Mercury Prize: Female talent leads nominations for first time

The nominees for 2020's Mercury Prize have been unveiled, with more female-fronted acts than male being nominated for the first time in the award's 28-year history.

The Mercury Prize has celebrated British musicians since 1992, and recognises the 12 best albums of the last year.

It's known for including a wide range of musical genres and artists, with past winners including Ms Dynamite, Pulp, and Dave.

All 12 artists receive an album of the year trophy, as well as their profile being increased, with the overall winner receiving a winners trophy and a cash prize of £25,000.

One of this year's judges, former nominee Anna Calvi, told Sky News how important the Mercury's can be to an artists career.

"If you're a small artist, it's massive because it means so many more people are going to hear of you, which can be a real career changer.

"But I think also, if you're already a big band, it just shows that people are respecting you for your artistry, it's not just about how many records you sell."

Calvi was also critical of the Government's handling of the arts industry during the COVID-19 crisis.

"I think it sort of feels that the government in general doesn't really respect this this industry as much as it should considering how much money it brings into the country.

"They have provided money to the industry, I think it's been a bit late, for a lot of people it's too late."

The nominees this year include pop stars Charli XCX and Dua Lipa, and folk musician Laura Marling, who has been nominated for the prize for a fourth time.

She told Sky News that being nominated was "still a thrill" and that, despite not being held in a physical ceremony, the Mercury Prize could still be uniting.

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"The Mercury prize is a good thing in that, in a sense, they celebrate British music in a really nice way."

The musician also said she was keen to get back out performing, when safe to do so.

"We like a congregational experience...playing live is my thing. It's my thing that I love to do.

"So as soon as I can, I will be back doing that."

Here are this year's nominees...

Anna Meredith - FIBS

Scottish composer Anna Meredith combines electronic music with her training as a classical composer at the Royal College of Music.

Her classical work has led her to receiving an MBE for her services to music, and FIBS is Meredith's second solo album, filled with vibrant sounds.

Her first, Varmints, was received to widespread critical acclaim, and won the 2016 Scottish Album Of The Year Award.

Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now

Charli XCX has written some of the best known Top 40 records, but in recent years has honed her own unique sound, combining pop sensibilities with wild, futuristic production.

Her fourth album, how i'm feeling now, came out less than a year after her third record Charli.

The album was made in just over a month while the musician was in lockdown, and chronicles her extreme emotional experience at the time

Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa has cemented herself as one of the country's best known pop musicians, already winning Grammys and Brit Awards.

Her latest record, Future Nostalgia, saw her divert to a more disco-inspired sound.

The record pays tribute to the past of the genre, with Lipa saying it was inspired by artists like Outkast and Madonna.

Georgia - Seeking Thrills

A former footballer who played for QPR's women's team, Georgia's move into music has seen her play drums for artists like Kate Tempest.

Her solo material has been described by reviewers as "euphoric, late-night" dance music.

Georgia's second album, Seeking Thrills, is a feel-good set of tracks about the odd bits of clubbing, with the musician saying the single About Work The Dancefloor was inspired by a trip to Berlin.

Kano - Hoodies All Summer

Kano is one of the godfathers of grime, with the East Ham-born rapper having made waves in the scene since his underground hit Ps And Qs in 2004.

He's also no stranger to the Mercury Prize - his last album, Made In The Manor, was nominated in 2017, and was a top 10 hit.

Hoodies All Summer is a smart record, with the musician never holding back in flows, telling the audience his honest assessment of racism, knife crime, and the Windrush scandal.

Lanterns On The Lake - Spook The Herd

In 2016, indie-rock group Lanterns on the Lake almost disappeared with an "extended hiatus". But music written by the band's frontwoman Hazel Wilde was too irresistible for the group to ignore.

Spook The Herd tackles big topics in what critics have described as a "rich and luscious" manner - internet extremism, the climate crisis, and social media addiction all get examined.

Wilde said the band's engineer Joss once mentioned the record could be Mercury nominated. "We all laughed at him," she said.

Laura Marling - Song For Our Daughter

Song For Our Daughter is Marling's fourth nomination for the Mercury Prize and her seventh record, which peaked at number six in the charts.

Released early as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, the album is written for an imaginary child, and was inspired by Maya Angelou's Letter To My Daughter.

Marling has previously won British Female Solo Artist at the Brit Awards, and her last album, Semper Femina, was nominated for Best Folk Album at the 2018 Grammys.

Michael Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka

Having started his music career as a session guitarist for rappers like Chip (formerly Chipmunk) and Bashy (aka Ashley Thomas), Michael Kiwanuka's self-titled third album was met with rave reviews, reaching number two in the charts.

Inspired by musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Ottis Redding, and Joni Mitchell, Kiwanuka is another musician who is no stranger to the Mercury Prize, having been nominated twice before.

The singer-songwriter music has been in TV shows like Grace And Frankie and Dear White People -fans include Kanye West, who invited him to join sessions for his album Yeezus.

Moses Boyd - Dark Matter

Moses Boyd is a producer, drummer, composer, and bandleader, from Catfordin southeast London.

Dark Matter, his debut album, uses all of these skills as it charts the capital's burgeoning jazz scene, touching on his influences, including Miles Davis.

The musician has also worked with Beyonce on her curated soundtrack for The Lion King.

Porridge Radio - Every Bad

Indie band Porridge Radio formed in 2015 and created a buzz with their slacker rock style, building a reputation on the country's live circuit.

The Brighton band's latest album, Every Bad, has frontwoman Dana Margolin's vocals dripping with emotion, and is filled with a tempest of guitars, drums, and strings.

Described by Margolin as "exhausting" to create, Every Bad was critically acclaimed for its exploration of confused adolescence and staccato riffs.

Sports Team - Deep Down Happy

Deep Down Happy is the debut album from indie band Sports Team, and would have topped the album charts, if Lady Gaga had not released her latest project, Chromatica, in the same week.

The six-piece all met while studying at Cambridge University, and their angular music has been compared to Parklife-era Blur, and Bloc Party.

Frontman Alex Rice's lyrics include witty observations about Middle England, Wetherspoons and the M5.

Stormzy - Heavy Is The Head

Two albums, two Mercury nods - grime star Stormzy's Heavy Is The Head is his second nomination after a massive two years, including headlining Glastonbury and launching his own publishing imprint #MerkyBooks.

Continuing to take MC culture into new places, the album is another bold statement from the musician, with Stormzy never shying away from grime's political position.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, the rapper and his #Merky company pledged £10m over the next 10 years to organisations engaged in the fight for racial equality and social justice.