ROCK icon David Bowie has topped the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize with his first album in a decade.
The Next Day leads the nominations for the prestigious British music award, which were announced last night.
Other contenders include such diverse acts as indie favourites Arctic Monkeys, Foals and Savages, singer-song writers Laura Marling and Laura Mvula, folk-indy act Villagers and electronica artists Rudimental and Disclosure.
Bookmakers William Hill wasted no time naming Bowie as the 4-1 joint favourite alongside The Arctic Monkeys, who just released their album, AM, this week.
They were followed by Laura Marling and Foals at 5-1 and Disclosure and James Blake close behind at 7-1.
The annual music award recognises the best records by British artists for the past year, and is much-sought-after for the prestige and worldwide boost in sales it often brings.
Past winners include Scottish rockers Primal Scream, Suede, PJ Harvey, who has won it twice, and The XX.
Last year’s winners, folk-rockers Alt-J, saw their profile raised significantly, with songs from An Awesome Wave becoming widely played on the radio and television.
Bowie announced news of his latest album on 8 January this year, the singer’s 66th birthday. The news caused an international media frenzy as the music legend’s first album in a decade had been kept completely secret.
It had been widely believed that in the wake of a number of health scares several years ago, including a blocked artery, the singer had decided to retire quietly.
Bowie’s career to date has straddled six decades, during which he effectively created the idea of the rock star as artist with genre defining albums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Hunky Dory, Low and Scary Monsters.
The Next Day’s release in March was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Critics welcomed a return to a “rockier sound” harking “back to his late-70s Berlin period”, in part due to his reuniting with producer Tony Visconti, and moving away from his drum ‘n’ bass experiments of the last decade.
Revealing the eclectic list of acts that had made the final cut, Simon Frith, the Mercury Prize chair of judges, said: “This year’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist celebrates a fascinating year for British and Irish music, marked by a wonderful range of musical voices – urgent, reflective, upbeat and tender, acoustic and electronic, and all with something intriguing to say.”
The Scotsman music critic Fiona Shepherd described the contenders’ list as “solid”.
She said: “I think there’s some hangers on, the electronic albums, those by Rudimental and Disclosure, aren’t terribly high-quality albums, but I guess there’s a sense of wanting to reflect the breadth of what’s going on out there.
“I’m not surprised to see Jake Bugg or Laura Marling on there. I think the latter will get a nomination every time she puts an album out because she’s a cut above a lot of her contemporaries.
I’m not jumping up and down about it, but I’m glad David Bowie’s on there, and I’m pleased Savages are there too – of the kind of trendy new indy bands who are getting acclaim, they have a bit of fire about them – it’s a great album.”
She said that the Mercury award was still considered a prestigious prize, as it focused on an artist or band’s album of work as opposed to just one song, which musicians still valued as an artistic statement.
But the critic noted the nominations was also conspicuously lacking any acts from the jazz and classical world, unlike previous lists.
The shortlist, chosen from an entry of over 220 albums, was announced by BBC 6Music DJ Lauren Laverne at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden. The winner will be revealed 30 October.
The nominated artists and albums (with William Hill odds in brackets) are:
• Arctic Monkeys - AM (4/1)
• David Bowie - The Next Day (4/1)
• Foals - Holy Fire (5/1)
• Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle (5/1)
• Disclosure - Settle (7/1)
• James Blake - Overgrown (7/1)
• Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg (8/1)
• Rudimental - Home (8/1)
• Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon (8/1)
• Jon Hopkins - Immunity (10/1)
• Savages - Silence Yourself (10/1)
• Villagers - Awayland (10/1)