The 2017 Mercury Prize winner has been announced as London based singer/songwriter Sampha with his debut album ‘Process’. This is a result which has been greeted with r respect and admiration as the award could easily have gone to a more photo-friendly mainstream artist such as Stormzy or Ed Sheeran. Both, in my opinion, weren’t good enough to be called the best album of the last 12 months from a British artist, so I for one am delighted to see Sampha win it. He is an artist I am a great admirer of for the simple fact that he brings something to the music industry that the other two mentioned simply don’t, a unique sound. Listening to ‘Process’ gave me a really warm feeling of pride but also the dark views of fragility and fear, it challenged perception and emotion and had an element of danger which couldn’t be found on any of the other candidates’ body of work.
Now, as delighted as I am with Sampha’s victory, was it the choice I would have gone for? No, I personally would have gone for Loyle Carner’s ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ with Sampha coming a close second. Carner gave us an urban triumph of a debut album which spoke about tales of youth, growing up and the importance of love in your heart, whether it be in the name of romance, or a simple adoration for your friends and family. His lyricism was magical from start to finish and there are songs on there that I will be referring back to for years to come (‘The Isle Of Arran’, ‘Damselfly’, ‘Sun Of Jean’ etc.). Other potential winners could have been The xx who gave us a treat with their third studio album ‘I See You’ but they fell short on the night.
A result like this means a great deal to not only the credibility of the Mercury Prize itself, but also the state of the British music industry at this present time. If we were to have seen the likes of Ed Sheeran or Alt-J win, names who were blatantly in the running simply for the stature of their act rather than the talents of their most recent piece of work, then I would have feared for the respect of the prize in future years. I am relieved the judging panel chose talent and musical quality over photo opportunities and front page headlines. It could have easily become a laughing stock and something which, in the space of just 12 months from Skepta’s heroic victory, would have burnt it’s progress to the ground. Sampha’s victory gives the prize a pass and proves to us all that great music surfaces way beyond the charts, you just need to dig deep enough to find it. It also proves so wonderfully that America isn’t the central hub of musical talent, there could be the next big star right at your doorstep. Congratulations to Sampha, may you have a long and prosperous career to follow, I will certainly be an avid listener and enjoyer of your work.