Antony and the Johnsons have won the Mercury Music Prize this year for the album I Am A Bird Now.
The £20,000 award for the best album of the year by a British or Irish act is voted for by a panel of industry experts, journalists and artists.
Lead singer Antony Hegarty was born in Chicester but has lived in New York for more than 20 years. He says he was influenced by many UK artists including Boy George and Marc Almond.
The Leeds-based Kaiser Chiefs had been the favourites to win the award.
What do you think of the panel's decision? Did Antony and the Johnsons deserve to beat the other acts? Send us your reactions and comments.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Fantastic choice. Antony performed in a Leonard Cohen tribute at the Sydney Opera House last January. His hesitant stage entrance and dishevelled appearance caused murmurs of 'what's this about?' from a crowd there to see Nick Cave, Beth Orton and the other top-billers. But within the first four bars he had us on the edge of our seats and by the end of his song, we were hollering and stamping for more. I've never seen an audience so captured. I knew then that I'd seen a great star.
Martin Browne, Australia
What a rubbish decision! There were some much better bands up. Still at least it wasn't that middle of the road dribble known as Coldplay!
As soon as it won I downloaded it to check it out - wasn't worth it as it is dull. Only moving to those who cry during Bambi.
Fantastic. Saw him in June and was ecstatic. Truly stunning. Nina would have been proud. My friends said he wouldn't win. I always knew he would.
I only heard Antony for the first time on Saturday and I never noticed that he was up for nomination. However, I'm really happy he has won. The album is fantastic.
I had the great pleasure of working with Antony here at Performance Space 122 in New York a few years back. Not only is he one of the most unique and brilliant musical performers of our day, but he is also a genuinely nice person, something that is all too rare in talented people today. A much deserved award and recognition.
Derek Lloyd, USA
Antony thoroughly deserved to win as he has provided such a unique album that transcends the limitations and imitations of other genre bound bands.
Nick, Sydney, Australia
Antony and the Johnsons are incredible! I've seen their ethereal performances at Joe's Pub in NYC - amazing!
Chandler Moss, USA
Not exactly my choice, but whole attraction of the Mercury Prize is the unpredictability. Personally, for quality and impact, I would have chosen the Kaiser Chiefs, but maybe they were too close musically to Franz Ferdinand - then there would have been criticism of being mainstream and predictability.
Andy Everitt, England
For months I've been telling people to check out Antony and the Johnsons, yet nobody wanted to know, but finally it seems the band will be getting the recognition they deserve. Antonys' voice is beautiful on record, yet cannot be fully appreciated until you hear him in person. For once, the best act won the Mercury Music Prize.
Dmun, Birmingham, UK
At least the Kaiser Chiefs didn't win. One day Coldplay will win it, hopefully!
Undeserved - he has a great voice but the material is sadly lacking - once he comes back with some decent songs - then maybe i'll pay attention
RV, Adams, UK
Excellent news, the only nominee that was truly deserving of a major award such as this. I defy anyone to listen to I'm a Bird Now and not (at the very least) acknowledge that this artist and his band possess a beautiful and unique talent.
Simon Ashton, London, UK
Truly original, a stunning voice, lyrics and melodies to drive any person with a heart and a soul to tears. Fantastic that they won, I'm pleased one of the bigger bands didn't win. Great performances by Seth Lakeman and KT Tunstall too.
Yet another abysmal Mercury Music Prize event. This is what happens when the play lists on national radio are selected by balding middle-aged men who don't go to gigs: turgid, insipid music of the sort in evidence tonight becomes 'popular' and wins awards. The only exciting, talented and challenging artists - Bloc Party and Seth Lakeman - were passed over in favour of music so bland it'd be a cheap alternative to anaesthetic for our cash-strapped National Health Service.
Chris, Cornwall, UK
A worthy winner indeed. I second most of the comments on here. I first heard him after he appeared in 'Animal Factory' and went on to look him up...so very glad I did and yes looking forward to the winter tour!
What a pleasant surprise! The Kaiser Chiefs and Coldplay don't need any additional publicity. The public however do need to discover Antony and The Johnsons. An arresting, original and moving album - well done Mercury for recognising this.
Ross, Berkshire, UK
Fair play to Antony and the Johnsons for the victory, I felt it was a hard decision on the fantastic Magic Numbers, glad Coldplay didn't win it, Chris Martins ego doesn't deserve the further boost.
There is no real way of describing Antony and the Johnsons. He sounds a bit like Nina Simone. This second album is amazing and you have to buy it - along with the first one! It's a testament to show that there is truly original music out there instead of the copycat droll of bands like the Kaisers et al... Well done Antony!
This was a shock! I think Antony and the Johnsons' album is one of the best this year, and it's miles above such boring stuff as Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs, and - God forbid - Coldplay. The Mercury Prize had such a bad reputation before, but now I sort of dig them. Perhaps more people will not only discover Antony and the Johnsons, but also Secretly Canadian - the label that nurtured A and the Js and which got lots of excellent acts.
