PJ Harvey Wins 2011 Mercury Prize
PJ Harvey Wins 2011 Mercury Prize

PJ Harvey is the winner of the 2011 Mercury Prize, making her the first ever artist to win the prestigious U.K. award twice.

The Dorset-born singer took this year's title for her acclaimed eighth solo set "Let England Shake" (Island Records), which was inspired by the artist's reflections on war and featured long-time collaborators Mick Harvey, John Parish and Flood. She had previously won the Mercury Prize in 2001 for "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea" but was unable to attend that year's ceremony, which took place on September 11, as she was stranded in America, in her words, "watching the Pentagon burning from my hotel window."

"Let England Shake," which Mercury judges said "confirms [PJ Harvey's] status as one of Britain's most creative artists," was the favourite to walk away with the £20,000 prize ahead of the glitzy awards bash, which was held at London's Grosvenor House Hotel earlier this evening (Sept. 6).

"This album took me a long time to write and was very important to me," Harvey told the invited audience upon receiving the title. "I wanted to make something meaningful, not just for myself but for other people, and hopefully to make something that would last."
"I think there is a connection between what happened 10 years ago and the content of this album," she later told journalists in a press conference. "["Let England Shake"] is largely about the wars that we're involved in, contemporary wars, but also, I wanted in a way for it to be timeless, because we've always been involved in wars. But I think that the greater urgency that I felt to write an album about this now is because of the result of what has happened in the last ten years," Harvey went on to say, adding that she was "surprised and astonished" to win the Mercury Prize on two seperate occassions.

Commenting on Harvey's latest Mercury triumph, Simon Frith, chair of the judging panel, said: "In a very fine year for British music, PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" is a record of exceptional depth, passion and imagination: a musical meditation on Englishness that is gripping and profound."

Eleven other albums were shortlisted for the annual prize, which was won last year by XL-signed indie act the xx, including Adele's all-conquering "21," (XL Recordings), Katy B's "On A Mission" (Rinse/Columbia), Anna Calvi's self-titled debut (Domino Records) and Tinie Tempah's "Disc-Overy" (Parlophone/EMI).

Prior to receiving her second Mercury prize, PJ Harvey - wearing a bespoke gothic-styled full-length white dress and elaborate feathered head decoration - delivered one of the night's standout live sets with a rousing version of "England" album track "The Words That Maketh Murder."

London rapper Tinie Tempah, jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock, who was nominated for his "Good Days at Schloss Elmau" (ACT), and U.K. indie act Metronomy also gave memorable performances on the night, while folk duo King Creosote & Jon Hopkins drew one of the biggest audience reactions for a stirring run through "Bubble," taken from their March 2011 album "Diamond Mine" (Domino Records).

Previous Mercury Prize winners Elbow ended the evening's live music quota with a gracefully melancholic "Lippy Kids," lifted from the band's fifth studio album "Build a Rocket Boys!" (Fiction). The record, which hit No. 2 in the U.K. charts following its March 2011 release, is the follow-up to 2008 Mercury winner "The Seldom Seen Kid" (Fiction), which catapulted the veteran Manchester group to mainstream success.

"We had the happiest studio time that we've had in twenty years on the back of [winning the 2008] Mercury [Prize], so to be honoured again for the album that we were allowed to makes thanks to the wonderful guys at Mercury is a real honour," Elbow singer Guy Garvey told the audience.

Adele was the only nominated act not to perform on the night due to a chest infection. The artist, who was in attendance and wearing her hair in an Amy Winehouse-esque beehive, recently cancelled the opening dates of her current U.K. tour through illness.