Everyone’s giving away awards these days: every half-baked zine and pimple-faced blogger is trying it on – even when most artists won’t get out of bed for less than a Q award for best newcomer. When will we start handing out our own awards: The Nineteenies 2017? Only time will tell.
The Mercury prize is just that: a prize. Up there with Ivor Novello and Grammys in the upper reaches of pop awardderdom, with BRIT and NME statuettes cluttering up the stalls. 2017 has been a fantastic year for popular music, and the Merc shortlist reflects that pretty well.
Stormzy followed up Skepta’s Konnichiwa with yet another massive grime record in Gang Signs & Prayer, with ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’ sparking a significant mainstream response.
The xx came back with their fantastic third album I See You – which bolstered their stark indie sound with smooth interpretations of disco, funk and R&B. Still more gentle weeping than discohall strutting, but a fantastic body of work nonetheless.
Ed Sheeran also made the list, and while 2017 seems to be his year (see also, 2014) I’m not convinced his album ÷ is high art. I’ve already puzzled over why his inoffensive but unexciting sound has proven so popular.
The only lasting interest I have in Ed Sheeran’s new album is what he’s going to do when he runs out of buttons on a calculator.
Indie rock’s other big entries – Blossoms and Alt-J fail to win me over. I liked both albums, certainly. Alt-J’s Relaxer is still an oddball winner, and Blossoms was a strong debut. Neither could conceivably be called the best thing released all year.
For me it has to be The Big Moon. Their debut album Love in the 4th Dimension was an absolute fucking delight, from beginning to end. An ode to the ups and downs of sisterhood, adulthood and the recent history of pop music itself, this is the deserving winner.