Mercury Prize 2022 is a few weeks away on September 8th and the shortlist of artists who are going to compete in the most illustrious award a musician can obtain in Britain and Ireland was released in April.
The list includes artists such as Gwenno Saunders, Harry Styles, Kojey Radical, Little Simz, and among others.
It can be hard to predict the winner of the annual award for the best album released in the United Kingdom each year.
A wonderful collection of iconic stars and up-and-coming artists have scooped the prize since its inception in 1992 from Primal Scream and Suede in the early 1990s to Skepta and Dave in the late 2010s.
Since the annual award has been there for the last 30 years, one can wonder who the best Mercury Prize winners are in history.
Ben Morris, a writer at Gambling sites has ranked the top 10 Mercury Prize winners.
He notices that his list is a “highly subjective topic”.
“The chances are that my music taste differs from yours, meaning our lists won’t be the same”, writes Ben Morris.
He argues that his ranking is based on musical talent, the success of each album, and other important factors.
So let’s read Ben’s take on the best Mercury Music Prize winners of all time.
10. FRANZ FERDINAND – FRANZ FERDINAND (2004)
Coming in at number ten, Franz Ferdinand kicks off Ben’s list of the best Mercury Prize winners.
The Mercury Prize judges are renowned for making bold and forward-thinking decisions when it comes to picking the album of the year. But the judges went for a relatively conservative choice in 2004.
That said, the conservative choice was not bad on this occasion. Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut album was hugely popular then, with hit singles such as “Take Me Out” and “The Dark of the Matinée” dominating the airwaves.
9. SKEPTA – KONNICHIWA (2016)
In 2016, all the top entertainment betting sites favored the late David Bowie to win the Mercury Prize. Blackstar was released following Bowie’s death in January, with many believing that he was destined to scoop the award.
But the Mercury Prize judging panel had other ideas.
Instead, Skepta’s Konnichiwa was named album of the year. In addition to beating Bowie to the award, the hard-hitting grime album was selected ahead of entries from notable artists like Michael Kiwanuka, 1975, and Radiohead.
8. ALT-J-AN AWESOME WAVE (2012)
As we know, the Mercury Prize judges are not afraid to hand out the prestigious award to budding artists. Many of the best Mercury Prize winners claimed the honor on the back of their debut album.
When art rockers Alt-J were nominated for the award in 2012, they faced competition from established acts such as The Maccabees and Plan B. Still, An Awesome Wave came out on top.
Alt-J’s debut record still hits the spot a decade after its release.
7. SUEDE – SUEDE (1993)
We have to go back to the award’s second year for the next of Ben’s top 10 Mercury Prize winners.
The year is 1993. Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” is the most popular song on the UK Singles Charts. Meanwhile, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” can be heard on just about every radio station worldwide.
The 1990s are famous for a lot of things. Google was born, Friends debuted on NBC, and Beanie Babies were everywhere! But let’s not forget that the 90s are also famous for Britpop.
Suede is widely regarded as one of the founding members of the Britpop scene. The Londoners took glam rock and made it British, with singles such as “The Drowners” and “Metal Mickey” firing their self-titled album into the spotlight.
6. DAVE – PSYCHODRAMA (2019)
“Dave” is arguably the most British name you will ever hear. However, David Orobosa Omoregie is not your average British musician.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Dave endured a tough upbringing in the nation’s capital. Fast-forward to today – the multi-talented rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, pianist, and guitarist is one of the best Mercury Prize winners of all time.
Put simply, Dave’s debut record, Psychodrama, is a masterpiece.
5. PORTISHEAD – DUMMY (1995)
Only three previous Mercury Prize winners were before Portishead – M People, Suede, and Primal Scream. Still, almost three decades later, Portishead remains one of the top Mercury Award winners.
The 1995 Mercury Prize shortlist featured a host of noteworthy acts, including Oasis, Supergrass, and Van Morrison. But Portishead ended up stealing the show and securing the silverware with their debut studio album.
Often credited for popularizing the trip-hop genre, Dummy is a timeless classic. The record is filled with hip-hop production techniques like sampling and looping, but it also features downbeat drums and dreamy vocals from Beth Gibbons.
Interestingly, Gibbons features on Kendrick Lamar’s 2022 release “Mother I Sober”. That tells you everything you need to know about her timeless vocals.
When it comes to discussing the best Mercury Music Prize winners, Portishead is always among the first artists to be mentioned.
4. PRIMAL SCREAM – SCREAMADELICA (1992)
Funnily enough, one of the best Mercury Prize winners is also the very first recipient of the award.
Nobody was quite sure who would claim the inaugural Mercury Prize. High-profile bands such as U2 and Simply Red were expected to mount a serious challenge for the title, but the judges set a precedent for the future.
Against the odds, Primal Scream’s Screamadelica won the best album of the year in 1992. Although the Scottish band’s third studio album peaked at number eight on the UK Albums Chart, it picked up tons of awards for its innovation.
3. DIZZEE RASCAL – BOY IN DA CORNER (2003)
In 2002, Ms. Dynamite paved the way for rappers to win the Mercury Prize. In 2003, Dizzee Rascal took things to a different level.
Thanks to Boy in Da Corner, Dylan Mills thrust grime music into the UK charts. Dizzee became the nation’s first true rap superstar, taking his underground sound to the mainstream.
Remarkably, Mills was just 19 when he became one of the best Mercury Prize winners in history. But there is no denying that he deserved the accolade. The mature album is full of clever lyrics and smart production, in addition to big beats and heavy basslines.
“I Luv U,” “Fix Up, Look Sharp,” and “Jus’ a Rascal” will forever be remembered as grime classics. If it weren’t for songs like these, Skepta’s Konnichiwa might have sounded a whole lot different.
It is worth noting that Dizzee Rascal fended off competition from Coldplay and Radiohead to scoop the award in 2003. That makes him one of the top Mercury Prize winners ever.
2. ARCTIC MONKEYS – WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I’M NOT (2006)
What can we say about Arctic Monkey’s debut studio album that hasn’t already been said?
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’ve Not catapulted the band into the public eye in 2006. The record became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, selling more than 360,000 copies in the first week.
To this day, it remains the fastest-selling debut album by a UK band and the second-fastest selling independent record label debut album in the US.
Of course, the Mercury Prize judges are renowned for going against the grain. But they couldn’t select any other album in 2006. The judges had no choice, with classics such as “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down” commanding the airwaves.
Arctic Monkeys might not be the most talented Mercury Prize winners, but they certainly know how to write the perfect indie banger. Led by enigmatic frontman Alex Turner, they are arguably one of the most influential British bands of all time.
So who is the best Mercury Prize winner ever according to Ben Morris?
1. PULP – DIFFERENT CLASS (1996)
Britpop pioneers Pulp found themselves on three Mercury Prize shortlists in the mid-late 90s. His ‘n’ Hers (1994) and This is Hardcore (1998) failed to clinch the award, but Different Class (1996) made them the best Mercury Prize winners in history.
The band’s fifth studio album is a work of art. Widely regarded as one of the greatest records in UK history, the 12-track classic depicts 90s Britain in all its glory.
Headlined by the Britpop anthem,” the album is stacked with timeless classics that you still hear today. “Mis-Shapes,” “Disco 2000”, and “Something Changed” also helped propel Pulp to nationwide stardom.
There have been plenty of top Mercury Award winners over the years. But Pulp’s Different Class is arguably the pick of the bunch.
Do you agree with Ben Morris?