Fantastic winner - a truly unique and wonderful album that captivated me from first hearing - and up against so much other good stuff too. How nice to see a major prize going to something decent for a change....
Out of a list of some genuinely talented and progressive bands and artists, they chose the one that sounds like a fifty year-old woman gargling someone's teenage poetry. Lyrically, vocally, melodically, rhythmically, harmonically and technically abysmal. This is an album for people who say they are 'proper' music fans, but can't read or write a note.
Antony is definitely the artist of the year. He is a revelation for me. His voice, his presence, his beautiful texts. Saw him live twice this year. He impressed me so much. Total respect and ovation.
This decision has restored my faith in the music critics. There was only one choice and the judges made it. Antony and the Johnson's I am a Bird Now is the most beautiful and extraordinary album you will ever hear. Respect to all the other artists but we really have heard it before.
Darren S, UK
I absolutely can't stand this album. I have a violent physical reaction to it. However, a lot of my friends seem to love it and at least it was an interesting and unusual choice, which is what these kind of prizes should support. I just wish someone would destroy my flatmate's copy so that I don't have to hear it!
Lucy, Edinburgh, Scotland
I was so sure MIA was going to win - I almost went and put a fiver on her! It seemed to me that hers was the only album that could never have been made before 2005, but that's probably because I've never listened to the winner. I'm sure that will change now, which after all is half the point of the Mercury. Coldplay/Kaisers/Bloc Party, much as I like the albums, were never going to win. They'd already passed the 'Mercury point' on the mainstream exposure thermometer.
Did I miss something? This is dire. I feel like I have missed the punchline in a joke. This cannot be serious. When I heard him sing I laughed. It was only when I got strange looks that I realised he voice wasn't a joke. It may be "different" but it's not good. Even the chap ripping off Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on the violin was better.
A very unique sound young Antony and his band have. However, I think The Go! Team should have walked away with the award - A simply stunning 'clash' of sounds - and cheerleaders!
Robert Jason, England
I'm in the 'just don't get it camp'. I think it sounds awful! However, diversity is more important than pleasing everyone, so congratulations to them and the Mercury people.
Surprised to say the least, didn't think the Mercury judges had the balls to go for such a splendid and unique album - I really thought they would go for something safe like so many other years, - it knocks me out every time I listen to it - what a voice!
Great choice. I think Antony should rank along side Jeff Buckley as a truly great and unique singer/song writer and has succeeded in creating his very own 'Grace'. Good work.
Antony really deserves this. The fact that he has won this award makes me realise that maybe not all is lost. Musical quality and beauty are still valued, despite all the dreadful stuff that is being produced. Congratulations, Antony, and thanks for giving us such beautiful and moving songs.
At 9pm tonight I hadn't a clue who this artist was. Never heard of him and , frankly, wasn't bothered. Two hours later and my eyes have been opened. What a fantastic voice! What a fantastic sound! The song he sang tonight was amazing! I now know who Antony is and I'm all the better for it. Tomorrow I go and buy the album. Thank you Mercury Music Prize! Bravo 'Antony and the Johnsons'. Bravo!
Tess Smyth, Nantwich, Cheshire
It's good for those who got quality rather than their sales of records. Congratulations. I am especially proud of MIA Maya Arulpragasam's performance who came to UK as a refugee child from Sri Lanka. It's wonderful that she is not forgotten for her origin but honoured for her ability.
Baylon Yoga, UK
I am sorry but I think the Kaiser Chiefs or Maximo Park should have won tonight, I just do not understand one bit how Anthony and the Johnsons won. Bring on the Brits.
Phil Thornton, England
I'll be honest, beforehand I was cheering for Bloc Party and Maximo Park, but after his performance, I think everyone knew there was only one winner, he was spine tinglingly beautiful, and he was in a league of his own. Never a better winner.
Josh Woodbridge, England, Sheffield
A lovely, haunting, unique and brilliant album and a worthy winner (which, smugly, I picked when the shortlist was announced). With the strongest shortlist for many years, The Go! Team or Seth Lakeman would also have been worthy winners. Maximo Park, Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs are poor imitations of 20-year-old music.
I don't remember shouting "Yes!" and punching the air to previous Mercury winners announcements, but I certainly did this time. What a wonderful result. I Am A Bird now is beautiful, and so is Antony.
Michael, London, UK
Brilliant! Totally original, and with an amazingly unique voice. A breath of fresh air in the music business. I am a huge Rufus Wainwright fan, and discovered Antony through his musical collaborations with Rufus. Maybe next year he will be a nominee.
