Michael Kiwanuka and Laura Mvula dominate this year’s Ivor Novello awards shortlists, in a year where the diversity of British music is reflected across the nominations.
Skepta, Nick Cave and Mystery Jets were among the others to pick up nominations. The awards, which celebrate songwriting and composing over commercial success, would provide an antidote at a time when the “music business is morphing into the selfie business”, said Crispin Hunt, the chair of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
Hunt criticised Sony’s decision to drop Mvula at the beginning of the year. “I think this year’s nominations reflect a different bit of British music, more to do with the creativity of our figures like Laura Mvula, than just commercial success,” he said.
“You don’t necessarily need a label these days, and hopefully she’ll carry on, but I think that demonstrates there’s something a little bit awry about the way the music industry is working. I worry that culturally we aren’t fully valuing that connection from music made by people like Michael Kiwanuka and Laura Mvula.”
Kiwanuka and Mvula will compete for best song musically and lyrically, Kiwanuka for his track Black Man in a White World and Mvula for Overcome, co-written with Chic’s Nile Rodgers. Also in the category are Mystery Jets, the first time they have been nominated for an Ivor Novello, for their song Telomere, written by father and son bandmates Henry and Blaine Harrison.
In the best contemporary song category, Skepta’s track Man is up against Love$ick, performed by Mura Masa and A$AP Rocky, and Sexual, performed by Neiked featuring Dyo.
Mvula and Kiwanuka are both nominated for best album, with Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree also in the running.
Speaking about their first Ivor Novello nomination for Telomere, from their album Curve of the Earth, Blaine and Henry Harrison said it was a “truly humbling experience”.
Blaine said the chorus had come five years before they completed the verses. The song is about DNA, and he said that while it was “very easy to fall into this familiar pattern of all songs coming out as love songs, I wanted to write about ancestry and how we inherit characteristics from people we will never meet”.
“The song is grappling with our chemical make-up as human beings and the fate that’s bound up in our DNA,” his father added.
Blaine was born with spina bifida, which affects his leg muscles, and he said that while other children were out playing football, he and his dad would sit and listen to records. His father said his son “wasn’t necessarily into the same things as other boys, so I thought if I could get him into music, that would be a dream come true. And here we are, 20 years later. It’s magic.”
The PRS award for the most performed work, based on the music that has been broadcast and performed the most over the year, sees Coldplay nominated twice – for the songs Adventure of a Lifetime and Hymn for the Weekend – alongside Adele for When We Were Young.
The Ivor Novello winners will be announced on 18 May.