The Shortlist Music Prize, much like the more-established British Mercury Music Prize, was created in 2001 for the purpose of honoring the most adventurous, creative albums of the year across all genres. In other words, it has everything to do with eclecticism and nothing to do with sales figures. And instead of putting together another stagy award show in a town that already has a severe trophy-glut problem, this sharp organization disguises its annual presentation as an exhilarating four-act concert.
TV On the Radio took this year’s top prize with Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, celebrating its victory with a concert-closing half hour of blistering rock. With a set list that incorporated soulful vocals and a hint of traditional African music, the band proved its just-received crown was no fluke.
Leading up to the event, a “long list” was created by a group of judges dubbed the Listmakers—comprised of fellow musicians, journalists and celebrity music aficionados. When the show began, there were just ten competing albums left on the list. Of these finalists, two more acts joined TV On the Radio onstage, as did list maker Josh Homme with his new primitive rock band, Eagles Of Death Metal.
Nellie McKay began the festivities by stepping up to the mic, armed only with an electric piano and dressed in a pink party gown. While McKay spouts her lyrics over soothing piano melodies—incorporating Gershwin and boogie-woogie keyboards—her rapid-fire vocals deliver vitriolic lines about edgy subjects like the war in Iraq and gay marriage. It’s a new sound, really: Piano Bar Rap.
The much-hyped Dizzee Rascal also took the stage before the night was over. It was little like trying to catch up with the dialogue in a Mike Leigh film before the credits roll, only faster.
It speaks volumes about Shortlist’s credibility that tonight’s winner is signed to indie label Touch & Go—especially since big boys like Interscope and Columbia also sported artists who were finalists.