Arlo Parks has won the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize, an award given to the year’s most outstanding album. This follows her recent Brit award Best Breakthrough Act win. The album reached number three in the official UK charts.
Annie MacManus was a judge of the award, and presented it to Arlo at a ceremony in London on Thursday night. McManus said “We chose an artist with a singular voice who uses lyrics of remarkable beauty to confront complex themes of mental health and sexuality, and connects deeply with her generation as she does so.”
Parks was born in London, of West African and French heritage. The album contains subject matter such as confronting depression, queer sexuality, and tumultuous relationships. Parks said of the reception: “That sense of rawness is what people are gravitating to, I’ve had so many conversations with so many different kinds of people – it’s opened my heart, which is useful when I’m writing songs.”
She is one of the youngest winners of the award, joining the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Dave, and Ms Dynamite. However, the youngest ever winner is Dizzee Rascal, who was 19 when his 2003 album, Boy in Da Corner garnered the award.
Other nominees of the Mercury Prize included Black Country, New Road, Hannah Peel, Celeste, Ghetts, Nubya Garcia, Mogwai, and Sault to name just a few. Laura Mvula was nominated for the third time, joining artists such as Radiohead and Laura Marling as the most nominated musicians. Previous 2018 winners Wolf Alice were also nominated again.
The judging panel included last year’s winner Michael Kiwanuka, previous nominee Hazel Wilde of Lanterns on the Lake fame, Jazz artist Jamie Cullum and alt-pop artist Anna Calvi. They were joined by music industry figures, broadcasters, and journalists.
Speaking about her win, Parks said: “I’m still coming off my little cloud – speechless for now, but very grateful.” She also described her proudest parts of record: “The storytelling, the honesty and the humanity; and the fact that I was able to talk about things that were really important to me and affected me, in an honest way.”
See Arlo Park's performance at the awards here: