21 albums that surprisingly didn't win the Mercury Prize

7 September 2023, 18:54

Albums that didn't win the Mercury Prize
Albums that didn't win the Mercury Prize. Picture: Press

Sometimes classic albums don't always make it past the post. Radio X looks at the times when the greats don't finish first.

Radio X

By Radio X

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The shortlist for the 2023 Mercury Prize with Free Now Albums Of The Year has been announced.

But sometimes, great albums don't always get the recognition they deserve. Here are a selection of fantastic records that were nominated for the award... but didn't win.

  1. David Bowie - Blackstar

    Everyone though that the Thin White Duke’s final album was a surefire winner in 2016 following the superstar’s death that January, but with grime in the ascendent, Skepta nailed it with his fourth album Konnichiwa. We think Bowie would have appreciated Skepta’s win, anyway.

    David Bowie - Lazarus (Official Video)

  2. Oasis - Definitely Maybe

    The album that catapulted Britpop into the mainstream was not worthy of the prize, so just stop banging on about it!

    Oasis - Live Forever

  3. The Verve - Urban Hymns

    Urban Hymns, one of the best UK selling records of all time, was also rejected by the Mercury panel in 1998, in favour of Gomez.

    The Verve - The Drugs Don't Work (Official Video)

  4. The Prodigy - The Fat Of The Land

    The Fat Of The Land was The Prodigy record that told the world they were here to stay. It had some stiff competition for the prize in 1997. As well as electronic peers The Chemical Brothers, bands like Primal Scream, Radiohead and Suede were also up for it. But to lose to Roni Size/Reprazent must have really stung.

    The Prodigy - Firestarter (Official Video)

  5. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

    2005 was Bloc Party's year; their debut, Silent Alarm, was already being labelled as one of the noughties' most important records. But it was decided that the tear-drenched Antony & The Johnsons won the award. Poor Kele.

    Bloc Party - Helicopter

  6. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

    Whatever you thought about her personal life, Amy Winehouse was a rare songwriting talent with a voice that will echo through the ages. Back To Black was a record full of personal torment, struggles with addiction, and more soul than a Motown club night. But was it BETTER than the efforts of nu-rave pioneers Klaxons? No, according to Mercury. Myths Of The Near Future won the gong.

    Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

  7. Coldplay - Parachutes

    Coldplay's reserved and understated debut saw them hit the ground running, But it was the busking and behatted Badly Drawn Boy who won in 2000. Ahhh never mind, Chris Martin. Maybe next time?

    Coldplay - Yellow

  8. Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory

    Just…how? Pulp's Different Class trounced the Gallaghers to the winners' podium. Darn it!

    Oasis - Champagne Supernova

  9. Arctic Monkeys - AM

    The fifth Arctic Monkeys album basically took a sledgehammer to every other record released around it. But Mercury deemed James Blake's moody post-dubstep second album far superior.

    Arctic Monkeys - R U Mine? (Official Video)

  10. Radiohead - OK Computer

    OK Computer often tops Greatest Album Of All Time lists, but according to Mercury the era defining record just wasn't as good as Ronzi Size/Reprazent's New Forms (no, we haven't either…). Radiohead have actually been nominated for the Mercury FIVE times, and Thom Yorke has even bagged a nod for his solo record The Eraser, and they've NEVER won anything. Surely Radiohead just throw the invitation in the (paper recycle) bin now?

    Radiohead - Karma Police

  11. Manic Street Preachers - This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

    The Welsh rockers lost out in 1999 took Talvin Singh's OK.... but Singh didn't do a 20th anniversary tour of OK did he?

    Manic Street Preachers - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

  12. The Chemical Brothers - Dig Your Own Hole

    As well as having dance classic Block Rockin' Beats as its opener, Dig Your Own Hole also featured Gallagher Senior and Beth Orton on vocals. The album went to number in the UK Charts and had two number one singles on its track list. It's easily one of the most important dance records of all time and even ended up making them the first EVER DJs to headline Glastonbury Festival. But does it stand up to the majesty of Roni Size/Reprazent? No chance.

    The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin' Beats (Official Music Video)

  13. Blur - Parklife

    Parklife was up for the gong in 1994 but lost out to M People. Sure, we all love This Is A Low and Girls And Boys, but can it really stand up to Moving On Up and One Night In Heaven? Not according to Mercury.

    Blur - To The End

  14. Foals - Holy Fire

    The 2013 masterpiece from Yannis and co didn’t make it past the finish line; instead, James Blake’s Overgrown was the judges’ favourite.

    Foals - Inhaler

  15. The Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation

    It was an intense slab of music that was well ahead of its time, but Music For The Jilted Generation had nothing on the slick pop soul of M People. Altogether now: "I'm movin' on up, you're movin' on out..."

    The Prodigy - Poison (Official Video)

  16. Stereophonics - Performance And Cocktails

    Kelly Jones' second album moved on from the small town tales of debut Word Gets Around. It showed a maturity but, more than that, Jones' songwriting perfectly captured British rock in the 90s coming to a steady end. But forget that, because apparently according to Mercury everyone was all off listening to the fusion of Indian classical music and drum and bass that Talvin Singh put together. Yeah...

    Stereophonics - Pick A Part That's New

  17. Florence And Machine - Lungs

    Florence Welch launched a huge career in 2009, whereas the Mercury winner, Speech Debelle, struggled to follow up her debut.

    Florence + The Machine - Dog Days Are Over (2010 Version)

  18. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free

    Mike Skinner must have arrogantly laughed to himself when he saw the 2004 shortlist. "Jamelia? Keane? Basement Jaxx? Joss Stone?! This is in the bag," he surely thought. His Jack-The-Lad concept album lost out to Franz Ferdinand, however, and he joined the great list of Mercury losers.

    The Streets - Dry Your Eyes (Official Video)

  19. Maxïmo Park - A Certain Trigger

    We're pretty sure Paul Smith still hasn't gotten over losing to Antony And The Johnsons in 2005.

    Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure

  20. Royal Blood - Royal Blood

    The amazing debut from the duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher fell by the wayside, while Dead by Young Fathers went home with something new to put on their trophy shelf.

    Royal Blood - Come On Over (Official Video)

  21. Adele - 21

    One of the biggest selling British albums of all time was passed over in favour of previous winner PJ Harvey and Let England Shake in 2011.

    Adele - Someone Like You