Opinion: What does Young Fathers' second win say about the SAY Awards?
- David Pollock
- 11 September 2018
As Cocoa Sugar wins Scottish Album of the Year Award 2018 we ask should the awards highlight new talent or just celebrate great music?
Last week Young Fathers won the Scottish Album of the Year Award 2018 for their third album proper, Cocoa Sugar, and it's impossible to deny it was very well-deserved. Sonically thrilling, adventurous and expectation-defying, with lyrics which challenge issues of masculinity, race and contemporary politics without ever preaching or forgetting that the first mission of pop music is to entertain, it's an outstanding record – and also one which has lifted them out of the 'former Mercury Prizewinner' pit of expectation and towards fulfilling their undoubtedly huge potential.
Having enjoyed invites to support Paul Weller, LCD Soundsystem and kindred spirits Massive Attack in recent times, they've also graduated into one of the genuinely outstanding live acts of the moment; which I can say with almost complete confidence, as I've missed seeing them four times this year because *circumstances* and been met with incredulous headshakes and uncontainable, gibbering excitement every time I've moaned about it. Either they're that good, or everyone else is trolling me. If anyone is in the same boat, we have one more chance in Glasgow later this year.
In the meantime, Leith's finest are a band whose prizewinning quality no-one can argue with. But what hasn't escaped anyone's attention is the fact they're the first group to have won the SAY twice, following their breakthrough with the mini-album Tape Two in 2014, and it's intriguing to consider what this might mean for the Award. In the past, the career level of each very deserving winner has let to speculation that it works much like a development grant, a chance to give artists like Kathryn Joseph, RM Hubbert or Young Fathers themselves (first time around) the kind of boost they need to continue their careers or take them to the next level.
Arguably, though, this year has been the first instance of an 'established' artist taking home the award; people often point to the likes of Mogwai or Franz Ferdinand in this regard, where the SAY is concerned, but Young Fathers now fall into that category too. On one hand this is a good thing, because it demonstrates that the prize really is there to reward the very best Scottish record of the year, and there's no doubt that Cocoa Sugar was one of the stand-outs of the shortlist.
What were the others? Well it's all subjective, but Siobhan Wilson's outstanding There Are No Saints received blanket acclaim from many people I spoke to, Franz Ferdinand's Always Ascending was a strong inclusion on the shortlist through the public vote, and Golden Teacher's No Luscious Life was a personal favourite. Or, you know, you can paste your own choice here.
I guess what this year's win really says about the SAY Award is that it isn't as predictable as you might think, and that there are expected winners and then there are curveballs which still manage to not feel either constructed or undeserved. Being an established artist in 2018 doesn't mean being a wealthy artist, and the substantial prizemoney on offer is as likely to fund a restlessly pioneering band like Young Fathers in the pursuit of an otherwise unobtainable musical goal as it is any of those others shortlisted. We can't wait to hear what they do next; what any of them do next.