Antony and the Johnsons
Antony Hegarty is, without question, a gentle giant. One critic described him as "having a rugby player's build but the face of a medieval saint." And indeed, the hulking, 6'4" British singer looks like an overgrown version of the baby-faced actor Bud Cort (of Harold and Maude fame), while his singing has been compared most often -- and not erroneously -- to Nina Simone's. He also beat out Coldplay, MIA and the Kaiser Chiefs to win Britain's prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 2005. (Judge Simon Frith said the group won because, "It's not like any album I've heard before or since.") But accolades aside, Antony owes perhaps his biggest debt to traditional American gospel. Take one listen to Mahalia Jackson's shuffling rhythms, piano accompaniment and grave, vibrato-laden vocals, and you'll get close to the source of Antony's inspiration -- though he takes it in his own unique direction.