independent

Tuesday 21 October 2014

PJ's Prize, but don't cry for Adele

WITH JIM HAYES

Published 14/09/2011 | 12:24

IIT'S extraordinary what an award will do for sales of an album. Not any award, mind you. We're talking Mercury Prize here, the music accolade for which the words coveted and prestigious were surely invented.

PJ Harvey's 'Let England Shake' was released on Valentine's Day this year and, despite almost universal critical acclaim - including a rare 10/10 from NME - failed to set the charts on fire.

One week after entering the UK charts at number 8, 'Let England Shake' dropped like a lump of lead to No. 22. Two weeks later it was out of the Top 40 altogether, pushed out by the likes of Michael Ball, Daniel O'Donnell, and the cast of Glee.

Last week PJ Harvey had her place in the music records of 2011 rightly restored when 'Let England Shake' claimed the Mercury Prize.

Since last Tuesday night's awards ceremony, sales have rocketed, giving the album its best weekly sale since the first week of release and propelling it back into the charts.

The win makes Harvey the most successful artist in the history of the Mercury Prize as she's been nominated four times and also chalked up a win in 2001, although the usual sales boost didn't happen on that occasion as the Mercury Prize was hugely overshadowed by the terrible events of 9/11.

Of course, while the Mercurys generally results in a giant leap in album sales, not only for the winner but to a lesser extent the rest of the nominees, they aim to rise above commercial considerations. Best sellers are rarely Mercury winners.

Had this year's Prize been based on commercial success, Adele would have blown the opposition away fom the outset. Her second album '21', which was among the Mercry nominees, sold its ten millionth copy last week and industry sources predict it will top the 13 million mark by Christmas. It's far and away the biggest selling album in the world this year and already the biggest seller since Norah Jones' 'Come Away With Me' in 2003.

To put the ten million sales of '21' in perspective, the top-selling album of 2010, Eminem's Recovery, sold 5.7 million copies.

Confirming her world-beating status, Adele soared to the top of the U.S. singles charts last week for the second time this year, thanks to almost 300,000 American downloads of 'Someone Like You' after a storming performance of the song at MTV's Video Music Awards.

I think we can safely say that, of all the artists who lost out to PJ Harveys at this year's Mercurys, Adele is the least likely to wonder what could have been while looking with longing at an empty space on the mantlepiece.

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