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Mercury Music Prize 2011 Winner: PJ Harvey



Pj-harvey-4 PJ Harvey's Let England Shake has been announced as this year's Mercury Music Prize winner. In doing so, she becomes the first artist to ever win the prize twice, having already scooped the award in 2001. On September 11, 2001 to be precise, when the eyes of the world were certainly not on Jools Holland in a swanky London hotel.

In retrospect, it was written in the stars (to quote another nominee, Tinie Tempah). If there's been an album that best sums up the fractured, divided state of the nation in 2011, it's Let England Shake. Ostensibly about the horrors of war, it's impossible not to think of this summer's riots when you hear a lyric such as "England's dancing days are done".

It's an edgy, difficult album, which makes its victory all the more pleasing. Not many artists could get away with the sound of a hunting bugle at the start of a track. Nor produce a apocalyptic reggae stormer which samples Niney The Observer. Or indeed, cleverly swipe Eddie Cochran's famous refrain of "Gonna take my troubles to the United Nations" and make it sound so hopeless and futile.

As our reviewer Andrew Burgess said on the record's release in February: "Let England Shake…lingers in the mind long after its engrossing runtime". And in an age where disposability reigns supreme, that is surely something to be celebrated.

Some people say that the Mercury Prize should only be for newcomers – it's true that it does provide a vital function in giving acts a wider audience that, say, Anna Calvi, Ghostpoet or Gwilym Simcock would have benefited from. Yet if the Mercury is to reward the best British album of the year, then surely all-comers have to be accepted. And, in a year which has produced some astonishing records already, it would be churlish to deny Polly Jean Harvey her second Mercury Music Prize.

What did you think of the Mercury Music Prize this year? Was PJ Harvey the right winner? Let us know your thoughts below.



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