Benjamin Clementine won the 2015 Mercury for his album At Least For Now, Getintothis’ Peter Guy reflects on this year’s prize.
A ‘curveball‘ we opined. What we really meant was unfathomably rubbish.
Well, on paper it was. Let’s cut straight to the chase. Of the 12 nominees almost half, have at some point in their careers, produced better albums. Much better albums.
We’re looking at you: Aphex Twin, Gaz Coombes, Ghostpoet, Jamie xx and Róisín Murphy.
And factoring in the ubiquitous, and frankly unnecessary nomination, of Fog Horn + the Machine and the inconsequential, and frankly useless nomination of playschool punk duo Slaves, it resulted in a billing as thrilling as a trip to ALDI. Not even Ikea. With it’s fulfilling cafe meatballs.
But the disappointment didn’t end there. In fact, it pretty much started there. As this year, BBC Music had been traded in for usual sponsors, a bank card, thus resulting in dragged out radio reveals in the build up and an award ceremony which resembled the end of year school play hosted in an abandoned call centre. The kind were dozens of parents are roped into a hall, forced to endure more than hour of painful jibber jabber eagerly awaiting the words ‘that’s it.‘
Lauren Laverne once again was tasked with holding it all together, but my word was it excruciating as viewers endured re-runs of M People, Talvin Singh and Speech Debelle all creating the impression that perhaps, after all these years, the Mercury has been one big elaborate in-joke. They didn’t even show Gomez – and we think they were fair game.
There were, however, plus points. C Duncan, who we’ve written about recently, was a joy – despite one of the judges (or was it Edith Bowman stood on a roof top in Scotland?) suggesting his music was like a building. Which frankly made it seem very boring. Perhaps they couldn’t think of a better analogy, given that his record is called Architect. They then told us, C Duncan is a trained architect. It was that kind of night.
Also on the plus side, were Eska and SOAK who added a touch of understated class while Wolf Alice did what Wolf Alice do. Though, the BBC attempted to make them seem ‘alternative’ by showing a clip of them with a semi-acoustic guitar. It simply watered them down and very Radio 2.
Benjamin Clementine gets all the nominees on stage with him and dedicates the award to victims of Paris attacks. pic.twitter.com/UG17wcg2mm
— Elizabeth Alker 🌹 (@elizabethalker) November 20, 2015
But in the end, quite like many other years, The Mercury pulled it out the bag by simply doing what the Mercury does – it plucked something new, slightly odd and otherworldly, and handed the Prize to 26-year-old Benjamin Clementine.
The London-by-way-of-Paris musician-poet (who incidentally, has quite an odd Wiki Page – check out the section The Curse of The Vagabond with it’s tales of bloodied tissues, train escapades and cut toes while falling on pebbles) gave a profoundly moving speech dedicating the win to those who died in the Paris attacks while inviting his fellow nominees up to the stage before closing with unequivocally the best live performance of the night. In it’s singular, almost characteristically obtuse manner, the Mercury has delivered, once again. How the hell did that happen?
— Music Week (@MusicWeek) November 20, 2015