He might not be the hard-drinking rockstar of old but classically-trained pianist James Blake proved that cerebral compositions on a keyboard are no barrier to success after he was crowned winner of the coveted Barclaycard Mercury prize.
Blake, a 25-year-old who missed out on the prize in 2011, toasted the biggest accolade of his career as he overcame the odds to beat David Bowie and Arctic Monkeys to the 21st album of the year award.
“The dreams you have when you’re punching through water and if you’re lucky [you] dream hitting them right on the nose. When what you thought wasn’t going to happen does, that’s very surreal,” he said, clutching his award backstage.
Blake’s win caps a meteoric two-year rise for the former Goldsmiths student, whose transcendent voice and ambient tracks have proved a critically acclaimed hit against a wall of traditional guitar music and electronica. He said he would celebrate by getting drunk but pledged of his £20,000 cheque: “I will not piss it up the wall.”
Despite Lauren Laverne mistakenly introducing him on stage as James Blunt during a televised ceremony at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, Blake beat stars including David Bowie to win the £20,000 prize for Overgrown, his second album.
The musician, whose father was a member of the band Colosseum, produced his second album himself and it features contributions from Brian Eno and RZA from Wu-Tang Clan.
The judges described it as “Late night music for the digital age. An inventive, poignant and poetic record of great beauty.”
Asked how it felt to beat Bowie, Blake said: “I don’t think I beat him. It’s amazing to be in the running for this prize. A lot of people do their best work when they’re young and it’s always disappointing to me when they don’t continue in that vein and innovate. David Bowie is an example to people like me to keep on innovating.”
Blake also saw off competition from 19-year-old chart-topper Jake Bugg, raucous drum’n'bass electronic outfit Disclosure and previous winners Arctic Monkeys. Blake was a 20-1 outsider before the event, with the Birmingham-born singer-songwriter Laura Mvula the runaway favourite.
Speaking after the awards, NME’s Kevin Perry described Overgrown as “one of the least commercial records on this year’s relatively populist list”.
“James Blake’s announcement was met with genuine surprise here at the awards,” he said. “It’s an innovative and nuanced record, and although it hasn’t matched the likes of [Arctic Monkey's album] AM or [Foals'] Holy Fire for popularity in the NME office, it’s a worthy winner.”
JJ Dunning, editor of indie magazine the Fly, said the selection confirms suggestions the Mercury prize is not “into picking edgy music”. “He’s been unfairly derided as a bit mopey by some, but there is an extraordinary quality to James Blake’s music that makes it worthy of an accolade. Perhaps just not this accolade.”
Fans hoping Bowie would cap this year’s unexpected comeback with a surprise appearance at the Roundhouse were disappointed. Instead of his first on-stage performance in seven years, viewers were shown the video for his track Love Is Lost.
Music critic Simon Price said awarding the prize to Bowie would have been a “sentimental” vote ahead of next year’s 50th anniversary of Liza Jane, his first single.
“His album was sprung upon us as a surprise and it looked for a moment like it was Bowie’s year, but that moment has passed,” he said.
“Bowie has been keeping a very low profile so he’s going to want to break his silence on a bigger stage than a room full of luvvies in the middle of London.”
Mvula was one of five artists to make the annual list with their debut album, alongside Bugg and post-punk outfit Savages, who played their first gig last year. The other first-timers are drum’n'bass quartet Rudimental and electronic duo Disclosure.
Source Article from http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/30/james-blake-mercury-music-prize