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The Mercury Music Prize returns this year with a stacked shortlist of albums. 

Launched in 1992, the Mercury Music Prize—currently sposored by Hyundai—is an award that seeks to celebrate the best album by a British or Irish act annually. 

For this year’s awards, the eligibility window ran from July 18, 2020, to July 16, 2021. Throughout its three-decade run, the Mercurys have awarded its title to many adored and ground-breaking albums, such as Ms. Dynamite’s 2002 record, A Little Deeper, Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 debut, Boy In Da Corner and Sampha’s 2017 LP, Process

Recent wins include Dave’s Psychodrama in 2019, and last year’s indie fave: Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka, which bested Kano’s Hoodies All Summer, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and Stormzy’s sophomore offering, Heavy Is The Head, to name a new. 

Out of the 2021 nominees, some standouts include rising UK artist BERWYN for his debut 2020 project, DEMOTAPE / VEGA. Receiving unanimous critical acclaim, the Trini-born East London rapper, singer and producer wowed with a lo-fi, moody, warm package interwoven with hip hop, reverbed soul and dirty sample loops. 

Decorated grime MC Ghetts’ third studio album, Conflict Of Interest, was a welcome addition to the nominees. After enlisting heavy-hitters like Skepta, Wretch 32, Emeli Sandé, Pa Salieu, Giggs, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, Ghetts married a classic grime canvas with something equally accessible, modern and forward-thinking. Ghetts’ sharp, insightful and deadly penmanship shone through on Conflict Of Interest, marking it as one of the best British rap albums of the year.

Another notable nominee came in the form of indie-soul singer Arlo Parks’ album, Collapsed In Sunbeams. After carving out a strong fanbase with her singles “Cola” and “Eugene”, Arlo’s debut was thoughtful, soulful and brimming with trip-hop, indie-folk, R&B and indie-rap influences. 

The full 2021 Mercury Prize shortlist:

  • Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
  • BERWYN – DEMOTAPE / VEGA
  • Black Country, New Road – For The First Time…
  • Celeste – Not Your Muse
  • Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders / The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
  • Ghetts – Conflict Of Interest
  • Hannah Peel – Fir Wave
  • Laura Mvula – Pink Noise
  • Mogwai – As The Love Continues
  • Nubya Garcia – Source
  • Sault – Untitled (Rise)
  • Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend