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He's the coolest man on the planet, according to the NME. So who, exactly, is Alex Turner?

Today's young rock fans are bestowing hero status on someone with a little self-indulgence and a bit more everyday realness. Step forward Alex Turner, the 19-year-old lead singer of Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys, who was yesterday named by NME as the coolest man on the planet.

Arctic Monkeys can do nothing wrong at present, with their first single, I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor, going to number one and remaining in the top 10 for five weeks.

Their success is largely down to Turner's gritty Northern lyrics, which he delivers with a swagger that stops short of the arrogance and posturing shown by previous British rock stars, from Liam Gallagher of Oasis to Johnnie Borrell of Razorlight.

One track, Mardy Bum, uses Turner's Sheffield vernacular to berate a girlfriend for her sourness. "Now then Mardy Bum/I see your frown/And it's like looking down the barrel of a gun."

Turner's propulsion from anonymity to stardom has been remarkably swift. Just three years after being given a guitar for Christmas and forming a band with his schoolfriend Jamie Cook, the Yorkshire teenager has the world at his feet.

NME's associate editor, Alex Needham, said Arctic Monkeys songs were performed "in a language that people use every day but is not put in the context of a pop song very often".

Needham said that Turner offered an exciting alternative to more manufactured elements of the music industry. "I think what people really want at the moment is authenticity," he said. "[Turner] is almost like a new breed of rock star, almost like year zero. He has come straight from the audience on to the stage."

The Arctic Monkeys have generated an extraordinary groundswell of interest in a band so young. Partly that is the result of frenzied coverage from NME and other media outlets with a vested interest in building up emerging British bands. But it is also due to a grassroots approval that has grown on the internet.

As Needham points out: "Their demos were disseminated around message boards in a totally new way of doing things. The Arctic Monkeys have worked right outside the record company structure and that is really radical."

They may have started underground but Arctic Monkeys are already selling out large London venues and have gone international, playing live in New York, Stockholm and Barcelona. Their new single, When The Sun Goes Down, will be released in January and is already guaranteed to be a hit.

It was the Babyshambles frontman and former Libertine Doherty who, along with other bands such as the Others, introduced a new era of closer relationships between British bands and their young fans.

But Doherty, who was joint number one in the cool list last year with fellow member of the Libertines Carl Barat, has slipped down to number seven. This in spite of being all over the NME and the newspapers on an almost weekly basis, as his relationship with the supermodel Kate Moss has provided British pop with its own soap opera.

A decade after the Gallagher brothers invaded the mainstream consciousness, the petulant Liam is once again a cool icon, second only to Turner.

And in spite of Eminem and Morrissey dropping off the list altogether, there is room for Bob Dylan, at number nine, making him the oldest example of cool on NME's list.

As well as an Arctic Monkey, there is a King Monkey on the list in the shape of Ian Brown, who at number 11 is cool again 16 years after the Stone Roses' prime.

Whether Alex Turner will be bothered about heading such a list is a moot point. Even Needham admits the down-to-earth Yorkshire teenager will probably be "a bit embarrassed by it". Then again, he says, "the people who are the most nonchalant are the coolest".

The Cool List

Last year's places in brackets

1. (New) Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys

2. (New) Liam Gallagher, Oasis

3. (New) Kanye West

4. (New) Antony, Antony and the Johnsons (above)

5. (9) Brandon Flowers, The Killers

6. (17) Devendra Banhart

7. (=1) Pete Doherty, Babyshambles

8. (New) Jemima Pearl, Be Your Own Pet

9. (New) Bob Dylan

10. (=1) Carl Barat, The Libertines

11. (New) Ian Brown

12. (New) Damon Albarn (left)

13. (New) Ryan Jarman, The Cribs

14. (New) Julian Casablancas, The Strokes

15. (New) Ninja, Go! Team

16. (New) Paul Epworth

17. (New) Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day

18. (New) Tom Atkin, The Paddingtons

19. (New) Henry Harrison, The Mystery Jets

20. (New) Gerard Way, My Chemical Romance