The Mercury Prize 2016 – 11 Big Talking Points

The Mercury Prize doesn’t always chime with the mood of the nation, but last night the judges did well: Skepta’s ‘Konnichiwa’ is the best choice in ages, one that reflects what young people are actually listening to. The Prize ceremony was held over a long, hot evening at the Hammersmith Apollo, and most of it wasn’t televised. Here’s the action you might have missed…

1. The Comet Is Coming were unhappy about public voting

This was the first year the Mercury Prize was affected by a public vote. The winner of this vote (this year, The 1975) automatically proceeded through to the final shortlist, while the other five artists were selected by the judging panel, and at the end of this process, they picked the winner.

Speaking before the public votes were announced, The Comet Is Coming saxophonist King Shabaka told NME: “I don’t like the public vote. Some of the acts obviously have big capital behind them from major labels, which gives them bigger fanbases to have more people to vote for them. For the little guys like us, who only have 2,000 Facebook followers, we’re obviously going to get fewer votes. So the vote skews the prize towards the acts who have a good set-up from the beginning.”

2. Matt Healy danced on a tabletop while quaffing a bottle of wine

It reminded us of the time Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes jumped on Coldplay’s table and broke it at the NME Awards at the start of this year, but not quite as destructive.


3. Radiohead weren’t there

Didn’t even bother to turn up, did they? Instead they showed us the ‘Present Tense’ video they’ve recorded (with Paul Thomas Anderson again).

4. Kano got the biggest standing ovation

It was a shame that Kano didn’t make it through to the final six, because we wanted to see his huge, brass-backed performance of ‘3 Wheel-Ups’ again. When he played it, it received the first standing ovation of the evening.

5. Jarvis Cocker’s brilliant delivery

Cocker came on to announce the winner and award the prize. Talking about David Bowie, he said, “He would want the 2016 Hyundai Mercury Prize to go to… Skepta!”

6. Avatars are in


Bowie’s shoes were filled admirably by Dexter actor Michael C. Hall, who’s also in Bowie’s musical Lazarus. But Anohni also had a striking stand-in performer to represent her for her song ‘Drone Bomb Me’, as you can see below.

7. Benjamin Clementine’s return

He popped back for a performance that a lot of people in the room talked over, so we couldn’t really hear it. Thanks guys!

8. Matty Healy’s spending habits

We asked The 1975’s frontman what he’d do if he won the prize and he joked that he’d spend it on “endless, endless drugs”.

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9. Betting against the odds

Skepta’s sister told the listeners of Beats 1, “I’m getting intel from everyone that Skepta has put a bet down on who he thinks is gonna win. He’s put money on The 1975 to win.” But, given that Skepta won £25,000 last night, he’s probably not too upset about that lost tenner.

10. Skepta shutting it down

Skepta was awesome, both when he did ‘Shutdown’ before he won, and again when he did ‘Man (Gang)’ afterwards. He totally owned the evening – but as both his acceptance speech and his onstage shoutouts to Kano attest, it was a prize he wanted to share with the whole shortlist.

11. Skepta’s mum

Actually, Skepta’s mum owned the evening. Mrs Adenuga’s brilliant onstage reaction to her son’s victory was caught in GIF form. What a legend.