(AFP) – Arctic Monkeys, Noel Gallagher and Lily Allen are among the heavyweight contenders for Britain’s prestigious Mercury award on Thursday, but newcomer Nadine Shah’s pro-immigration album “Holiday Destination” is favourite to win.
Post-punk singer Shah, whose father moved to Britain from Pakistan, uses her own experiences to explore the themes of xenophobia and immigration, with one track closing with a chant recorded at a pro-refugee rally.
“I’m so glad that that’s on there,” she told the BBC. “I wanted to be very direct and I wanted people to be very aware of the context of the album.”
The award is presented annually for the best album released by a British or Irish artist, according to a panel of judges.
Past winners include Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand, PJ Harvey, The xx and grime star Skepta, with Thursday’s victor earning £25,000 ($33,000, 28,000 euros) as well as a likely boost in album sales.
London rapper King Krule, who draws on punk, jazz and electronica, is the bookies’ second favourite for his third album “The Ooz”.
Sons of Kemet bagged the shortlist’s usual spot for a jazz act with their anti-monarchy album “Your Queen Is a Reptile”, and are also expected to be serious contenders.
Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys, the joint second most-nominated act in the Mercury Prize’s history, are in the running to become only the second artist to win the award twice with their sixth studio album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”.
The band’s departure to a more laid back sound divided critics and some fans, but the record became their sixth consecutive number-one debut in Britain, and the country’s fastest-selling vinyl record in 25 years.
– ‘Funny and inspiring’ –
Indie rockers Everything Everything and London ensemble Wolf Alice were both shortlisted for the second time, while compilation album “Everything Is Recorded”, put together by producer Richard Russell, is also nominated.
A pair of debut albums also features: “Novelist Guy” by grime act Novelist and “Lost and Found” by R and B artist Jorja Smith.
“This year… celebrates albums by musicians at all stages of their careers, but with a shared belief in the importance of music for navigating life’s challenges – whether personal or political, falling in or out of love, growing up or looking back, angry or ecstatic,” the jury said.
“The music here is funny and inspiring, smart and moving,” it added.
Florence and The Machine scored their third Mercury shortlisting with “High as Hope”, while former Oasis guitarist Gallagher’s High Flying Birds project was nominated for “Who Built the Moon?”
Lily Allen greeted her nomination for “No Shame” by writing on Twitter she was “so happy” and “on cloud nine”.
First-timer Smith also took to social media to celebrate her inclusion.
“Wow! Honoured to be shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Prize. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey!” she tweeted.
The prize will be awarded at the Hammersmith Apollo theatre in London.