Playing Catch-Up: Amy Winehouse’s Bravura Mercury Performance, Jude Law Arrested.

Lots to catch everyone up on from the past week, which saw the announcement of this year’s Mercury Prize winner. Let’s get to it:

  • She’s alive: surprise guest Amy Winehouse wowed the audience at Tuesday’s Mercury Prize ceremony with a smoky rendition of “Love Is a Losing Game” – but The Klaxons walked awaywith the gong. Why? Because they were more “forward-looking” than the “retro” Winehouse. Blather blather blather. Meanwhile, NME reports that the Klaxons and Winehouse saw sales bumps after the Mercurys.
  • Popjustice rights the Mercury committee’s wrong andgives their 20 Quid Prize to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,”which I myself selected as the best single of 2006.
  • From the Mercury Prize to the Bookers: the shortlist has been announced. The five nominees are Nicola Barker‘s Darkmans, Anne Enright‘s The Gathering, Mohsin Hamid‘s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Ian McEwan‘s On Chesil Beach, and Indra Sinha‘s Animal’s People.
  • Sharon Osbourne plans to quit X-Factor?
  • Jude Law was arrested for allegedly beating up aphotographer.
  • Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern calls the BBC “one of the most racist institutions in England.” (Interestingly, BBC itself has the report.) McGovern told BBC Five Live: “I love the BBC as an institution and as an organization and you do see lots of black faces in the BBC. But you see them in the canteen. You do not see them in positions of power.” Hey, what about me? I’m black. Oh wait…there’s that whole thing about having power.
  • Why isn’t there a single black musician in BBC’s “Radio 1 Legends” series, which invites artists like Paul McCartney and the Arctic Monkeys to present their favorite tracks of the past 40 years? The Guardian‘s Alex Marshall says, “You’ve got to ask what the hell’s happened for this to arise. The BBC’s normally on the look out for any form of discrimination, so Radio 1′s commissioning team must have discussed the issue but simply decided that no black musician over the last forty years is worthy of legend status among its listeners.”

Driving Marshall’s point home, three of the top five UK singles this week belong to black artists. Sean Kingston‘s “Beautiful Girls” replaces Kanye West‘s “Stronger” at No. 1. Rihanna looks to provide a challenge next week with “Shut Up and Drive” (No. 5), her follow up to the record-breaking “Umbrella.” James Blunt is about as far away from black as one can get, but his new song “1973″ managed to debut at No. 10 this week.

1. Sean Kingston – Beautiful Girls
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2. Kanye West – Stronger
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3. Plain White T’s – Hey ThereDelilah
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4. Robyn ft Kleerup – With EveryHeartbeat
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5. Rihanna – Shut Up and Drive
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6. Timbaland ft. Keri Hilson, D.O.E.,and Sebastian – The Way I Are
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7. Gym Class Heroes – Clothes Off
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8. Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
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9. Freaks – The Creeps (Get On the Dancefloor)
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10. James Blunt – 1973
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By the way, I managed to catch the Arctic Monkeys concert last night at Central Park’s Summerstage here in New York. I came to a realization: the Monkeys are much easier to respect than to like. Tell that to the massive crowd who showed up for the Sheffield-based band: they made a rave of it, dancing and pogo-ing and singing along with every word that came out of Alex Turner‘s mouth. The Arctic Monkeys certainly know how to rock, and they are tighter than they’ve ever been, but they are simply static. On stage, they just…stand there. Turner’s a real cutie, and his gushing at the audience was genuine and even moving (“You guys are just a delight”), but his pop star charisma only comes in flashes. His lyrical dexterity often comes at the sacrifice of songcraft and melody, although hummable tunes like the already-classic “Fluorescent Adolescent” show growth. I haven’t given up on them: they are still far more distinct and intelligent than the 300 other UK indie bands, but they have a ways to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as Pulp.

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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