But the awards show still remains resolutely indie. Yes, Ed Sheeran was on the shortlist but no one seriously thought he was going to win.
The twelve nominees for this year’s Mercury Prize – including The xx, Blossoms and Glass Animals – were as eclectic as ever, but in the end it all came down to South London. Five acts from this area of the capital were competing. Out of all of them, Stormzy has had the most mainstream success with his album Gang Signs & Prayer, but it was always going to be Sampha.
The musician previously wrote for the likes of Beyoncé and Drake before focusing on his debut album, Process. It’s a beautiful and meditative exploration of love and loss as the singer worked through the grief he felt over his mother’s death from cancer. The depth of emotion is as profound as the haunting eloquence of his songs.
Bravo Mercury Prize for getting it so right this year.
Here’s what we learned from watching the ceremony at London’s Eventim Apollo last night.
1. Idris Elba’s presence makes any event better.
2. But not as special as your own gospel choir. There were goosebumps for Loyle Carner’s performance.
3. There was a lot of love for J Hus. The roars were deafening for his ‘Did You See/Friendly’ medley.
4. What you don’t see on TV is that there are a lot of people milling around and chatting during the show.
5. Stormzy has charisma in spades and recreating his album cover on stage was absolute genius.
6. Croydon emerged as an unlikely music hotspot with both Stormzy and Lolye Carner hailing from the South London borough.
7. The Mercury Prize audience don’t like a no-show. Ed Sheeran got booed. ‘Congratulations to whoever the winner is,’ he said via video. Even he wasn’t expecting him to win.
8. Kate Tempest’s lyrical flow was on fire. Furious, bone-chilling rhymes. If the prize was based on performances from last night alone, she would have clinched it.
9. Everyone got emotional over Sampha’s beautiful rendition of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’.
10. Glass Animals had the most energetic performance of the night with ‘Life Itself’.
11. Cars make great props on stage. Last year’s winner Skepta had everyone on their feet dancing with his rendition of ‘Man’. Nice shoutout to Stormzy and J Hus too.