By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter
Girls Aloud have now won the Popjustice prize four times
As Elbow collected their £20,000 Mercury Award in Park Lane's swanky Grosvenor House, Girls Aloud were awarded a crisp £20 note by a panel of judges squeezed into a tiny London pub.
The Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize, now in its sixth year, is given out on the same night as the Mercury, and rewards the best British single of the last 12 months.
I was among the judges who bestowed this prestigious honour on the Girls Aloud's Call The Shots - which triumphed over the Sugababes' About You Now in a fraught last-minute showdown.
The tongue-in-cheek ceremony had none of the star power of its big brother - but I couldn't help wondering whether the Mercury panel had been quite as rigorous in reaching their decision.
Did they, as we had, debate which song was most likely to encourage pandas to mate?
It wasn't a topic I personally felt qualified to discuss, but luckily one of the jurors worked in a zoo. (Girls Aloud are a powerful panda aphrodisiac, just so you know).
The 30-odd judges were all readers of the Popjustice music website - and ranged from music industry professionals to die-hard pop fans.
There was even a former boy band member amongst us.
Aside from the main event, we were given a series of extra tasks, including the "opportunity" to design Britney Spears' new album sleeve (mine was called The Nun).
But the serious business began with a shortlist of 12 songs, ranging from Goldfrapp's folky ballad A&E to the clattering dance-rock of Bloc Party's Flux.
Leona Lewis's exit was one of the night's most controversial decisions
As proceedings kicked off, we each had to nominate one track for an instant, Big Brother-style eviction.
Amy Winehouse - who won the prize last year with Rehab - was ignominiously booted out for her near-ubiquitous version of Valerie with Mark Ronson.
"Poor Amy, though, she's had a bad year," noted Popjustice editor Peter Robinson, who presided over the event.
Later rounds saw artists pitched against each other, two at a time, with the panel's favourite put through to the next stage of voting.
A particularly vociferous argument broke out when Groove Armada and Mutya Buena's "instantaneously brilliant" Song 4 Mutya went up against Girls Aloud's "self-indulgent" single.
A&E - Goldfrapp
About You Now - Sugababes
Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
Call The Shots - Girls Aloud
Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal feat Calvin Harris
Flux - Bloc Party
Money - Daggers
That's Not My Name - The Ting Tings
Valerie - Mark Ronson feat Amy Winehouse
Ready For The Floor - Hot Chip (pictured)
Song 4 Mutya (Out Of Control) - Groove Armada feat Mutya Buena
Stuck On Repeat - Little Boots
"If we vote out Mutya," noted Jamie Smy, "she will come to every one of us in our beds tonight and scratch our faces off."
Despite the implied violence from a notoriously bad-tempered former Sugababe, the song went out.
A more contentious moment came when the smokers on the panel (all three of them) were sent out to choose between Leona Lewis's globe-straddling megahit Bleeding Love and Bloc Party's Flux.
Almost apologetically, they returned from their cigarette break to announce they had plumped for Bloc Party.
"Bleeding Love is the best second single ever by a reality star," they noted, "but Kele Okereke is a much better pop star."
As the shortlist narrowed down, the methods of choosing between people's favourite songs became more and more bizarre.
Which band had the best use of hair straighteners? What could a scientist tell us about the relative merits of Dizzee Rascal? Whose single artwork employed the best font?
At one point, Robinson demanded the judges' iPods so he could examine which songs they had played the most.
By the time the list has been whittled down to the UK's top two girl bands, there had been several stand-up arguments and at least one table overturned (it was being danced on, to be fair).
Choreography was a key factor in the judges decisions
It was noted that About You Now and Call The Shots were both great British pop songs - but each fell short of the high standards set by the bands' previous songs.
Three brave souls stepped forward to sing a capella versions of the songs in an attempt to settle an argument over which had the more memorable melody.
Personally, I thought the Sugababes song presented a perfect piece of pop songwriting - with a bittersweet lyric, melodic progression and clever harmonies.
But, as I noted on my judging form, Girls Aloud's track was simply more original. Fellow judge Laura Leishman pointed out that Call The Shots depicted a more "mature and sophisticated relationship".
It was also praised for employing metaphor.
A tense atmosphere fell over the room as our final decisions were tallied - and a euphoric cheer greeted the announcement of Girls Aloud's victory.
If anything the night showed that, with the record industry in supposed crisis, pop fans are still incredibly passionate about their favourite artists.
Also, smokers hate Leona Lewis.