Simon Frith: Antony and co shine in year without character

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The Independent Online

When you come to the judging meeting, you have to go from 12 to one and it's always going to be fraught. It's a process where people have to accept that the people they thought were winners are different from what other judges think should win. It wouldn't be a fun meeting if there weren't raised voices.

Who won last year is irrelevant because you're listening to the albums you're listening to. And you don't talk about the state of music today, that's for academics. You can't be unaffected by the buzzes going on but you do have to talk about the music in front of you.

The Mercury is particularly about the music of the year and a lot of the critics think this year hasn't had a very clear character. It's a very unusual shortlist because there's such a broad range of music. It would have been very hard to predict.

But when you listen to the arguments, Antony and the Johnsons is the record that makes the best sense.

I think with Antony and the Johnsons that there was a sense that it was a very remarkable album. Clearly, he's got his own completely individual voice which is nothing like anybody else's voice around. It's one of those records you can't listen to without being moved. So I think he's a great singer but when you get through the voice, he's also a very gifted songwriter. It's a very emotional record.

Simon Frith is an author, academic and chair of the Nationwide Mercury Prize judges