Surrounded at every turn by microphones, Lily Allen was a conspicuous presence on the red carpet at the Mercury Prize launch ceremony last week.
Even when the singer, who was revealed alongside Arctic Monkeys, King Krule and more as one of 12 shortlisted artists and albums for 2018, moved away from the media run, she was trailed by journalists clutching radio equipment and dictaphones. It was Allen’s first time at a Mercury event as a shortlisted artist.
Allen released No Shame through long-time label Parlophone earlier this year; it peaked at No.8 and has sold almost 15,000 copies, according to the Official Charts Company.
When Music Week caught up with Allen, 2006’s Alright, Still (1,143,325 sales) was immediately on the agenda, and served to underline her long experience in the music industry.
What, then, does it mean to be recognised by the Mercury judges for the first time, and does such an award matter to Lily Allen? Read on for an extract from our conversation.
Allen was interviewed alongside a host of top names on Mercury launch day for an in-depth discussion of the shortlist and the album format. Pick up the new issue of Music Week, out now, to read the article in full.
Subscribers can read it online here.
What does it mean to be part of the shortlist?
It means a lot to my 21-year-old self. When I came out with Alright Still it was overnight how successful it was. Everyone made me think I had it in the bag with that one, being young and impressionable it was a bit of a blow when it was like, ‘No, you haven’t won.’ You move on and it feels great to be here now, I’m really happy. I thought these days were long in the past and behind me, so I’m very happy to be here.
Do you think about how the album might be received while making it?
God no! I intentionally went into this record not thinking about the way it was going to be perceived at all. It wasn’t even to do with how things would be perceived by fans, it was to do with how I was going to feel getting up on stage and singing the same songs over and over again. It was really important that the songs were honest and that I felt connected to them, so that was my only focus.
This is about albums, which have got lost in the streaming world
Is it important to recognise the album format?
If you ask the record labels, they don’t give a fuck about most of the acts that are here because they’re not pulling in hundreds of millions of streams. This is about albums, which have got lost in the streaming world. If you care about albums then it’s a great award. I care about albums, I don’t think most artists do, artists yes, puppets no.
How does streaming come into play these days?
I think people listen to music for different reasons, on the radio in the car on the way home from work, streaming when making your breakfast… I feel like albums are something for the evening or the weekend, when you have to put the time aside, which is weird, but we’re so about immediate gratification in this day and age and streaming and playlisting works really well for that. I think albums are really important; they’re the last bastion of real creativity, where you can deliver a whole body of work, not just three-and-a-half minutes.
Catch up on our Mercury launch ceremony report here, and read our Mercury streaming editorial here.
To subscribe and never miss a music biz story, click here.