Icons make way for more cutting-edge acts in Mojo awards

From the Clash to James Brown, the Mojo awards made a point of recognising the elder statesmen of popular music when they were launchedlast year.

Not this year. The organisers of 2004's back-slapping music extravaganza in Whitehall yesterday unveiled their attempt to make the event more cutting edge by adding to the nominees a gender-bending cabaret artist and a singer who once lived in a chicken coop.

Although the Mojo honours list will remain dominated by awards for music's longer-serving souls, from David Bowie to Kate Bush, the category of best new act has been added for a more contemporary feel.

But anyone expecting a shortlist of new talent to catalogue current hot properties of mainstream pop, such as Franz Ferdinand or the Libertines, will be disappointed. The shortlist for the new category includes some established names such as the piano-playing balladeer Rufus Wainwright and Britain's new soul rockers, the Magic Numbers. But it also features a number of unknowns, including Antony and the Johnsons, led by Antony Hegarty, a British-born New York cabaret artist with a voice like Nina Simone's who sings about gender identity and femininity. Another nominee is Ray LaMontagne, an American guitarist whose itinerant childhood was spent in accommodation ranging from a breezeblock shed on a horse ranch to a chicken coop in New Hampshire.

A spokesman for the awards said: "Even though we have added this category, it is not about rewarding the glitzy side of pop. We are interested in musicians who are doing something genuinely interesting."

The awards, to be held in London on 16 June, will nonetheless remain largely founded in offering recognition to musical names who are as likely to be offered gongs by Buckingham Palace as the NME.

At the inaugural ceremony last year, held at the ornate 17th century Banqueting House on Whitehall, the announcement of one award was preceded by a fanfare from four Household Cavalry trumpeters.

The nominations for the Mojo icon award 2005 include Bowie, who once reputedly turned down a CBE, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Bolan and the Ramones.

Among the four categories to be decided by votes from readers of Mojo magazine is the award for the most inspirational performer or band. The nominees include Morrissey, Tom Waits and Neil Young, whose average age is 54.

Organisers insisted they were right to eschew the vagaries of the charts and focus on career-long contributions to music.

Phil Alexander, the editor-in-chief of Mojo magazine, said: "While other awards celebrate the biggest names and best releases of the preced-ing year, we believe there's long been a need to properly honour the extraordinary talents of the artists, bands and song writers whose careers have been responsible for enhancing our rich musical culture."

The 13 categories include an award for the best back-catalogue release whose nominees include Motown singles from 1959 to 1961 and the work of the blues legend Muddy Waters from 1952 to 1958.

The nominations

SONGWRITER AWARD

Paul Weller; Brian Wilson; Damien Rice; Van Morrison; Kate Bush

BEST NEW ACT

Antony and the Johnsons; Ray LaMontangne; Rufus Wainwright; Arcade Fire; Willy Mason; The Magic Numbers

VISION AWARD

AC/DC, Family Jewels; Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback Special; Live Aid; Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues; Marc Bolan/T. Rex, Born To Boogie; The Rolling Stones, Rock and Roll Circus

ICON AWARD

David Bowie; John Lydon; Siouxsie Sioux; Marc Bolan; The Ramones

CATALOGUE RELEASE OF THE YEAR

The Mamas & Papas, Complete Anthology; The Clash, London Calling 25th Anniversary Edition; Jeff Buckley, Grace 10th Anniversary Edition; The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society; Jack Nitzsche Story 1962-1979, Hearing is Believing; The Fall, The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004

INSPIRATION AWARD

Pixies; Gang of Four; Tom Waits; Morrissey; Neil Young

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