Cosmic Slop #114: The Mercury Prize Is The Brits For Pretentious People

By Shaun Ponsonby
Fri 28 July, 2017

As the Mercury Prize shortlist is announced, Shaun Ponsonby argues that the award has never been all its cracked up to be. 

I have been advised by my doctor to change my diet recently, and especially to drink more water.

I actually hate water. It’s so tasteless. It is literally the most boring thing I have ever had in my mouth. But, no, I had to be dangerously unhealthy, didn’t I? I needed to be more hydrated, didn’t I? I had to have a lifestyle and diet that is a bona fide recipe for future disaster, didn’t I? So, consequently, I am now forced to drink the dullest thing known to man.

Well, the second dullest thing. You see, the Mercury Prize shortlist was announced this week, and music journalists everywhere went ape shit.

That’s it – just music journalists. And probably some industry and media people. Nobody else.

Most of them just complain. It tends to be the same complaints every year. The artists might change, but the complaints are always the same; there’s no metal, the token jazz entry, the pop act that has been erroneously nominated…yada yada yada.

Actually, the pop album this year is Ed Sheeran’s (pronounced “Divide”), so I sympathise with the complaints there. It’s not as if his massive, characterless face isn’t already everywhere. New rule: if you’re able to blag an unsubtle cameo in Game of Thrones, you don’t need any awards.

No worries, he won’t win anyway. They just need a big pop act so that someone will broadcast it. You know why they need that? Because nobody fucking cares.

Oh, some people pretend to care. Usually the people who use music as a way to point score, because they have nobody to love them. Although, granted, nobody loves me either, I would much rather spend all that time watching trash on Netflix than actively pretending to have an interest in Lemon Jelly (remember them? Me neither).

The Mercury Prize was set up in 1992 as an alternative to the Brit Awards. Clearly the idea was to be more serious about British music and honour artists a little more under the radar. You know, like Ed Sheeran.

To be fair, though, the idea that Ed Sheeran’s nomination shows how far the Prize has fallen, as some seem to have suggested, is about as true a story as Flash Gordon. Hell, the very first Prize nominated Simply Red, and after that they nominated the boybands East 17 and Take That.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, in 1994 they made the national faux pas of nominating Ian McNabb, and that fucker is clearly an inside job.

The idea that the Mercury Prize is any more prestigious than other award shows is galling. I have done a lot of write-ups of award shows for a reason – they’re easy fodder. In periods where Cosmic Slop becomes difficult to muster. They’re all basically the same, including the Mercury.

In a way, I prefer the MTV Awards. They may be shit, but at the very least they don’t pretend to be prestigious. It’s crappy entertainment fodder, and considerably less dull than the Mercury Prize which tries desperately to prove how bloody serious about music it is.

It does have benefits, of course. Some bands have seen their sales increase massively after winning the award. Having said that, most of the people who pretend to give a shit about it are the kind of people who treat music like a science, and are just as likely to buy it, listen once, and leave it to gather dust, meaning that the band rarely get a long-term benefit out of it.

But being “serious” about music doesn’t make you any more profound. A lot of the times, it just makes you sound like a dick.

Basically, the Mercury Prize is the Brit Awards for pretentious people, and we should all remember that mercury is poisonous.  Although, that admittedly makes it way more interesting than water by default.

Besides, there are much better Mercurys in the world…


Just to be clear, the image above is not product placement from Hyundai, but if they wanna just give us a car anyway, we will accept.

Apple are discounting the iPod Shuffle and Nano, having already discounted the iPod classic. Stop forcing us all to buy iPhones, you nonces.

The late Ronnie James Dio is going back on tour. Sort of. They’re sending a hologram out. Thay honestly just sounds horrific and I hope it malfunctions every night.