Who is Michael Kiwanuka? London musician wins 2020 Mercury Prize - plus full list of nominees and previous winners

Michael Kiwanuka was nominated for the Mercury Prize three times, clinching the award third time around (Getty Images)Michael Kiwanuka was nominated for the Mercury Prize three times, clinching the award third time around (Getty Images)
Michael Kiwanuka was nominated for the Mercury Prize three times, clinching the award third time around (Getty Images)
Michael Kiwanuka saw off competition from Laura Marling, Stormzy and Kano

Michael Kiwanuka clinched the 2020 Mercury Prize with his self-titled third album on Thursday night.

The singer-songwriter had previously been nominated on two occasions for his albums Home Again and Love & Hate.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His third album reached number two in the charts after it was released in November 2019 to rave reviews, with The Telegraph, The Guardian, NME and Q among those who issued the record with a five-star review.

Traditionally the award is issued at a a concert-style event featuring performances from all 12 nominees, but due to the ongoing pandemic Kiwanuka was announced as the winner on BBC’s The One Show.

Kiwanuka, from north London, saw off competition from Stormzy’s Heavy Is The Head, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and Laura Marling’s Songs For Our Daughter.

Who is Michael Kiwanuka?

Starting his music career as a session guitarist, Kiwanuka was signed by Polydor in 2011 and provided support for Adele in the same year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His first album Home Again was released in 2012 to critical acclaim, reaching number four in the album charts and ultimately receiving a nomination for the Mercury Prize.

Four years later he released Love & Hate, featuring the singles Cold Little Heart and Love & Hate, again receiving a Mercury nomination.

It was his third album which would see him over the finish line in the race to clinch the Mercury Prize. Kiwanuka says the 2019 album “says a lot for me because obviously it is my heritage, it is who I am and even that in itself was something I want to be loud and proud about”.

After being announced as the winner on The One Show, Kiwanuka said he wanted to express himself in the “truest way” with the album.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“When you are in a business like music, music is fun but when you are in kind of a more commercial setting, you have to be out there to the public,” he said.

“You can sometimes have a bit of an imposter syndrome or doubt yourself.”

What the judging panel said?

The Mercury Prize recognises the best of UK music by celebrating the 12 best albums of the year.

"It is the music equivalent to the Booker Prize for literature and the Turner Prize for art,” according to the award website.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This year’s Mercury Prize was overseen by a panel of judges including Anna Calvi, Annie Mac, Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, Jamie Cullum, Jorja Smith and Vice.com’s editorial director Tshepo Mokoena.

The judging panel praised Kiwanuka for “drawing on the history of music while remaining” “intensely personal”.

A statement from the panel read: “From its narrative flow to the interludes, from Civil Rights speeches to its panoramic mix of everything from psychedelic rock to piano jazz, KIWANUKA is not only a complete work, but also one that is borne of the courage of its creator to build his own world and invite us in. Warm, rich, hugely accomplished and belonging to no one genre but its own, KIWANUKA is a masterpiece.”

2020 Nominees

- Laura Marling, ‘A Song For Our Daughter’

- Dua Lipa, ‘Future Nostalgia’

- Porridge Radio, ‘Every Bad’

- Sports Team, ‘Deep Down Happy’

- Kano, Hoodies ‘All Summer’

- Anna Meredith, ‘FIBS’

- Georgia, ‘Seeking Thrills’

- Lanterns on the Lake, ‘Spook the Herd’

- Moses Boyd, ‘Dark Matter’

- Charli XCX, ‘how i’m feeling now’

- Stormzy, ‘Heavy is the Head that Wears The Crown’

-Michael Kiwanuka, ‘Kiwanuka’

Previous winners

Last year’s Mercury Prize was won by rapper Dave for his album Psychodrama.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He beat nominees including Slowthai, The 1975, Little Simz and Foals to the award.

The full list of Mercury Prize winners by year:

1992: Primal Scream - Screamadelica

1993: Suede - Suede

1994: M People - Elegant Slumming

1995: Portishead - Dummy

1996: Pulp - Different Class

1997: Roni Size / Reprazent - Newforms

1998: Gomez - Bring It On

1999: Talvin Singh - OK

2000: Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour of Bewilderbeast

2001: PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

2002: Ms. Dynamite - A Little Deeper

2003: Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner

2004: Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

2005: Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now

2006: Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

2007: Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future

2008: Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

2009: Speech Debelle - Speech Therapy

2010: The xx - xx

2011: PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

2012: alt-J - An Awesome Wave

2013: James Blake - Overgrown

Related topics: