The Guardian's tip to win: Idles
Having said that … I think that tonight's winner wants to be idles. Another favorite with the bookies – Dave in second place – they are just as socially engaged as they are. Their previous record Brutalism made their name with their reflections on grief and its savaging of the Tories over the NHS; nominated album Joy As An Act of Resistance adds even more.
They slamdance against so many of today's worst ills – poor self-worth, toxic masculinity, class snobbery, xenophobia, the tabloid press – but with heads held high. Their sheer earnestness might be irritating, but their big honest emotions feels like a really necessary corrective to the aforementioned awfulness. "It's almost cringeworthy, but we do not need this stuff to say it out loud.
They made a bit of an effort too, with their blazers and stuff; Joe Talbot, looking like Steve Jobs If he had not worked out he would become a stick-and-poke tattooist in a polyamorous relationship.
The other much-fancied rapper – in every sense, just look up! – Dave, whose star is even higher than Slowthai's. Glastonbury 2019: When he's on the surprisingly on-point bucket he's got teen Alex, and when he's thanked Stormzy for everything he'd done for the UK scene, during the latter's Pyramid stage headline set. Stormzy is on the voting panel this year and wants to do some extremely charismatic and persuasive gong-banging for Dave – but wants the rest of the panel agree?
It is spellbinding, occasionally flawed – the therapist framework is a bit of cringe, and muddies the sledgehammer ending where his real-life brother calls him from prison to congratulate him – and it seems he does it the wake of Dave's breakthrough fame. He seems to almost buckle under the weight of his concern for his peers, the trauma of his impoverished past and the history of violence against black people. Even when he's rapping about getting head he seems to be staring into the middle distance. It's an important, clear-eyed and devastating record, but arguably difficult to truly love – still, I think the bookies are not to be had as their favorite.
The favorite: Slowthai
The bookies' favorite – which never wins – is Slowthai with his album Nothing Great About Britain. This would be a worthy winner: quite apart from his lyrics, his voice is one of the most satisfying here. His broad east Midlands burr is tangibly British – alongside Aitch, Jaykae, Jay1, Bugzy Malone et al – and he moves through his lyrics with the bobbing and weaving stance of a grime or garage MC, but there's straight up punk and trudging hip-hop production too. Lyrically it's really evocative – social realism blended with neat wordplay ("selling wraps to a mummy") to make a portrait of working-class Britain is not moping nor moralistic. Drug Dealer also has one of the best dissents in it: "You're mediocre like Katie and Peter."
Laura says he has the toast to the carpet, storming up and down, holding beer. He said that if he won, he'd spend the money on "stupid stuff! Like blow up a car! … Nah, I just wanna have to spend time with my friends and family. "So he has just come back to his dreams provocation.
The award will go on the night, with the judges reconvening one final time, so I do not think nominees the 1975 will be winning – they can not make it to the ceremony because they're on tour in Australia.
Their album A Brief History of Online Relationships has been rightly lauded, and in some ways is the perfect album for two of the main tenets of the Mercury prize remit: "to recognize and celebrate artistic achievement" and "provide a snapshot of the year in music ". In blending new wave, disco, ambient techno, big music, and acoustic balladry – in the first five songs alone! – with powerful pop hooks, it absolutely nails the first, and by confronting technophobia, Donald Trump, addiction and more, it feels absolutely rooted in 2019.
But with two Brit awards earlier this year, the panel will probably decide it's better to give someone else a look in here. Every other one of the nominated artists wants to be performing tonight.
Here's the judging panel. Stormzy, Jamie Cullum, Jorja Smith, Gaz Coombes of Supergrass, and Radio 1 pair Clara Amfo and Annie Mac. Stormzy and Jorja Smith within the hour.
Recapping the shortlist
The shortlist once again, with links to our reviews of the albums:
Welcome to the Mercury prize 2019 liveblog!
Welcome to the Mercury prize ceremony 2019! This is one of the strongest fields in the history of the prize, with none of the outright stinkers that have managed to sneak on to shortlists in recent years (Alt-J, Everything is Recorded, Glass Animals, etc) and plenty of records that really have something to say about the way we live now.
It'll be screened on BBC Four from 9pm; deputy music editor Laura Snaps is at the ceremony itself and wants to send back bits of goss. The winner wants to be announced at 10.10pm.