Steve Scott, England
I thought Kaiser Chiefs had it due to their popularity but I have to respect this award because tonight there is no doubt the winner is justified. The most amazing thing was to watch the standing ovation including all the other nominees. They all knew Antony was a worthy winner. I liked all the acts tonight but 'I Am A Bird Now' is an outstanding album. If he's ever on tour nearby you must see him live. Absolutely awesome.
I have heard Antony's album and yeah it's good but it's not a patch on X&Y. They do this every single year! Remember Radiohead and ok computer, clearly the best by far but who did they pick?
Chris, Manchester, England
Oh dear, it seems both Kaiser Chiefs and KT Tunstall were robbed - Antony is US-based, so should he really qualify for the award in the first place?
Jordan Dias, London, UK
I caught a live act of Antony and the Johnsons on the radio (FM4 Vienna 2003) driving in the rain to Pasau, and told my then girlfriend to quit gossiping over the top of this remarkable voice. Three weeks ago this was the soundtrack to my now wife's hospitalization for cancer. Andrew and the Johnsons really has the mark of genius. Great work Mercury judges, as always.
Juliman, English in Austria
Liked the winning contributors - but watched half of Magic Numbers grow up two doors from us - so, even if I didn't think their music was absolutely fab, and musically head and shoulders above the others, I still would be biased!
I've loved his music since I heard it on Radio 1 even though no music shop in Wigan had heard of him. He sounds as good live as he does on his album and his music transfixes you - his voice is so full of emotion. A fantastic winner!
Fran, Wigan, England
Interesting that one of the least-publicised groups won. Personally I always saw The Go! Team or MIA as the most innovative releases. The four indie-rock albums in there (Bloc, Kaiser, Hard-fi, Maximo) form part of a current trend / movement in British music so i don't think any one album stands out too much. Especially with Franz Ferdinand winning last year.
Dave Stoker, UK
Who? Does this matter? Is this really as good as it gets where music in Britain is concerned, or are we looking at an exercise in marketing that is as relevant to live music as Milli Vanilli? Do we need 'prizes' to acknowledge British music or do we need proper support for the countless great musicians in this country?
Hedge and Kate, England
I am incredibly happy with the decision for the award. In a year where Crazy Frog basks in chart success, Antony's Mercury success is the type of measure needed to instil some dignity to the musical year of 2005.
It is sad when the word distinctive can only be applied to someone with an "odd" voice. What about Seth Lakeman, who has taken traditional roots and moved a whole genre on to create something truly new? Or Magic Numbers, a band not afraid to make good, enjoyable pop music? Or Polar Bear, a band with considerable virtuoso talent and original ideas? In fact, anyone but Antony and the Johnsons.
I think it's wonderful and amazing that 'I Am a Bird Now' has won. Whilst so many of the nominees this year are deserving (eg the Coldplay album is excellent), this album is unique and special; it's already become one of my "Desert Island Discs" - one which has truly enriched my life.
Mark Newton, England
Never heard of the guy, but fair play to him. The Kaiser Chiefs were never going to win the second they were announced as favourites. That and Franz winning the year before. Can't say I'm that surprised they didn't win though, Employment's ok but it's not fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. Of all the guitar bands nominated I would have gone for Hard-fi.
David Cooper, UK
Fair play to Antony and the Johnsons, the Mercury Music Prize is, and should be about lesser known artists winning. They have a real haunting sound and I think it's great. Kaiser Chiefs and Coldplay will just have to settle for the Brit Awards.
Who? Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party or KT Tunstall deserved it more.
Steven Sinton, Northern Ireland
Nobody deserved it more than the sublimely talented Antony - people will complain that the Kaiser Chiefs might go on to achieve greater sales and notoriety, but, like with Dizzee Rascal two years ago, the prize has gone to a truly innovative, gifted individual.
Tom Coult, United Kingdom
An amazing artist to be sure, but can't help feeling that the judges were thinking wouldn't it make us look cool. And why were people booing Coldplay - is that what Anthony can look forward to after a couple of years of success?
Jane Messervy, United Kingdom
Hooray for Antony! Not only the voice of an angel but one of the finest contemporary lyricists. The Antony and the Johnsons albums are both spectacular.
Dawn Coates, UK
Well done Mercury for a maverick choice to triumph over trivia. Antony and the Johnsons are true Brit eccentrics that will never end up on a compilation album. Faith has been restored.
David Parker, England
Never heard of Antony and the Johnsons before tonight and all my money was on Maximo Park but amazed. What a voice. Someone said a male Nina Simone but that doesn't give credit to someone who is totally different and unique from so much stuff out at the minute.
He's humble to a fault but Antony should be well proud of himself. It won't be to everyone's taste, but to me I Am A Bird Now one of the most pure and devastatingly beautiful albums in many years. People will protest that the likes of Kaiser Chiefs should have won simply because they're more mainstream and better known but hey, that's what the Brit and NME Awards are for. Let Antony and his band have their day, it's truly deserved!