British soul singer Arlo Parks has won the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize for her first full album, Collapsed in Sunbeams.
The 21-year-old was a popular hometown winner as she grew up in Hammersmith, London, where the ceremony was held at the Eventim Apollo venue on Thursday.
Parks’ collection beat records from the likes of Wolf Alice, Celeste, and Mogwai to the award, which celebrates the best British and Irish albums each year comes with £25,000 ($34,650) in prize money.
Accepting the accolade, Parks said she was “completely speechless” before regaining her composure and adding: “It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get here. There were moments where I wasn’t sure whether I would make it through – but I am here today, so thank you very much.”
She then performed the track Too Good to a standing ovation from the audience.
In a statement, the judging panel, which included DJ Annie Mac, musician Jamie Cullum, and songwriter Anna Calvi, said: “It was extremely difficult to choose a winner of the 2021 Hyundai Mercury Prize. There were so many strong albums, of such diversity and character. But in the end we decided that Arlo Parks was an extremely worthy winner.
“Addressing such complex issues as mental health and sexuality with real empathy, displaying a lyrical wisdom that belied her 21 years, with ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ Arlo Parks has created an album that has captured the spirit of the year in a positive, forward thinking fashion.”
Other nominated acts included Sault, Ghetts, Hannah Peel, and Laura Mvula. Previous winners include Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, The xx, Dave, and PJ Harvey.