9 Sep 2010

alright alright alright alright alright alright

I read this article on one of those papers that you get on the train in London, which claimed that the Mercury Prize organisers (whoever they are...) aren't actually looking for 'the best album of the year', but 'the album that best represents that year in British music'. So in a way, that kinda suggests that they're looking for the most 'average' record of the year - the one that is closest to most of the stuff that's going on, the 'median' or the 'mode', potentially the most mainstream, middle-of-the-road, default album of the year. Obviously this isn't what they think they're doing, but it explains why so much of the shortlist is always predictable dross.

6 Sep 2010

Sweet Kink: The Meaning of Antony


Just one month until we get to hear Antony & The Johnsons' new album, Swanlights, which, along with the recent release of their Thank You For Your Love EP and musings on the upcoming Mercury Prize (which they won with I Am A Bird Now), has prompted me to consider the very particular place which Antony Hegarty has won for himself within today's music scene.

'Grown-up Music' and the Mercury Prize

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize 'Albums of the Year' award event thing is tomorrow. It's always a mildly interesting event, if only for the seemingly random outcome. It is, however, not an event that bares much scrutiny - just a brief glance at their website cannot help but leave me unsettled by my complete incomprehension at how such a thing can actually operate...

I'm not criticising the Prize. It has very clear positive aspects; mainly the highlighting of a number of musical acts for consideration by the least actively curious of the nation's listenership. People, often older people who don't keep in touch with new music, are presented with an immediate, consolidated list of notable albums which they can then go and buy from HMV or iTunes in the knowledge that they're not being naive. By presenting these albums as art-works, disconnected from the demographic of the fans and the public image of the artist, those people who are wary of the complicated value systems which operate within popular culture can placate themselves by showing interest in pop music which has a claim to traditional 'artistic' merits. The shortlists give kind of an insight into some sort of mainstream British musical identity. Occasionally, it will push a smaller artist towards a larger audience, via the broadsheets and in-store publicity, and potentially even open up a more 'alternative' sound-world to a fundamentally passive or conservative audience.