Chris Richards: The year has belonged to Adele, but she might not be a lock for the Mercury Prize. The blue eyed soul ladies of yesteryear have not fared well: Joss Stone, snubbed in 2004; Amy Winehouse, snubbed in 2004 and 2007; and Adele herself, snubbed in 2008. That means Katy B's "On A Mission" has a decent shot. The title says plenty — it's the most purposeful pop album I've heard in 2011, it captures a bit of the post-dubstep zeitgeist and it even features a cameo from Ms. Dynamite. Remember her? She won the Mercury Prize in 2002.
Allison Stewart: I'm not sure I'd agree that Adele is a lock — she might be too obvious a choice. The Mercury voters can be, well, mercurial: It's probably anybody's year, but I'm guessing it goes to James Blake, with an outside shot for PJ Harvey, whose "Let England Shake" was too great to be denied. Anna Calvi didn't make enough of an impression; Tinie Tempah and Katie B are too commercial. Elbow, like Harvey, has already won. They might give it to Ghostpoet, just to be confounding.
David Malitz: The self-titled debut by Anna Calvi is my favorite of this bunch. It's all widescreen, cinematic songs — between the arrangements and her booming voice, it feels like something important is happening but without any unnecessary pomp. It hits that PJ Harvey sweet spot maybe even a little better than the PJ Harvey album.