Stormzy has two nominations in the UK’s most prestigious songwriting awards.
Organisers of the Ivor Novello awards, now in their 63rd year, announced shortlists on Tuesday for the 2018 awards which also included two nominations for Ed Sheeran and two for Manchester-based art-poppers Everything Everything.
One of the most intriguing categories is best contemporary song, in which Stormzy’s Don’t Cry for Me, a reflection on the complex relationship he has with the area where he grew up, is up against Question Time by thesouth London rapper Dave.
Question Time is perhaps one of the most political songs ever nominated. Over the course of seven minutes, Dave condemns Theresa May for UK involvement in Syria, her response to the Grenfell Tower fire, the state of the NHS and her treatment of health workers.
He also has messages for her predecessor David Cameron – “I mean you fucked us, resigned, then sneaked out the firing line / I wanna know how you managed it” – and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn – “Do you really have the faith of your party? Do you really have faith in the party that will come with you?”
The third nomination in the category is Cola by the producers CamelPhat and vocalist Elderbrook. It tells the story of a young woman who gets drunk, can’t get into clubs, gets offered a cola by a friendly bouncer so she can sober up, but she still thinks it is a rum and coke. “It is a very odd and specific song,” said Elderbook. “I started with the phrase Coca-Cola and the story kind of made itself around that.”
The difference in the nominees should be celebrated, said Paul Gambaccini, who has been presenting the awards for 31 years. “If there were three songs of the same kind I would be worried because that would mean we’d be in the disco period, where disco just dominated everything for two years.”
The radio and TV presenter said music had been evolving more drastically in recent years than in any time he could remember, and that there was much to celebrate as well as work to be done.
“We have had the breakthrough of the black British writer, Dizzee Rascal was a real pioneer, and that is an important change,” Gambaccini said. “I’ve seen over 31 years the gradual increase of in the percentage of women writers but it is still too low for everybody’s comfort.”
This year’s nominations are still dominated by men. In the best song musically and lyrically category, Sampha’s (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano will compete with Elbow’s Magnificent (She Says) and Everything Everything’s Can’t Do.
In the most performed work category, two Ed Sheeran songs are up against Human by Rag‘n’Bone Man.
One of the few female nominees is the indie folk singer-songwriter Kate Stables, also known as This Is the Kit, in the album category for Moonshine Freeze. Also nominated are Everything Everything for A Fever Dream and Stormzy, winner of two Brit awards this year, for Gang Signs & Prayer.
Vick Bain, the chief executive of the British Academy of Songwriters Composers and Authors, which organises the Ivors, said the nominees were decided by individual juries who spent two days going through submissions with no knowledge of other categories.
“What they are looking at is excellence in songwriting,” she said. “If you look over the 63 years, all the different winners and categories, it is an absolute snapshot of our social history. It is a reflection of who we are from the big band era onwards and I think this list is entirely appropriate and reflective of our culture.”
The winners will be announced on 31 May.