By Bethonie Butler
Updated June 12, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

Congrats to bluesy crooner Cat Power, who won this year’s Shortlist Music Prize. The former Liz Phair opening act, whose competition included Tom Waits and Regina Spektor, is the first woman to win the award, now in its sixth year. Judges for the accolade are called Listmakers (this year they included singer KT Tunstall, pop rockers, Panic! at the Disco, and hip-hop media personality Touré), and they give the prize each year to musical risktakers — past winners include N.E.R.D. (I miss them), Sufjan Stevens, and Damien Rice — and often honor emerging or underground artists. Fiona Apple was a contender last year for Extraordinary Machine (and though the album was no When the Pawn…, I would have given it to her for this song alone.)

Among Cat Power fans, I’m a newbie; my intro to her came in the form of the airy vocals she lent to Handsome Boy Modeling School’s ”I’ve Been Thinking.” I do love her voice,and that got me thinking about other stellar artists that I may have missed along the way.

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My favorite underground/underrated artist is Canadian trip-hopartist, Esthero, whom I discovered on Goodie Mob’s “The World I Know(Country Livin’).” Most people I talk to have never heard of her. Idefinitely see her standing up against other Shortlist nominees, thoughI think she’s more popular in her native Canada, which may count as astrike against her. Canadians always seem to get the short end of the stick. Unless you’re in a Kevin Smith movie. Or a cult teen TV hit that the aforementioned director (and yours truly) loves.

But back to the question at hand, PopWatchers: if you were aListmaker, would you have given this award to Cat Power? If not, isyour pick even on the list of finalists?And does it matter to you that an artist has won an award like this (oreven, dare I say, a Grammy) when you’re shopping for music?