Imagine, and it wont take much imagination, that you get a bunch of musos together in a room. Someone gives them too much coffee and some sandwiches on those bendy, tacky tinfoil platters and then ask them to pick their favourite 12 albums of 2008, from a selection of (very, very roughly) 30,000. Then, take the albums they choose and call them "Albums of the Year". Then get them to choose one, and call it the winner.
I would not for a second imply that this is a pointless exercise. I can't pretend to have heard all the nominated albums this year, but I'm sure that they are all stirling efforts and more than worth their nomination (actually I'm not, but its not up to me). However, I do have to question the task the judges put themselves up for. Regardless of genre, they decide one album is better than another, something that, at this level, clearly cant be judged on anything but a subjective level. As 2005 winner Anthony and the Johnsons (who?) wisely said “It’s like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon - which one do you like better?” Now obviously we'd all choose the spaceship, but his point is clear. Its a hopeless exercise, but not a pointless cause.
It creates educated, balanced debate, highlights talent, encourages broad music tastes and makes you feel vindicated when surprise winners fade to nothingness while your champion is still charting. The Mercury Prize is flawed and wonderful as all music competitions are (except T4 unsigned), and thus I will put my educated, balanced debate out there:
Why the fuck are Kasabian nominated, and Doves not?
The other nominations are (with William Hills predictable odds on):
Florence and the Machine – Lungs 5/1
Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum 5/1
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns 6/1
La Roux – La Roux 6/1
Glasvegas – Glasvegas 6/1
Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy 8/1
Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires 8/1
The Horrors – Primary Colours 8/1
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew 8/1
The Invisible – The Invisible 10/1
Led Bib – Sensible Shoes 10/1
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men 10/1