British-French singer-songwriter Benjamin Clementine tonight (Nov 20) followed in the footsteps of last year’s winners, Edinburgh’s own Young Fathers, to claim the 2015 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize for the best British or Irish record of the last 12 months.
His debut record, At Least For Now, beat 11 other albums from acts including bookies’ favourite Jamie XX, Florence + The Machine, spoken word artist Ghostpoet and rock band Wolf Alice to the £20,000 winners’ cheque.
“I don’t know what to say,” the 25-year-old said as he accepted the prize, then invited all the other nominees to take to the stage with him. “Thank you very much. I’d like to thank music. I can’t believe I’ve actually won this.”
Clementine, who grew up in North London before moving to Paris in his early 20s, then broke into tears as he dedicated his award to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.
He told BBC News he had returned to Paris last weekend to support friends who had been caught up in the tragedy.
Later, in a statement put out on his Twitter account, Clementine said, “Thank you, to the fine people who chose me as the winner for the Album of the Year Mercury Prize award. This accolade belongs to all of those who were nominated and I would like to thank you for all the artists who were shortlisted.
“This award has personally come at a time where we could all be sad and mourn over the loss of those innocent people who died in Paris and the likes, but I would say that it should rather be a triumph. For these folks are some of the true heroes that will keep you and I going. We will continue to sing and make music with love and dignity for the grace of mankind and nobody can stop us. Peace, love the World xxxx.”
Previous winners of the prize include Arctic Monkeys for their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Elbow for The Seldom Seen Kid, and Dizzee Rascal for Boy In Da Corner.
Young Fathers were the surprise – though completely worthy – winners of last year’s award for their extraordinary debut album, Dead.
Other recent winners of the Mercury Prize, which each year is judged by a panel of 12 critics, DJs, musicians and other industry figures, include Alt-J, The XX and PJ Harvey, the only act to have received the award twice.
Prior to tonight’s awards, an eclectic series of broadcasts were aired across the BBC’s radio and digital platforms, which included the 2015 Mercury Prize Albums of the Year being showcased through a series of studio sessions featuring this year’s shortlisted artists.
The event itself was held in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House in London and was hosted by Lauren Laverne.
Broadcast live on BBC Four and 6Music, the evening culminated in the announcement of the overall winner of the 2015 Mercury Prize in association with BBC Music.
The full list of nominees were:
- 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 (pictured)
- 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