Mercury Music Prize 2023: Jazz quintet Ezra Collective thank God as they beat Arctic Monkeys, Fred Again… and Jessie Ware to the annual award – after forming the band in a youth club

Ezra Collective have won the 2023 Mercury Prize with their second studio album Where I’m Meant To Be.

The jazz quintet were among a dozen acts who were in the running for the prestigious award – alongside Raye, Arctic Monkeys and Fred Again…

The announcement was made by DJ Jamz Supernova during the award ceremony, which recognises the best British or Irish album of the year, at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, west London, on Thursday evening.

Accepting the prize onstage, bandleader Femi Koleoso thanked God, their team and family who have supported them through the years.

He said: ‘Most importantly Ezra Collective represents something really special because we met in a youth club.’

Success: Ezra Collective have won the 2023 Mercury Prize with their second studio album Where I’m Meant To Be

Nominees: The jazz quintet were among a dozen acts who were in the running for the prestigious award – alongside Raye , Arctic Monkeys and Fred Again…

Thrilled: Accepting the prize onstage, bandleader Femi Koleoso thanked God, their team and family who have supported them through the years

The drummer added that this award represents the importance of putting “time and effort into young people playing music”.

Radio DJ and broadcaster Lauren Laverne hosted the ceremony which featured live performances from nine of the shortlisted artists.

Raye dazzled the crowd with her song The Thrill Is Gone while rapper Loyle Carner gave a powerful performance of his track HGU.

Soul singer Olivia Dean also delivered a lively rendition of her track Carmen, Scottish band Young Fathers amped up the energy with their song I Saw and musical duo Jockstrap gave a sparky performance of their song Concrete Over Water.

Ezra Collective, London-born singer Jessie Ware, rapper and singer Shygirl and Irish folk group Lankum also performed on the night.

Arctic Monkeys and Fred Again.. were both not able be attend the ceremony as they are on tour in September, but a live performance film was shown to celebrate their albums.

Producer Fred Again.., who is hosting a residency at Alexandra Palace in London this week, sent a video message apologising for not being able to attend the event, adding: ‘I’m so so so truly grateful to be shortlisted alongside so many people I truly admire.’ 

Rapper J Hus, who was shortlisted with his album Beautiful And Brutal Yard, was also not able to attend the event due to illness.

He said: ‘Most importantly Ezra Collective represents something really special because we met in a youth club’  (L-R James Mollison, Joe Armon-Jones, Femi Koleoso, Ife Ogunjobi and TJ Koleoso)

Contender: Raye was nominated with her debut album My 21st Century Blues

Candid: The pop star, 25, admitted it was “heavy” exploring personal emotions within the record


Stunning: Raye looked incredible for the ceremony as she slipped into a black figure-hugging dress

Last year, the Mercury Prize was won by Little Simz for her fourth album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.

Elsewhere nominee Loyle Carner said his Mercury-nominated album is about “forgiveness”, as he feels the internet and society can be too quick to judge people on one moment.

The hip-hop artist’s third studio album Hugo was one of the dozen records in the running for the prestigious award on Thursday evening. 

Speaking on the red carpet of the 2023 awards ceremony, Carner, 28, said it was “awesome” to create his highly personal record, which explores his identity and his reconciliation with his father as he became a parent himself, but he found it “scary” to present it.

He said: ‘I made it in lockdown when no-one was really around, so it was not in a vacuum but it was a safe space, the internet is not a safe space.

‘Releasing it, I guess it was just through talking with friends and olders, big OGs of mine, much older than me who never really got a chance to talk about this stuff, and hearing it, and kind of going ‘you need to release this not just for me and my generation, but for younger ones.”‘ 

He added: ‘This album is about forgiveness and just not to judge people.

‘I feel like the internet and the world, it’s so quick to judge people off one action and I think really, more it’s about being able to understand that good people do bad things, and bad people do good things, and I like to judge people on their entire life as opposed to one moment.’ 

Nominee: Loyle Carner said his Mercury-nominated album is about “forgiveness”, as he feels the internet and society can be too quick to judge people on one moment

Up-and-coming: Olivia Dean said she wanted to explore the nuances of life from happiness to falling in love within her debut album Messy


Glamour: Jessie Ware looked incredible in a pale pink sleeveless dress 

Show: Jessie was among the artists who performed during the ceremony 

Carner, who wore a necklace and trousers which featured designs by his young son for the ceremony, said hopefully his son will stay up to watch the event from home alongside his brother and mother.

Also among the nominees was Raye with her debut album My 21st Century Blues.

The pop star, 25, admitted it was “heavy” exploring personal emotions within the record.

She said: ‘I think when I was writing the songs I wasn’t even really necessarily thinking about even sharing them, it was more kind of medicine and just needing to create something to help me process certain emotions in a different light or a more positive or more empowering light if I could, which is what I think music is essentially about.

‘Creating something that makes you feel better or feel great or excited or allows you to process them tricky emotions.’ 

The record features her number one single Escapism which went viral on TikTok earlier this year and won the award for best contemporary song at the Ivor Novello Awards.

She said the reaction to the song was “nuts” but that she was “so happy people connected to it”.

‘I literally said to myself, if anyone hears any song off the album, I hope it’s this one, and that’s what happened and I’m so made up that it did because I love that song.

‘I listened to it every single day before the album dropped so I’m just so happy people connected to it,’  she said.

Honour: Shygirl was also among the artists who were nominated for the prize 

Looking good: Georgia Ellery (left) and Taylor Skye of Jockstrap attending the awards

Event: Becky Allen, Loyle Carner, Olivia Dean, Jessie Ware and Jo Charrington posed for a snap together backstage

The up-and-coming singer-songwriter Olivia Dean said she wanted to explore the nuances of life from happiness to falling in love within her debut album Messy.

‘It’s funny, I had this thing in my head for a while where I was like “the best albums are breakup albums and I need to be miserable to be a great artist,”‘ she said. 

‘But I was like ‘that’s not reality and also, I want to be happy’ and I think that you can still find nuance and interesting things to write about within that.

‘So I think that was my task with this album to describe happiness and different upsets and falling in love, finding independence within that.’ 

After two decades of making music, the Arctic Monkeys announced their return in August 2022 with their Mercury Prize-nominated seventh studio album The Car.

Missing out: The Arctic Monkeys were also nominated for the prize but missed the ceremony

All six of Arctic Monkeys’ previous studio albums have gone to number one in the UK while The Car peaked at number two, according to the Official UK Chart.

Meanwhile, Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022) from Fred Again.. was also up for the Mercury Prize, which recognises the best British and Irish album of the year.

The British songwriter, producer and DJ, who made history in 2020 as the youngest musician to become producer of the year at the Brit Awards, had his first worldwide hit with the 2022 album, peaking at number four in the UK album chart.

Among the other acts in the running for the Mercury Prize were London-born singer Jessie Ware with her 2022 album That! Feels Good!, which peaked in the UK albums chart at number three.

Rapper J Hus also made the shortlist with his album Beautiful And Brutal Yard. 

The debut from UK duo Jockstrap titled I Love You Jennifer B is also in the running for the prize, as well as Irish folk group Lankum’s album False Lankum, and Nymph from rapper and singer Shygirl.

The shortlist was chosen by an independent judging panel including BBC DJs Jamz Supernova and MistaJam.

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