Let’s Discuss…Did Harry Styles Just Make The Mercury Prize Important Again?

Firstly, whose dumb idea was it to rename the Mercury Music Prize, simply the Mercury Prize? Those who don’t know don’t know and thus you are cutting down the audience and therefore also the importance and gravitas of the prize. Secondly, some of us are old enough to remember when this was a truly prestigious prize for a band to win. The Brits had pretty much given up and just shoved everything down Annie Lennox’s throat and ‘the kids’ had nothing to call their own. Then, The Mercury MUSIC Prize landed and suddenly a band that seemed truly rebellious and unique as Primal Scream was taking home 25,000 quid for Screamadelica. Then the real explosion happened when Suede took home the prize. Now the critics darlings and the fans darlings and the award darlings were all the same fucking band. And what a band. Things could only get better and…Then they gave the prize to M People and that 100% classics list was ruined. Fucking M People. Gimme a break.

As the years sped on, the way people listened to new music changed, the weekly press was eaten up and a 25000 prize seemed quaint when 12 years olds were making a living by popping balloons on their Tik Tok. Oh and the records that started to win seemed to get a lot less ‘important’ shall we say? There was a magic blip in the mid-2000s when Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons took home the prize but since then it has been Alt-J, Arlo Parks, Michael Kiwanuka and other types who seem to have trouble getting out of the middle of the road. The prize has become something that you check the nominations when they come out, visit a website to see the winner and get on with your life and the mainstream does not even know that this MUSIC prize is even happened. Except in 2022, Harry Styles has changed everything…

Now I am not claiming that this is the first time a genuine p-o-p act has been nominated – Spice was there, Everything Changes was there, Life Thru A Lens was there but this is the first time that I feel that the pop star is making the ‘alternative’ award relevant again. I did not hear about the noms from NME or Louder Than War, I saw it on the BBC News when I was in the pub. The actual six o clock news was reporting on the Mercury Prize. This does not happen. And here’s where the magic happens, after they had shown a bit of the brilliant ‘As It Was’ video and shown Styles larking about a bit, they veered off to an interview and performance video from the fucking amazing Self Esteem. And then showed a bit of the video for Seventeen Going Under by Springsteen-In-Waiting Sam Fender and then cranked up Wet Leg. Now these are the four nominated releases that I own physical versions of, but there would have been millions of people watching who had never been exposed to these artists. The days of Top Of The Pops are long gone, now we discover our own things, talk to other people who love these things and share these things with the people we love. If Harry being nominated meant some shine was also given to these other great artists, then I don’t think you can complain. Also Harry’s House is my second best album of 2022, don’t get me started on why CMAT’s If My Wife New I’d Be Dead did not get a shout, so I’m happy to see Harry take it all, but you know, Self Esteem is a worthy victor too. We all win with these two is what I am saying.

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