Choice script upset by inclusion of . . . The Script
POP-ROCKERS The Script’s eponymous debut album has been shortlisted for the Choice Music Prize announced in Dublin yesterday afternoon.
Their inclusion at the expense of critically acclaimed efforts by Ham Sandwich and Republic of Loose was the biggest talking point of the shortlist.
Singer songwriter Lisa Hannigan, alt-rockers Fight Like Apes and Belfast DJ David Holmes all got the nod as expected.
Other acts nominated were Cork songwriter Mick Flannery, Dublin-based rock outfit Halfset and electronica maverick Jape, while Messiah J The Expert, Oppenheimer and R.S.A.G. complete the list.
The Choice Music Prize, which has been billed as Ireland’s answer to the Mercury Music Prize, is in its fourth year of existence now.
Like the Mercury Prize, it aims to reward artistic merit and innovation, rather than record sales and the PR machinations of major record labels.
Like any award conceived with such lofty ideals, however, the verdicts have occasionally disappointed – In 1994, the judges of the Mercury Prize were ridiculed for choosing the chart-friendly soul of M People over albums by indie favourites such as Blur and Pulp.
Most critics felt Julie Feeney was a worthy winner of the Choice Prize in 2005, when she picked up the inaugural award for her 13 Songs.
It was an accomplished album by an artist who might otherwise have gone under most people’s radar. As such, Feeney seemed an ideal candidate.
Eyebrows were raised, however, when the following year’s award was given to Neil Hannon’s The Divine Comedy (for Victory for the Comic Muse). Given that Hannon was an established artist of over a decade standing, he seemed an odd choice.
There were murmurings of discontent again in 2007, when the hitherto mostly unknown Super Extra Bonus Party walked away with the award.
For David Reid of Religion Music, who co-founded the award with Irish Times journalist Jim Carroll, what’s important are the 10 acts who are nominated, not the overall winner. The aim of the Choice Music Prize, he says, is to get more airplay for Irish acts both domestically and overseas.
Nominating The Script in that context seems puzzling, given that the band’s music has already enjoyed massive airplay internationally, despite arguably being of dubious artistic merit.
“The award is open to all Irish albums,” says Reid.
“And The Script is a great Irish album. That’s why it’s there.”
Previous winners of the prize have only good things to say about the experience.
“It was a strange thing” remembers Cormac Brady of Super Extra Bonus Party. “It’s not something we ever expected to happen to us.
“Winning awards certainly wasn’t what we got into music for, but it brought us a hell of a lot more recognition overnight and opened a lot of doors.”
Julie Feeney concurs. “It was probably the biggest achievement of my life” she says.
“It meant a phenomenal amount to me. It was an enormous validation.”
This year’s list was compiled by a panel of 12 journalists and bloggers including Ian Dempsey of Today FM, Edel Coffey of the Irish Independent and Rigsy of BBC Northern Ireland.
The overall winner will be announced in Vicar Street on March 4th.
Read Jim Carroll’s blog on the shortlist at http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord/