Artist Spotlight: Arlo Parks Wins 2021 Mercury Prize


Arlo Parks. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Arlo Parks has won the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize. This award is given for the best British album of the year, which Parks has won for Collapsed in Sunbeams. Parks released the album, her first studio album, in January via Beatnik and Transgressive. In honor of her achievement, we’ve decided to take a look back at her career.

Early Career

Arlo Parks was born on August 9, 2000 as Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho. The London-based artist is openly bisexual and uses her music as a way to connect with fellow Gen-Zers. Her themes usually contain topics that relate to the young generation. Parks began recording music in 2018 by ending demos to BBC Music Introduction. This proved successful and ultimately led to her debut EP, Super Sad Generation, released in April 2019. The first single from this album, and her first released single, was “Cola,” which was enough for the young artist to get noticed and signed by Transgressive Records. Eight months later, she released her second EP, Sophie. During this year, the British artist played her first performance at The Great Escape in Brighton. A few months later and she was performing at Glastonbury Festival. 

“From the very first moment I played Arlo’s debut single “Cola” in late 2018, it was clear to me that she had the potential to go all the way”, Apple Music presenter Matt Wilkinson said of Arlo Parks. “Musicians like her come around only a handful of times every year – if you’re lucky. That’s why we threw our support behind her from the start: over the past two years, Arlo has appeared on my show talking about leaving school, performing live poetry, catching up just before her debut gig at The Great Escape Festival, and trying to make sense of all the incredible hype building up around her! So as we kick off 2021, it makes perfect sense that right now, on the cusp of releasing a classic debut album, she is named Apple Music’s latest Up Next artist”.

All of this resulted in a European headlining tour at the beginning of last year. Unfortunately, Parks was forced to cancel due to the ongoing pandemic. She used the time in lockdown to create more music and released “Eugene” and “Black Dog.” By now, Parks’ popularity is growing faster than most young artists. She landed on the cover of NME in late July. Following this, Parks won the AIM Independent Music Award for One to Watch in 2020, which she lost to Georgia the year before. All of this comes without a studio album, which is going to change in early 2021.

Recent Rise to Fame

Arlo Parks finals release her debut studio album, Collapsed in Sunbeams,  at the start of 2021, only three years after beginning her career. It immediately received high praise from several music critics. The album reached the top 10 in five different countries, including the United States and the UK. Parks created gold, and her music is something everyone needs to listen to.

“It’s this mixture of nerves and excitement,” Parks to Notion. “It feels like it’s been an eternity that I’ve been sitting on these songs. There’s this mixed bundle of emotions that comes with putting those out into the world when they’ve been your private oasis for a while.” I think that this album is very much about being a human being,” said Parks. “And there are so many peaks and troughs. I think that it’s a balance of talking about difficult, complicated things unflinchingly, but also trying to highlight that possibility for joy and documenting the highs and the lows of growing up.”

Following the release, Parks began to receive several nominations for different awards. The album was nominated at the 2021 Brit Awards for Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best British Female Solo Artist. While all of these nominations proved she was a force to reckon with, none of them proved greater than the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize. Parks won the award over several other great artists, including Sault, Nubya Garcia, Wolf Alice, Floating Points, and Pharoah Sanders, Berwyn, Mogwai, and more. Last year’s award was given to Michael Kiwanuka, who won over Charlie XCX, Dualists Lipa, and Laura Marling. Following her acceptance speech, Park performed “Too Good” for the crowd. You can see the performance below. 

“We chose an artist with a singular voice who uses lyrics of remarkable beauty … and connects deeply with her generation as she does so,” said judge Annie MacManus. 

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