Mercury Prize 2020: Everything you need to know

The Mercury Prize can be a game-changing moment in the career of artists who can suddenly be catapulted from relative obscurity and into a pool of critical praise. It’s one which helps give true creatives a solid platform to build upon and help celebrate their work which, more often than not, originates from outside the mainstream. This year’s event is set to be a different format because of the required restrictions in place due to the pandemic. That said, someone will be still taking home the most acclaimed music award in Britain.

The three leading candidates out of the twelve nominees are Michael Kiwanuka, Laura Marling and Kano, according to the bookmakers. Marling has now been nominated on four separate occasions for the award, an accomplishment which equals both Arctic Monkeys and PJ Harvey with only Radiohead being nominated on more occasions. However, whether Marling can finally win the prize is uncertain due to the incredible level of competition. Kiwanuka, meanwhile, has now been nominated three times in total, adding to nods in 2012 and 2016 meaning he has been nominated for every single time he released a new album.

Michael Kiwanuka told the Guardian that “it still feels just as amazing as the first” time he was nominated back in 2012. “The Mercury is a place you can celebrate artistic merit – one of the few places that upholds that in the mainstream. It supports music as an art form, more than just a form of entertainment and commercial gain. For me that’s super important,” he added.

Pop music has a heavy presence in the list of nominees with Dua Lipa’s number one album Future Nostalgia, Georgia’s Seeking Thrills and Charli XCX’s How I’m Feeling Now, which was recorded during the early stages of the lockdown.

Whereas indie music’s most realistic victor on September 24th is Brighton band Porridge Radio and their album Every Bad. There is also a surprise nomination for Newcastle based Lanterns On The Lake who formed 12 years ago and have finally received acclaim for their fourth record. Elsewhere, Sports Team have also been nominated for their lively debut album Deep Down Happy which charted at number two but is deemed the biggest longshot to win at 33/1 according to bookmakers.

The judging panel this year consists of musicians, journalists, industry figures and radio presenters which included two brand new faces this year in three-time nominee Anna Calvi and DJ Gemma Cairney. Other judges on the list include Jorja Smith, Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, and jazz singer Jamie Cullum.

This year’s Mercury Prize winner is set to be announced live on The One Show on September 24th with the programme set to also feature the first interview with the winning artist. Coverage began on September 21st when Tom Ravenscroft will begin filling in for Marc Riley on Radio 6 Music. Over the course of the week, Ravenscroft will share previously recorded performances from the shortlisted artists which will include a BBC Prom, performed by Laura Marling and 12 Ensemble, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall.

6 Music’s Album Of The Day slot will also highlight previous winners of the Mercury Prize such as Young Fathers, Roni Size and PJ Harvey. On September 23rd, BBC Four will then broadcast Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020: Album Of The Year. The show is set to feature new and archive performances from all 12 nominees, including some that were specially filmed in adherence with social distancing regulations in independent venues across the country.

Finally, on September 25, a special edition of Later… with Jools Holland will be aired on BBC Two, which will kickstart the brand new series of the show in incredible style, will also feature a conversation with the 2020 Mercury Prize winner.

Check out the full list of nominees, below.

Mercury Prize 2020 Nominees:

  • Anna Meredith – Fibs
  • Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
  • Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
  • Georgia – Seeking Thrills
  • Kano – Hoodies All Summer
  • Lanterns on the Lake – Spook the Herd
  • Laura Marling – Song for Our Daughter
  • Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
  • Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
  • Porridge Radio – Every Bad
  • Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
  • Stormzy – Heavy is the Head
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