Funny how every year sees the worst ever Mercury list, isn't it?
Although, parts of this year's is a real headscratcher, and we don't just mean The View and New Young Pony Club. We didn't put Favourite Worst Nightmare on our predicted list because, well, what message does it send the band if it doesn't win, and what message does it send the whole of the rest of British music if it does? Their mate Dizzee Rascal is in a similar position, although at least he has the cold comfort of being able to weigh his work well against that of three years ago. And is Seb Rochford, who guests with Basquiat Strings, never going to get nominated for primary concern Acoustic Ladyland?
It's not as safe a list as many have said - six we'd say are currently well known to the bits of the public with a passing musical interest, one more than last year but well down on 2004's nine. What it does betray is the Mercury's gradual evening out of its scope - in 1997 Roni Size won from a shortlist that found room for John Tavener, Beth Orton, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Primal Scream and, famously, the Spice Girls; a year later Pulp beat off challenges from Peter Maxwell Davies with the BBC Philharmonic, Mark Morrison, Courtney Pine, Underworld, Norma Waterson, Black Grape and the War Child Help album. Maybe, of course, this is merely reflective of the necessarily contracting scope of what music magazines cover, although Fionn Regan has hardly made acres of newsprint. And hands up who was alert enough to spot the Young Knives, whose Voices Of Animals And Men was released four weeks into the qualification period?
No, our main criticism is... well... it's a bit meh, isn't it?
In unrelated news, it's not on Radio 4's Listen Again A-Z but RealAudio fanciers can until Saturday morning still listen back to Shots From The Hip, Andrew Collins' enquiry into whether the music journalist still has a role in this new world of blogging, featuring input from Charles Shaar Murray, Caroline Coon, David Hepworth and, yes, Conor McNicholas, pretty much confirming most of what you suspected about the aim of your all-new, all-Smash Hits After It Was Good-tastic NME.