Music

Predicting The 2014 Mercury Prize Nominations

There are few things that stir such righteous anger and debate in the music world as the Mercury Prize.

It's famously impossible to predict which acts will get the nod - or so it seems. But beyond the apparent difficulty of ranking one album against another, we've had a dig into the last five years of nominations, to see if there are any underlying patterns: it turns out that the list is more predictable than you'd think.

Our findings are below, followed by our 12 tips for the 2014 shortlist, to be announced on 10th September.

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The Rules

1. There Will Be At Least Five Indie Acts

There have never been fewer than five indie acts (solo or bands) in the list of nominations. 2012 saw its peak, with 7 out of the 12 acts being indie.

2. There Will Be At Least Four Acts Who've Previously Been Nominated

A trend in the last three years, with 2011 seeing four previously nominated acts get the nod again, 2012 another four, and 2013 a massive six. The judges clearly like stuff they've liked before.

3. There Will Be Two Singer-Songwriters

Three out of the last five years have seen two singer-songwriters nominated, although 2012 saw a huge six, so it could be more than this, depending on the strength of contenders.

4. There Will Be One Or Two Folk or Jazz Acts

The 'token jazz' act is always one to look for, but two of the five years have actually seen two folk/jazz/other acts nominated.

5. There Will Be Just One Rap Act

The panel really do prefer those indie acts.

6. There Will Be Two Acts That Are Already Commercially Successful

The Mercury Prize exists to champion new music, but it's not always against jumping on a bandwagon - four out of the last five years have seen nominations for at least two albums that were already selling bucketloads.

7. There Probably Won't Be Much Dance or Electronic Music

Last year was a high for electronic based nominations, with four - but prior to this, there'd been just four in four years.

8. There's No Bias Towards Bands or Solo Acts, But There'll Be At Least Four of Either

In three years, bands have outnumbered solo acts, but in the other two, it's the reverse - but there's always at least four of each category.

9. There'll Be A Maximum Of Five Female-Featuring Acts

It's a bit of a boys club: the most acts with females in that have been nominated is five - and usually it's fewer.

10. The Winner Could Be Anything

There's never been a consistent pattern to the winning album - sometimes it's the bookies' favourite, sometimes an outsider, and all genres and types of acts have a victory under their belt.

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So, with these in mind, here's our attempt at predicting the Mercury nominations line up:

Jungle - Jungle

The dance duo's album is on the none-more-cool label XL, it's been critically-acclaimed, it just looks too perfect not to make the list.

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Damon Albarn - Everybody Robots

Another critical darling, and the fact that it's a more low-key record will work in his favour. He probably won't turn up to the awards though - but that will be great press for the event.

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FKA Twigs - LP1

Ticks a lot of boxes, it's hard to see this not making the cut.

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Kate Tempest - Everybody Down

The early bookies' favourite, and with good reason: an interesting story; unknown to the general public; musically pushing the envelope. Must be a shoe-in for a nomination.

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Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour

He won the Brits Critics' Choice, has been hugely successful, and received strong reviews. Will be good for a bit of star quality and attention.

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Coldplay - Ghost Stories

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And speaking of star quality, Coldplay's latest album being downbeat, experimental and electronic gives the Mercury panel the perfect excuse to give them their fourth nomination and get one of the world's biggest bands down to the event.

The Horrors - Luminous

Absolutely prime for a second nomination with their latest album, which is every bit as good as 2010's Primary Colours.

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Roger Daltrey & Wilko Johnson - Going Back Home

This looks a good one to get the 'Bowie' nomination in terms of recognising two musical legends. The Mercurys are also traditionally fans of new collaborations - think Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell in 2006, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in 2008 and King Creosote and Jon Hopkins in 2011.

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Metronomy - Love Letters

Hugely critically-acclaimed, indie to the hilt and with a previous nomination under their belt: this looks a surefire bet to make the list.

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Wild Beasts - Present Tense

See Metronomy.

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Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow

Again, follows the same pattern as Metronomy and Wild Beasts, with the added bonus of elements of world music instrumentation and samples.

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Mica Levi - Under The Skin

Already a contender at 20/1, it's an unsettling soundtrack to a critically-acclaimed film by a musician with an impeccable critical background, this is a strong contender to make the list.

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(6 indie acts, 6 with previous nominations, 2 singer-songwriters, 1 rapper, 1 jazz/folk/other, 2 dance/electronic acts, 2 already commercially successful, 7 bands, 5 solo acts, 3 female-featuring acts out of 12)

(Images: Rex)