Benjamin Clementine’s At Minimum for Now was a hit in his adoptive country of France house to inspirations including Claude Debussy. Photograph: Ian West/PA
Tbelow is a sense the judges of the Mercury prize can’t win. Decide a winner who is already commercially effective and they stand billed with telling the general public what they previously know decide a winner who is way too obscure and they experience accusations of irrelevance. The Mercury prize has the capacity to enhance an artist’s product sales, but background gives us sufficient evidence it are not able to change a comparatively mysterious figure into a home title.
The predominance of artists of fairly obscure stature on this year’s shortlist had previously captivated criticism from folks eager to invoke the famously watertight argument that the ideal audio is invariably the most commercially successful between them heavyweight musical theorist Dan Wooton, of the Sun’s Weird column, who decried the list of nominees as “another snobfest from arrogant music sector luvvies who do not give a damn what the vast majority of the nation listen to”.
This is obviously not an argument that holds a excellent excess weight with the judges, who have maybe noted that based mostly on the album charts, what the greater part of the country are listening to currently includes the comic Alexander Armstrong belting out A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square and Danny Boy.
Certainly, no one particular is going to accuse them of picking an artist presently overburdened with mainstream interest. The bookies’ favourite – a reputable manual to what’s not going to acquire the Mercury prize – was Jamie xx’s In Colour. The most significant offering album on the list was Glastonbury headliner Florence and the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Gorgeous, but alternatively they plumped for Benjamin Clementine’s At The very least for Now: a number a single, gold-selling hit in the London-born singer’s adoptive home France, the origin of a quantity of inspirations he has cited including Serge Gainsbourg, George Brassens and Claude Debussy.It was also the place he honed his craft busking on the Métro, a minority interest in the British isles.
You can see why the French have taken to him. He is undoubtedly not the only piano-playing vocalist who has attracted wild comparison to Nina Simone in current years, but his fashion is significantly a lot more theatrical and florid than your average singer-songwriter: he prefers to describe himself as “an expressionist” instead than a singer and promises he needs his voice to sound like the violin element in Vaughan Williams’ the Lark Ascending.
His audio is unreservedly emotive and dramatic, hefty on the vocal thrives and preparations that hint at classical songs. His speechlessness at winning the Mercury prize betrays the character of his music, which does not generally do understatement.If you are looking for a comparison, you may well find one particular in Rufus Wainwright or earlier Mercury winner Antony Hegarty the latter an additional of his self-confessed influences.
At its ideal, At Least For Now is an incredibly placing album:it is also the type of document you can envision a broader British audience using to if they had been exposed to it. Then yet again, you could have stated the same thing about last year’s winner, Youthful Fathers’ idiosyncratic hip hop album Useless, which the public made the decision to move on, even with the additional publicity afforded it by their Mercury triumph.