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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Bowie battles young guns for Mercury
The Streets
The Streets have been hotly tipped
Rock veteran David Bowie has joined a host of the hottest new acts from the UK and Ireland on the shortlist for this year's prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

Early favourites are hip-hop newcomer The Streets, Mancunian rockers Doves, garage singer Ms Dynamite and psychedelic Merseyside group The Coral.

2002 shortlist
Beverley Knight
The Bees
The Coral
David Bowie
Doves
The Electric Soft Parade
Gemma Hayes
Guy Barker
Joanna MacGregor
Ms Dynamite
Roots Manuva
The Streets
Bowie earned a surprise nomination for his first album in three years, Heathen.

The chairman of the judges, Simon Frith, described the shortlist as "the most joyful" for years.

But the Coral's guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones, told BBC News Online that he found the nomination "bizarre" and that he could not imagine winning.

"Things like this, when you get told - you're happy instantly but it's not until a few days later that it actually sinks in," he said.

The new editor of the New Musical Express, Conor McNicholas, described it as "the coffee table album award" and said it was a "very safe" selection.

He added that he would be "astonished" if The Coral did not win.

But Simon Frith said the shortlist reflected the "amazing number" of younger artists who were emerging.

Bowie also deserved to be nominated because he had a quality in his voice that no other singer could match, he said.

Doves
Doves have earned their second nomination
"That's what this record is all about - it's about singing, not hiding the voice under guitars.

"Bowie has never been nominated before, but it may well be that he has actually never been entered by his record company before."

David Bowie himself was unfazed by the honour.

Currently touring in the US, the 55-year-old joked: "Time to get a new suit, then."

"I'll be phoning McQueen pronto," he added, referring to designer Alexander McQueen.

Favourites

The consensus in the music industry was that The Streets was the front-runner, Mr Frith said.

"I don't really think of The Streets album as a rap record - it seems to me that it's like a folk record. Its sense of articulation is very different, it's a real one-off."

The Streets and Doves are joint 4-1 favourites, according to bookmakers William Hill.

Past Mercury winners
1992 Primal Scream
1993 Suede
1994 M People
1995 Portishead
1996 Pulp
1997 Roni Size & Reprazent
1998 Gomez
1999 Talvin Singh
2000 Badly Drawn Boy
2001 PJ Harvey
Singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes, dubbed "the Irish Dido", said it felt "damn good" to be nominated for her debut, Night On My Side.

Soul singer Beverley Knight was "thrilled" to included in what she said was probably the most eclectic shortlist ever, while Aaron Fletcher of Isle of Wight duo The Bees said they were "over the moon".

Pianist Joanna MacGregor, whose styles range from classical to modern, said the shortlist was exciting.

"This is a list which really recognises the blurring of musical boundaries and the way musicians move freely between different musics," she said.

Trumpeter Guy Barker, who was also nominated in 1995, said he was not worried about being seen as the token jazz artist, and believes he is there on merit.

"I went through this last time, but there have been certain years when there haven't been jazz records in there. And the nomination always tends to do us quite a lot of good because it gets the music across to a wider audience."

Credibility

Established a decade ago, the Mercury Prize is the music world's answer to the Booker Prize in literature or the Turner Prize in art.

It is awarded for the best album of the last year by acts from the UK or Ireland.

Last year's 20,000 prize was won by PJ Harvey, who accepted the award by phone from Washington on 11 September.

The shortlist and winner are decided by a group of judges who look for creativity and artistic credibility, rather than commercial success.

The award ceremony takes place on 17 September. Coverage is being shared by BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio 1.



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