At Ladbrokes the Arctic Monkeys are now 5/4 favourites to win the Mercury Music Prize. How depressing. Is this the best we can do as a nation? Of course, we all have different ideas of how the Mercury should work. For example, Neil McCormick complains in this ludicrous article from the Daily Telegraph that 'the list conspicuously ignores the musicians the country has actually been listening to', apparently wanting the prize to be awarded on the basis of popularity – don't we have the Brits for that? (He also claims that the competition seems to be 'closed to anyone over 45', not realising that Scritti Politti's Green Gartside is 51.) Personally, I think it's vital that the winner should be making music that genuinely sounds different to anything that's come before – cf. Dizzee Rascal in 2003 or Portishead in 1994. We should be rewarding innovation, not stagnation. On this year's shortlist, only Hot Chip and the Guillemots even come close to qualifying, and neither of those are bands that really feel like they matter. The problem, of course, is that all the innovation in British music since about 1991 has been in dance music, and dance music produces great singles but rarely great albums. The recent exception has been Burial's self-titled release, but Hyperdub, his label, didn't even enter it – perhaps because £250, the entry fee, is a significant chunk of your earnings when your album has limited distribution and shamefully little press.
Update: [puts head in hands]