Wednesday 21 March 2018

PJ Harvey beats Adele and Tiny Tempah to Mercury prize

PJ Harvey, winner of the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2011. Photo: Getty Images
PJ Harvey, winner of the Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2011. Photo: Getty Images

PJ Harvey has become the first artist to win the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize for a second time.

The 41-year-old musician - who had long been the bookies' favourite - triumphed with her release Let England Shake which was inspired by modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Polly Jean Harvey beat acts such as chart-topper Adele and Brit-winning star Tinie Tempah to the £20,000 prize.

She had previously won the Mercury a decade ago on the night of September 11 and on that occasion was trapped in Washington DC following the earlier terrorist attacks.

Harvey wore a full-length white dress with a white leather bodice shaped like a strait-jacket - the design of which had been inspired by her album - to attend the ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

Collecting the prize last night she said: "Thank you for the recognition of my work on this album.

"It's also good to be here this evening. When I last won 10 years ago on September 11, 2001 I was watching the Pentagon burning from my hotel window.

"So much has happened since then. This album took me a long time to write. It was very important to me. I wanted to make something meaningful, not just for myself but for other people, and hopefully to make something that would last."

The album features graphic lyrics about warfare, as well as allusions to other songs and unusually includes the prominent use of an autoharp, played by Harvey.

Speaking backstage, the singer-songwriter took time out to praise her fellow nominees and picked out Everything, Everything and Adele.

She said: "I'm certainly going to go out and buy some records now because some of them I haven't heard before."

She said she had not allowed herself to think what she would spend her money on, adding: "I didn't want my mind to start racing if nothing were to happen so I'll give it some careful thought and I'll need to think about that for the next few days."

But she said winning the prize again encouraged her to continue down her own particular career path.

She said: "It makes me want to continue to go about my work the way I always have done which is taking great care and seriousness over it and it just encourages me to keep doing that."

She also revealed she is already working on her next project, saying: "I'm a writer that works all the time, I write every day so already my work has started to develop into what will be the next project."

Chief of judges Simon Frith said the decision had been an amicable one.

He said: "There are not many artists who continue to make interesting records in their career after such a long career, not the Rolling Stones, not even Bob Dylan so it is a remarkable album from that point of view."

The show opened with a medley from Brit Award winner Tempah but best-selling star Adele was forced to drop out with a chest infection.

The Someone Like You singer told the crowd she was "thrilled and charmed" to have been shortlisted, but " gutted" not to be able to perform.

HMV's Gennaro Castaldo said: "It's a tremendous irony that PJ Harvey's album been acclaimed by the judges almost 10 years to the day that she first picked up the award on September 11 - in 2001.

"Her achievement then was almost entirely overshadowed by the tragic events that were unfolding in New York, and needless to say, her album then didn't enjoy the usual lifts that a Mercury winner can expect.

"It's a different story now, and we anticipate that Let England Shake will enjoy a significant rise in sales. I can't imagine that we'll see an Elbow Effect - as she's not that kind of artist and is an acquired taste, but a lot more people will definitely now be in a position to appreciate her unique style of music."

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