Arlo Parks won the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize with her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams on Thursday. The singer-songwriter, 21, fended off competition from artists including Wolf Alice, Celeste and Mogwai to win the £25,000 prize at a ceremony in Hammersmith, London
The album was released in January to much acclaim as critics praised its compassion and insight into topics like mental health and sexuality. Parks told the BBC she had written the album “about the things I was scared to talk about or the things that moved me” and composed the first song, “Eugene”, “sitting on the floor eating pasta” while she was still at school.
Parks performed “Too Good” at the event in London, with host Lauren Laverne revealing that Parks told her she used to cycle past the venue on her way to school. You can see her perform the track below.
When she received the reward the singer said “I am completely speechless. I don’t have the words. I just want to say a big thank you to my family. My mum and my dad are somewhere in the room today,”
Arlo Parks or Anais Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho was born in west London to Nigerian and French-Chadian parents. She began writing to escape into a fantasy world, quickly establishing a style combining both emotional directness and rich sensory palate.
She draws much of her inspiration from artists like Elliott Smith, Jill Scott, Frank Ocean and Portishead and was only 17 when she began sending demos to the BBC. Success soon followed with trip-hoppy 2018 debut single “Cola”, which featured heavily in Michaela Coel’s BBC drama I May Destroy You which was written with producer Luca Buccellati and has been streamed over 23 million times on Spotify. You can see her excepting her prize here.
The Mercury Prize, is given to the best British or Irish album of the past 12 months and has been going for 30 years. Previous winners include records such as Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Pulp’s Different Class and Dave’s Psychodrama.
The full list of nominees:
- Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
- Berwyn – Demotape/VEGA
- Black Country, New Road – For The First Time
- Celeste – Not Your Muse
- Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
- Ghetts – Conflict Of Interest
- Hannah Peel – Fir Wave
- Laura Mvula – Pink Noise
- Mogwai – As The Love Continues
- Nubya Garcia – Source
- Sault – Rise
- Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend