By Stuart Iversen
The Mercury Awards have come under fire this year for an “unadventurous” shortlist and a lack of transparency when it comes to judging.
The annual music awards takes place tonight at London’s Roundhouse. It has previously claimed it exists “solely to champion music in the UK” and has long been praised for it’s highlighting of exciting underground acts.
However, with a shortlist that contains five albums that went to number one this year and an average charting of 10th compared to 48th a few years back, it has been described by Sam Wolfson, executive editor at Noisey, as a “narrow view of music picked by judges of a narrow background.”
These same judges have come under fire for their lack of transparency. One former judge spoke to The Observer and stated, “I was quite open when I did it and I don’t see a problem with that.”
While Mike Diver, the online editor of Clash Magazine, proclaimed that “knowing who’s picked these albums at the time of their announcement – or, better, beforehand – would help critics like myself form a more complete picture of how certain albums have made the cut.”
On the other hand, Mike Smith, the president of record company EMI, feels the lack of transparency is a necessary evil. “The judges should be anonymous, if they were not, I am sure they would be lobbied quite hard. The idea, I think, is that major labels would have an advantage over the independents… people would try to influence the decision.”
He was also a defender for the awards as a whole stating, “the thing that is still great about Mercury, is that bands can be picked that the public were not yet aware of.”
With the ceremony taking place tonight in London, it’s clear that there will be a lot of attention focused it’s way, whether that is for the right reasons is another matter.