The 2020 Mercury prize for the year’s best British album has gone to Michael Kiwanuka for his self-titled album, Kiwanuka.
“I’m over the moon, so so excited,” he said on receiving the prize. “This [prize] is for art, for music, for albums – it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, so to win a Mercury is a dream come true… It’s blown my mind.” He wins £25,000.
The judging panel said: “KIWANUKA by Michael Kiwanuka is the well-deserved winner of the Hyundai Mercury Prize 2020 for Album of the Year. 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.’’
‘’Songs such as Hero and You Ain’t The Problem deal with hot button topics like race and identity, but in a reflective way that draws the listener in. From its narrative flow to the interludes, from Civil Rights speeches to its panoramic mix of everything from psychedelic rock to piano jazz, KIWANUKA is not only a complete work, but also one that is borne of the courage of its creator to build his own world and invite us in. Warm, rich, hugely accomplished and belonging to no one genre but its own, KIWANUKA is a masterpiece.”
His album, released in November 2019, draws equally from folk and soul as the songwriter sings of freedom, love, and struggles both personal and collective; one track samples protests during the 1960s US civil rights movement. It was described in a Guardian review as a “bold, expansive, heartfelt, sublime album. He’s snuck in at the final whistle, but surely this is among the decade’s best.” It reached No 2 on release, and spent 18 weeks in the UK charts.
Michael Kiwanuka said: “I don’t even know what to say – I’m speechless. This is amazing…I don’t even have any words. This is ridiculous, it’s crazy! I’m so happy.
He added: Third time’s a charm. It’s blown my mind. I’m over the moon, I’m so excited – this is for art, for music, for albums. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do so to win a Mercury is a dream come true. I’m so happy. Music and art means so much to me and this is an award that celebrates that so I’m over the moon.