Michael Kiwanuka’s third album, Kiwanuka, is the 2020 recipient of the Hyundai Mercury Prize for album of the year. Radio 1’s Annie Mac revealed the winner live on The One Show on BBC One on Thursday (Sept. 24).
The album reached No. 2 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart, but stalled at No. 142 on the Billboard 200. Critics have responded warmly to the album. On the review aggregator site Metacritic.com, Kiwanuka has a solid score of 89.
The Mercury Prize judging panel said: “Classic yet contemporary, drawing on the history of music while remaining an intensely personal work of self-expression, this is an album that will stand the test of time…Warm, rich, hugely accomplished and belonging to no one genre but its own, Kiwanuka is a masterpiece.”
Kiwanuka said: “Music and art means so much to me and this is an award that celebrates that so I’m over the moon.”
He also said “Third time’s a charm,” a reference to the fact that his two previous albums were short-listed for the honor, but did not receive it. His debut album, Home Again, lost the 2012 award to alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. His sophomore release, Love & Hate, lost the 2016 prize to Skepta’s Konnichiwa.
Last year’s winner of the Mercury Prize was Dave’s Psychodrama, which, like Kiwanuka, had songs that commented on matters of race.
Other past winners include several that crossed over to achieve success in the U.S., notably Franz Ferdinand’s Franz Ferdinand (2004), Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006), The xx’s xx (2010) and James Blake’s Overgrown (2013).
Unlike the Grammys, the Mercury Prize releases the names of the people who served on the judging panel. Jeff Smith, head of music, 6 Music & Radio 2, was chair of this year’s panel, which included four musicians — Jorja Smith (a 2018 Grammy nominee for best new artist), Jamie Cullum, Anna Calvi and Gaz Coombes.
The 11 other albums on this year’s shortlist were:
Anna Meredith – Fibs
Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Georgia – Seeking Thrills
Kano – Hoodies All Summer
Lanterns on the Lake – Spook the Herd
Laura Marling – Song for Our Daughter
Moses Boyd – Dark Matter
Porridge Radio – Every Bad
Sports Team – Deep Down Happy
Stormzy – Heavy is the Head