It’s that time of year again where we try and predict (or fail to) the winner of the Mercury Prize. This year we want to keep our mouths firmly closed, because the talent across the 2021 shortlist is jaw-dropping.
Arlo Parks is shortlisted for the Mercury Prize / Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images
We especially love the diversity of this year’s nominees; in fact, the majority of the names are of ethnic minorities. We have Nigerian/Chadian/French singer Arlo Parks, Trinidadian rapper Berwyn, British soul artist Celeste of American and Jamaican background, African-American saxophone veteran Pharoah Sanders, jazz performer Nubya Garcia of Guyanese and British-Trinidadian origin, British grime MC Ghetts with Caribbean roots, Saint Kitts/Jamaican Neo-soul star Laura Mvula, and the black-centric UK based Neo-soul group Sault.
Among some of the debut albums are Arlo Parks Collapsed in Sunbeams – a vulnerable and explorative first record both musically and emotionally; the equally powerful UK number one Not Your Muse from Celeste; the ambient first collaborative effort between electronic soloist Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra entitled Promises; Berwyn’s 2020 mixtape Demotape/Vega; the genre-bending genius of For the First Time by London newcomers Black Country, New Road; and Nubya Garcia’s ancestral jazz record Source.
Well established acts who are being nominated for the first time are grime hero Ghetts with album three Conflict of Interest, featuring guest appearances from Skepta, Dave, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran among others; Irish sometimes-band-member Hannah Peel with her seventh solo album Fir Wave; Glasgow rockers Mogwai with their tenth album and first UK number one As the Love Continues; and Sault with their fourth album (in just two years, mind) Untitled (Rise).
Laura Mvula is back on the shortlist having previously been nominated for her 2016 album The Dreaming Room, this time with Pink Noise released earlier this month. Wolf Alice, meanwhile, may well be looking at their second Mercury Prize win having landed the accolade in 2018 for Visions of a Life. Blue Weekend is their third album and first UK number one, and many have described it as Wolf Alice’s best album yet.
Mind you, the band find the prospect of winning again a daunting prospect. “I would start to hate a band if they won it twice, without any rationale,” said bassist Theo Ellis in a BBC interview.
Whoever does win the prize will take home a generous GBP25,000, and you can find out who the lucky victor is on September 9th 2021.