Michael Kiwanuka Wins the 2020 Mercury Prize | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Michael Kiwanuka Wins the 2020 Mercury Prize

Other Nominees Included Anna Meredith, Laura Marling, Porridge Radio, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Lanterns on the Lake, and Others

Sep 24, 2020
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Michael Kiwanuka has won the 2020 Mercury Prize, for his 2019 album KIWANUKA, which came out last November via Interscope. Foregoing a full on ceremony this year because of COVID-19, BBC radio DJ Annie Mac presented the award to Kiwanuka tonight on the nightly British TV show The One Show, on BBC One. Mac surprised him earlier with the news that he’d won. Watch him accept the award below and also stream the album below.

KIWANUKA won over the latest albums by Anna Meredith, Laura Marling, Porridge Radio, Charli XCX, Michael Kiwanuka, Dua Lipa, Lanterns on the Lake, Stormzy, Georgia, Sports Team, and more. This was the third time Kiwanuka has been nominated, but the first time he’s won. 

In a press release Kiwanuka had this to say: “I don't even know what to say - I'm speechless. This is amazing...I don't even have any words. This is ridiculous, it's crazy! I'm so happy. Third time's a charm. It's blown my mind. I'm over the moon, I'm so excited—this is for art, for music, for albums. This is the only thing I've ever wanted to do so to win a Mercury is a dream come true. I'm so happy. Music and art means so much to me and this is an award that celebrates that so I'm over the moon.”

Since 1992 the Mercury Prize has been awarded to the best British album of the year, meaning an album created by a citizen of the U.K. and Ireland. It’s become one of the biggest honors a British musician can receive and can also boost an album’s sales in the U.K., especially if it wins.

British rapper Dave won last year. Wolf Alice deservedly won in 2019. In 2017 Sampha won, the year before it was Skepta, and the year before that it was Benjamin Clementine. The Mercury Prize started out strong with Primal Scream’s Screamadelica winning in 1992 and Suede’s self-titled debut winning in 1993. There have been lots of great artists who have also won since, including PJ Harvey (the only artist to win it twice), Pulp, Elbow, Portishead, Franz Ferdinand, and others. Although they don’t always get it right and there have been some forgettable winners as well.

KIWANUKA is Kiwanuka’s third album and the follow-up to 2016’s Love & Hate, whose opening track “Cold Little Heart” is also the theme song to the acclaimed HBO show Big Little Lies. As with Love & Hate, Danger Mouse and Inflo produced KIWANUKA, which was recorded in New York, LA, and London.  

Kiwanuka had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “The last album came from an introspective place and felt like therapy, I guess. This one is more about feeling comfortable in who I am and asking what I want to say. Like, how could I be bold and challenge myself and the listener? It is about self-acceptance in a more triumphant rather than melancholy way. It's an album that explores what it means to be a human being today.” 

Kiwanuka added: “When I first signed a record deal, people would ask me, ‘So what are you going to be called?’ And I never thought of that; calling myself Johnny Thunders or whatever, like singers from the past. So, on this album it's kind of a defiant thing; I’m engaging with who I am and I’m not going to have an alter ego, or become Sasha Fierce or Ziggy Stardust, even though everyone’s telling me I need to be this, that or the other. I can just be Michael Kiwanuka.”

Mercury Prize 2020 Nominees: 

Anna Meredith: Fibs
Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia
Georgia: Seeking Thrills
Kano: Hoodies All Summer
Lanterns on the Lake: Spook the Herd
Laura Marling: Song for Our Daughter
Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
Moses Boyd: Dark Matter
Porridge Radio: Every Bad
Sports Team: Deep Down Happy
Stormzy: Heavy is the Head

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