British indie-soul singer and poet Arlo Parks has won the 2021 Mercury Prize for her debut album, Collapsed In Sunbeams.
The 21-year-old beat Wolf Alice, Celeste, and Mogwai amongst others to scoop the £25,000 prize at a ceremony in Hammersmith, London, which is where she grew up.
Parks is the first Mercury Prize winner to be born in the 21st Century, and was left "completely speechless" by her victory.
Judges called her a "singular voice" who "demonstrates how to be quietly strong in a world of extrovert noise".
"It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get here," she said on stage after receiving the award. "There were moments where I wasn't sure whether I would make it through - but I am here today, so thank you very much."
Collapsed In Sunbeams, which was released in January, reached number three in the charts, and has sold 43,000 copies to date.
A vulnerable, intimate record, it encompasses topics such as anxiety and depression while maintaining a strong sense of willfulness and hope. Critics have praised its compassion, and insight into topics such as sexuality and mental health.
This year's list of Mercury Prize nominees was typically eclectic, including some big records by the likes of Celeste and Wolf Alice, and electronic composer Hannah Peel. 10 of the 12 shortlisted albums were debuts, while four were instrumental or partly instrumental.
“The first lockdown was very productive, and I felt very inspired by ideas of nostalgia and what events in my life have shaped me; I felt very fulfilled by writing about that and creating an album around that world,” Parks told Headliner in an interview that took place around this time last year.
“All of my lyrics come from poetry,” she confirmed. “I started putting poetry and spoken word over beats that I made on GarageBand when I was 14 or 15, and I just always gravitated towards the imagery and the sensory nature of poetry. For me it was quite an organic evolution, putting poetry to music, and then I started experimenting with singing.”
Listen to our full interview with Arlo below on Headliner Radio.
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