August 05, 2007


I know I’m late off the blocks here as everyone has aired their thoughts on the albums nominated for the Mercury Prize (soz, Nationwide Mercury Prize) already, so since this year the make-up of the judging panel has leaked, I’m gonna judge them instead. I’ve always found it odd that they don’t reveal who is on the panel as you’d think they’d like to show off what TOP ROCK CRITS they’ve got in to choose the UK ALBUM OF THE YEAR, but maybe now I understand why they don’t. Let’s hope the longlist leaks this year as well, like it did in 2006.

Simon Frith - music author/Professor of Music at University of Edinburgh
Mercury Chair Simon doesn’t seem to be knocking out the books at the rate he once did, his last being a dull looking guide to music copyright for non-legal specialists, but I’d say we are all better off for it if his pronouncements about the chosen albums are anything to go by. He writes that the shortlist as a whole “celebrates a remarkable range of artists who use their albums to tell stories, shape moods, explore emotions and lift the spirits. The list marks the emergence of a wealth of eclectic talent making music with great energy, excitement and personality,” a quote that could apply to, oh, any random assemblage of albums from any year ever. And he used the word eclectic. I can’t link to his words directly as the prize site is the usual Flash-laden catastrophe. (Odds: 33/5)
Charles Hazlewood - conductor and broadcaster on Radio 2, Radio 3 and BBC 4
I assume that this feller—a Proms conductor and presenter of documentaries on Mozart and Tchaikovsky—wasn’t repping for New Young Pony Club during the meetings to decide the shortlist, but maybe that’s me being a stick-in-the-mud: we’re all populists now. I like to imagine the beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead whilst he tries to choose who’s greatest between Jamie T (“The new sound of the suburbs. Playful and witty, sharp-eyed and sharp-eared”) and Bat for Lashes (“…beautiful and intriguing. A hypnotic voice and irresistible music”). (Odds: 678/23)
Lauren Laverne - broadcaster, The Culture Show and Channel 4’s Transmission
Laverne was always good to discuss Motörhead or Marianne Faithfull with when I used to see her knocking around Newcastle in the Kenickie years so I’ll not slag her, but it’s worth noting that this is at least the second time that she has served on the panel. I know of one person who has served three times even though the UK is not short of pop crits. Maybe that’s another reason why they don’t release who gets to vote—they don’t want anyone to see it’s the same old timeservers on a merry-go-round. (Odds: 2/1)
Conor McNicholas - Editor of NME
Less of a magazine editor and more of a brand manager, what’s the chance of McNicholas choosing records he really likes over records that make the NME brand look like they know exactly what’s going on? Can there be any other explanation for The View appearing on the shortlist? I hope to god that the only answer can be “no”. McNicholas’s skill at the NME hasn’t been to achieve the traditional measure—raising circulation—but to extend the NME’s perceived cultural capital and influence. Now newspapers from The Sun to The Metro to the broadsheets write news articles on the NME’s tips and year-end polls as if they are gospel. And with good reason, as the newspapers’ll be featuring the exact same bands from, more importantly, the exact same PR companies at almost the same time. Curiously, the last issue of the NME had a letter of the week stating what a good range of albums the Mercury had picked this year, followed by three more saying more or less the same thing. The one negative letter received a “get with it it's 2007 granddad” response from the hack editing the page. He forgot to mention his boss was helping to judge this year though. Hopefully Conor will be bringing the kind of rigorous thinking that led him to say, on national TV, that 2005 winners Antony and the Johnsons were too weird for an NME cover but that they were also a victory for middle England. (Odds: 32423/43432)
George Ergatoudis - Head of Music, Radio 1
See McNicholas directly above, except more so. Also, copied from the Popbitch newsletter, with possibly dubious veracity; “Radio One's head of music has been telling record label A&Rs to consult him before signing any bands... because what would be the point without knowing if you were going to get any airplay on One.” (Odds: 3667/3772387)
Mark Findlay - Head of Music, GCAP’s The One Network
You may not have heard of The One Network but they are the company that owns your shitty local radio station, the one that is part of a simulcast of the same material as every other One Network radio station with exception of adverts and locally focussed idents. Bringing you "the best mix of the 80s, 90s and today." File this guy alongside Conor McNicholas and George Ergatoudis as someone with no place on a judging panel for a prize where it’s claimed, “all genres of music are eligible and all albums are treated equally.” (Odds: 364278/3)
Dean Jackson – Presenter, The Beat, BBC Nottingham
Dean Jackson’s Radio Nottingham homepage doesn’t direct one to any playlists from his shows but it does let you know that “Dean is keen for you to look after the birds and animals in your garden.” There are two hedgehog factsheets downloadable from the page. (Odds: 15/1)
Arwa Haider - Music Editor, Metro/Front Row contributor
Need anyone point out more than the fact that he’s music editor of The Metro? (Odds: 33/24)
Zoe Rahman - jazz musician
Promoted to the panel after her album Melting Pot was the token jazz entry last year. It may have not won the Mercury but it did win that rare honour, 'Jazz Album of the Year' at the 2006 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. (Odds: 6/4)
Jude Rogers - Reviews Editor, Word Magazine/New Statesman/The Guardian
Isn’t it a bit worrying that none of the critics here (and there’s a lot fewer of them than I would have thought, or liked) have ever written anything perceptive or memorable? OK, Jude Rogers has written some memorable pieces but only for the wrong reasons. (Odds: 3/345)

1 comment:

Sam said...

in fairness, the metro does more grime coverage than any other national (other than that guy who does the singles round up in the saturday thing in the guardian)

iirc 'the beat' on radio nottingham was so popular in the mid-90s my whole family got banned from winning the competitions on there when we'd walk away with all the prizes every week. i think they just play indie. i won a pair of mundy singles. i was only ten.