Monday 17 November 2014

Thoughts on the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014

So, on Friday the 15th November, the Northern Irish music industry came together and declared, in their collective wisdom, that the best album of the last twelve months was "Blood of the Innocents" by Robyn G. Shiels, beating out eleven other rivals to scoop the big prize. Here are some brief thoughts from The Metaphorical Boat on the ceremony and the award itself:

1. For the 2nd year running, an older singer-songwriter came home with the prize - After the inaugral prize was won last year by Foy Vance, the victory for Robyn G. Shiels sees the current strike rate for male singer-songwriters of a certain age remain at 100%. If this trend continues next year, then you're unlikely to win if you are under the age of 35, lack a Y chromosome, and have friends.

2. Robyn G. Shiels would not have been my choice of winner - As any keen reader of this blog will undoubtedly know by now, our vote for the prize went to Wonder Villains, so it was disappointing that "Rocky" didn't take home the prize. However, I thought that if it wasn't them, then either Mojo Fury or VerseChorusVerse would have taken home the prize. "Blood of the Innocents" never really hooked me, and his performance on the night didn't do enough to win me over. Still, that's the thing about the democratic voting process, there's always going to be at least one person unhappy with the outcome. And at least he was there on the night to pick up the prize, unlike last year's winner.

3. The ceremony part of the evening remained pretty decent - Just like last year, the visuals and videos for each nominated album were well put together, adding to the excitement of the event, and once again Rigsy did a good job of compering the evening. Just three nominated acts played this year (five graced the stage in 2013). Aside from the aforementioned winner, folk duo Sullivan and Gold and storming rockers More Than Conquerors graced the stage. Perhaps not as much diversity as last year's performers, but I dare you to find one person that wasn't blown away by how fantastic More Than Conquerors were on the night. Had the votes been counted after that performance, I daresay the eventual winner might have been a little bit different.

4. Despite my misgivings, the inclusion of Therapy? was a canny move - when it was initially announced that 90s alt-rock legends Therapy? would receive a lifetime achievement award at the ceremony, I was initially sceptical, as I felt it would detract from the ceremony. Whilst that might still have been the case, it was still a great decision - their inclusion got a lot of people talking about the ceremony beforehand, and Mandela Hall was completely packed by the time the band took to the stage. If just a handful of people who had came especially for Therapy? discovered some hitherto undiscovered artist as a result, then that can only be a good thing. Mike Edgar's speech before handing the band the award, which contextualised the band's music in terms of the music scene that came both before and after them was just wonderful - if he ever writes a book about the Northern Irish music scene, I would be the first in line to buy a copy. And of course, Therapy? blew everyone away with their performance of their 1994 album "Troublegum" in full (an album which, incidentally, was nominated for the Mercury Prize that year).

5. The ceremony has got some press - A quick Google search reveals that the announcement of the winner has been covered in the Belfast Telegraph and Hot Press Magazine, as well as other local media outlets. It's also nice to see that one of the more respected music blogs worldwide, Nialler9, has written about it, so hopefully quite a few people outside of Northern Ireland will be made aware of the award. I've said this before, but it bears repeating - unless the ceremony is covered extensively both within here, and further afield, then the prize runs the risk of falling into self-congratulatory back slapping, rather than a ceremony that deserves to be taken seriously, so if you see any decent coverage of the award from further afield, please do let me know.

6. The NI Music Prize should be back next year - even if more than half the crowd were there just to see Therapy? rather than the ceremony itself, the hefty turnout for the event should see the NI Music Prize back again next year. If (or when) it does, I imagine that they'll follow the same format as this year and finish with a performance from a legendary Northern Irish act to supplement the ceremony. If so, the smart money would be on either Ash or Divine Comedy.

7. I've smashed my own record for "closest distance I've ever been from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol - I was sat 5 feet away from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol for a large proportion of the ceremony, which smashes my original record of approximately 200 feet (from when I saw the band at the Odyssey Arena a few years ago). Why I am so excited about this development, I still cannot fathom.

So congratulations to Robyn G. Shiels at winning 2014 NI Music Prize, so here's a song from the winning album, "Hello Death" -

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