Florence + The Machine, Roisin Murphy and Wolf Alice were among those who were left trailing, as the 26 year old Londoner was declared the winner at a ceremony in his home town tonight...
Benjamin Clementine is the winner of the Mercury Prize, 2015.
The 26 year old London-based singer’s superb debut album At Least For Now was chosen ahead of impressive records by Irish artists SOAK and Roisin Murphy, who were also on the shortlist.
The bookies’ favourite Jamie xx and Florence + The Machine were also among those who were disappointed, on a night when emotions understandably ran high.
“I don’t know what to say,” the singer confessed when he took to the podium to accept the prize. In admitting as much, Benjamin reflected what many award winners feel when they are plunged so immediately into the spotlight. In a gesture of creative solidarity, Clementine then invited all of the other nominees to join him onstage. Clearly overcome, he began to cry, as he dedicated his victory to those who had died in the terror attacks in Paris a week ago.
As a young musician, Clementine left London for Paris and earned a living busking in the metro in the French capital. Benjamin returned to Paris last weekend, to demonstrate his faith in the city of light.
"I always believed in my music,” he said after the presentation. “But after Paris happened, I was very down. I didn't think I would win. I always wanted to be nominated for this award, but I didn't think that I'd win it. I always made a joke about it!”
With piano as the essential musical building block, At Least For Now is a powerfully intimate and personal record, which has been hailed by critics for its bravery, exploring as it does Clementine’s own difficult years sleeping rough, as well as his embattled youth in Edmonton, in London.
"I made this album thinking only about 50 people would listen to it,” Clementine admitted to the BBC, adding that his music isn't mainstream music. "It goes to show that you've just got to be sincere in your work and people will listen to it," he added.
The winner of the Mercury Prize is decided by a panel of twelve critics, musicians and broadcasters. The final votes are cast on the night of the award ceremony itself, ensuring that there is no possibility of leakage in advance. Afterwards, one of the judges, the musician Corinne Bailey Rae – herself a former Mercury nominee – said the decision came really close to the wire.
“From an Irish perspective, it is a shame that neither SOAK nor Roisin Murphy carried the day,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “I am sure that they were right up there in the final mix. But there is no doubt that Benjamin Clementine is a very worthy winner. His is a truly original voice and At Least For Now is a fiercely personal musical statement that deserves to be heard by millions of people. I hope that it reaps the rewards that can flow from winning the Mercury Prize, in terms of increased exposure and sales. Because what is most gratifying about the result is that Benjamin Clementine is genuinely a great young singer, musician and songwriter, who undoubtedly has what it takes to attain even greater artistic heights in the long run."
The final list of twelve albums was selected from an original long-list of almost three hundred albums.
The full shortlist was as follows, in alphabetical order:
• Aphex Twin - Syro
• Benjamin Clementine - At Least For Now
• Gaz Coombes - Matador
• C Duncan - Architect
• Eska - Eska
• Florence + The Machine - How Big How Blue How Beautiful
• Ghost Poet - Shedding Skin
• Jamie xx - In Colour
• Roisin Murphy - Hairless Toys
• Slaves - Are You Satisfied
• SOAK - Before We Forgot How To Dream
• Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool