So we are now half way through out definitive guide to the Mercury Prize 2014, with all eyes on Kate Tempest‘s Everybody Down. Each day we will be looking at each nomination in turn and reviewing the album in its entirety and also analysing its chances of winning. The Mercury Prize 2014 will be announced on 29th October 2014 and broadcast live on Channel 4.
Kate Tempest – Everybody Down
Kate Tempest has been heralded as the favourite for Mercury 2014. Her razor sharp delivery, intricate rhymes and social commentary bring this album alive until it is virtually jumping out of the speakers as a total beast of its own kind. As well as being nominated for the Mercury Prize, she was also listed in the Poetry Book Society’s list of Next Generation Poets; a prestigious list only announced once a decade, and the fact that she was the youngest figure in the list stands as a testament to her talent.
People have found it incredibly hard to pigeon-hole Tempest’s sound, as it is slathered with influences, probably most notably from Mike Skinner, as she shares his dead-pan, but poetic outlook on the life that goes on around her. Everybody Down is an impressive collection of poems/songs/raps that follow the story of a collection of characters, with the focus put on Becky and Harry. It’s a cleverly structured concept album that follows a path with these characters and explores feelings of alienation and despair, using its sharp social commentary to build a world of crappy, South London pubs and families that are falling apart. Although Tempest is frequently dealing with depressing scenes, with songs such as ‘Chicken’ (centred around a family dinner where the tension between Harry and his mum’s new boyfriend builds and builds) or ‘The Truth’, she superbly balances her cynicism with humour and moments of light.
Her understanding of words and characters is absolutely central to everything that happens in Everybody Down and the way it builds and expresses a number of emotions and relatable situations. Her delivery gives an incredible potency to the tracks, as she snarls and seems to become each character in turn, and it means that listening to Everybody Down is like reading a book, where each track works as a new chapter in the story. She is a literary talent that is bringing poetry strongly and firmly into the 21st century, and at only 27 years old, this is no mean feat.
In terms of winning the Mercury, she could very well take it, and there is no denying her superb talent with words. However, although lyrically she is incredible, musically other albums on the prestigious list far out-shine this album in their intricacy and brilliance. The music stands second to the words on this album, and that is where it runs into trouble.
Marshall Law – a stark and full-on force that kick-starts the album and introduces Harry and Becky to the story. It hits you right between the eyes and leaves you with images so vivid, you feel that you are living within the scenes themselves.
Chicken – depicts the awkward scene between a son and his mother’s new boyfriend. You can feel the friction and the tension in every syllable.
Stink – looks at a love gone wrong, and shows it in all its darkness and despair.
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