Mercury Music Prize: Ignore the big names and consider the outsiders

Stormzy in concert
Stormzy is too famous to win

The artists on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist range from global stars to newcomers and the betting is sure to be as lively and unpredictable as ever, says Max Liu.

"The most interesting bet at the prices is Moses Boyd 50/1."

Last year, I correctly tipped Dave at 4/1 to win the Mercury Music Prize but his album Psychodrama was so superior to the competition that, by the time award night came around, it would have been more surprising if the south London rapper had gone home empty-handed.

This year it looks trickier. Two very famous names are at the top of the market in Dua Lipa 11/8 and Stormzy 2/1 and I wouldn't bother with either, especially not at those odds. This award is all about rewarding lesser-known, and ideally emerging, talents and that's where we need to look.

Look for the new(ish)comers

That's not as easy in previous years because there are several well-established acts on the list. I have been burned at least twice backing Laura Marling 14/1 (this is her fourth nomination). Michael Kiwanuka is one to watch at 16/1 and it's good to see composer Anna Meredith 20/1 here.

I can't see grime veteran Kano delivering at 33/1 and, for me, the Porridge Radio 40/1 album isn't consistent enough to carry the day. Then there's Lanterns on the Lake at 25/1 which would be a surprise.

Charli XCX.jpg

I like Charli XCX's chances of winning with How I'm Feeling Now - an album written and recorded in lockdown - but I'd want longer odds than the 6/1 currently available. If she drifts to 10/1 or more then it's worth getting involved.

Speaking of 10/1 shots, Georgia is interesting. It would be a surprise if she were to win but, one of the things Georgia has going for her, is that she's nominated for her first album and this prize's preference for debuts remains overwhelming.

What is not so great is its record of rewarding women solo artists and you have to go back nine years for the last one. On the other hand, that means we're overdue one.

Take 50/1 on Boyd while it lasts

The most interesting bet at the prices is Moses Boyd 50/1. Almost every year, I think: "The jazz nominee has to win one year." I thought it was going to happen in 2018 when I backed Sons of Kemet with whom Boyd has occasionally played live. And of course, it didn't.

At 29, Boyd has long been making a name for himself as a spectacular drummer on the London jazz scene, initially in his duo, Binker & Moses, then with some big name collaborations (including Beyonce) and now on his well-received solo album Dark Matter. At this point, I think 50/1 is absolute fire for Boyd and worth taking while it lasts.

Sports Team at the same price? Less so.

The Mercury Music Prize will be awarded on 24 September so there's plenty of time for market moves. I'll be back before the big night to recommend a bet. Here's the Sportsbook betting as it stands:

11/8- Dua Lipa
2/1- Stormzy
6/1- Charli XCX
10/1- Georgia
14/1- Laura Marling
16/1- Michael Kiwanuka
20/1- Anna Meredith
25/1- Lanterns on the Lake
33/1- Kano
40/1- Porridge Radio
50/1- Moses Boyd
50/1- Sports Team

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles