Mercury Music Prize Tips: It may be third time lucky for Laura Mvula

Laura Mvula performing with Nile Rodgers
Rob is backing Laura Mvula at 4/1

Ignore those who think trying to find the Mercury Music Prize winner is a random exercise, says Rob Furber as he applies some cool, calm logic in a bid to back this year's winner...

"Laura Mvula looks the other artist to consider at 4/1. Her album Pink Noise is unashamedly 80s pop/funk in style, a sound which is truly in vogue right now."

While the Mercury Music Prize loves to lay claim to being the coolest kid on the music block, it's never recovered in my eyes since M People's 'Elegant Slumming' defeated the likes of Pulp's 'His 'n' Hers' and The Prodigy's 'Music For The Jilted Generation' back in 1994.

Radiohead being shortlisted five times and having never won the award is yet another head-scratcher, not to mention the band's indisputably greatest album, 'The Bends', not even making the shortlist in 1995. But sometimes you've got to let these things lie.

In trying to find the Mercury winner, it's all about getting into the minds of the London-centric music glitterati, and which album they might be keenest to show off on their Crouch End coffee tables, not that many CDs or LPs are purchased these days.

This year's judging panel is the usual mix of music artists, songwriters and those deemed to be the ultimate arbiters of zeitgeist sounds. They include musician Anna Calvi, broadcaster Annie Mac and last year's winner Michael Kiwanuka.

Time for a solo woman winner?

It can pay to focus instead on the kind artists who have not won in a while and could be due a victory. Five of the last six winners have been male soloists whereas a solo female has not won the Mercury since PJ Harvey in 2011.

With five solo women making the shortlisted 12, it looks worth trying to figure out the strongest candidates among them for a potential steer on this year's most likely winner.

Having thought they might provide a solo female artist with a long overdue win last year, only for favourite Kiwanuka (pictured below) to land the prize, in going for a solo female again I could be meeting Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "... doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Michael Kiwanuka.jpg

However, there are two standout candidates. Arlo Parks' Collapsed In Sunbeams is considered a "great album" by a respected authority on the subject - i.e. a muso buddy of mine who has actually listened to all the shortlisted albums this year, and she merits joint-second favourite status at 4/1.

The worry is Arlo might be considered too close in sound to Kiwanuka who won last year, and a bit too mainstream already, with the Mercury panel tending to make u-turns year on year in choosing the genre of the winner.

Under the radar Mvula is worth a look

Laura Mvula looks the other artist to consider at 4/1. Her album Pink Noise is unashamedly 80s pop/funk in style, a sound which is truly in vogue right now.

While Dua Lipa failed to win the Mercury last year, that was probably down to her being commercially huge already with her platinum-selling 'Future Nostalgia'. Mvula's album looks much more under the radar, Mercury-friendly.

Laura is not from the capital (born in Birmingham), which is potentially a plus for her as the predominantly London-focused connoisseurs on the panel could try to show their geographical lack of bias by crediting someone from somewhere as far flung as the Midlands.

This is also Mvula's third Mercury Album of the Year shortlisting, and there is perhaps a sense with her she has put in the hard yards and finally merits winning it on her third attempt. Laura will be performing at the ceremony and is said to be a warm presence live so could also swing any fence sitters.

The Mercury panel have a bit of a track record for snubbing the favourite, with Kiwanuka being a rare jolly to win last year, so it looks worth taking on music collective Sault who will not be performing live - a potential negative for their chances. That said, the judges may admire the collective's eschewal of media coverage and their willingness to tackle important issues of racial equality in their music.

With Mvula the more appealing price, and in the hope she is not on the road to doing a Radiohead, she is the selection.

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