Ed Sheeran said he is “aware he won’t win” the Mercury Prize but that just being nominated has fulfilled a childhood dream.
The Shape Of You singer’s album Divide was a surprise inclusion on the shortlist for the prestigious prize, which sees him go up against acts including Stormzy, The xx and Alt-J.
But Sheeran has hit back at critics of him being chosen by saying that he does not expect to walk away with the title for the winning album in 2017.
In an Instagram post, he wrote: “My dream when I first started music was to sell out Shepherd’s Bush empire and have a Mercury nominated album.
“Did the latter on the first album but have never been nominated on either album so just assumed it would ever happen, as I’m aware, I’m not the most critically acclaimed artist out there.
“But today, low and behold, woke up to find out Divide has been shortlisted.
“Now I’m aware I won’t win, but to be put on the shortlist is a real honour, and something that makes both 26 year old me and 13 year old me very happy and proud.
“So thank you to whoever put me up for it, I’m sorry I can’t make the ceremony as I am still touring the USA. But thank you. You rock x”
His fans supported him in comments on the post.
One person wrote: “You deserve this !! So proud of you.. got tears while reading this.. we love you so much and we’ll support you no matter what happens.”
Another added: “Thank YOU, for sharing your talents & the joy of music with the world. You deserve all of this & so much more. I love you xx”
Sheeran recently quit Twitter after admitting he found it difficult being targeted by online trolls, but still updates his Instagram account.
Prize judge Ella Eyre defended Sheeran’s third album’s inclusion on the list.
She told the Press Association: “He had one of the biggest albums of the year you can’t deny that, you can’t deny there’s that many people who enjoy that album and I have to say you cannot deny that he can write a bloody good pop song.
“He is a very talented man and I think that album I really enjoyed and I think a lot of us did.”
Other artists competing to win include rapper J Hus, indie pop band Blossoms, spoken word poet Kate Tempest, singer-songwriter Sampha, rapper Loyle Carner, jazz-inflected group Dinosaur, London four-piece The Big Moon and Oxford indie-rock band Glass Animals.
The shortlist includes seven debut artists and two former Mercury Prize winners – The xx in 2010 and Alt-J in 2012.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony on September 14 at the Eventim Apollo in London.
Last year the Hyundai Mercury Prize was won by grime artist Skepta.