very reason the Mercury Prize was set up was to fulfil a need that the internet soon catered for.

And judging by this year’s nominees, is this really a true reflection of Britain’s best new innovative musical output? A trite point this one, yes, as annually ubiquitous as the debate over the GCSE feebleness or the detriment of transfer deadline day, but this year more than ever, we’re faced with a list of names so clichéd and oozing with industry stratagem, that I can’t help but wince. Is there really no-one else who raps that white-middle-class-middle-aged mercury judges might have heard of other than Dizzee Rascal?? I think they need to dig a little deeper.

Come September 7th I’ll no doubt watch Whiley and Laverne wax lyrical about the hushed nightscapes created by the XX (cos the Vice kids know a thing or two); the stoic triumph of I Am Kloot (that’ll be the ‘good for them, like’ Elbow box ticked); and the brave new angle honed by the grand mod-councillor of style, Paul Weller (is he still using straighteners?!!), but I won’t really care. Instead, I’ll click my mouse and open up a smorgasbord of great work and honest recommendations just waiting to be discovered.

 The Mercury’s still professes to occupy that ‘championing-the-real-heroes-of-British-Music’ space it carved out for itself 18 years ago. But it’s become big and dumb and slaps the back of every big label going. I now find it even more sinister than the Brits. At least the Brits doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. The Mercurys’ avowals  are far more underhand.

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