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Battle of the divas for Brit Awards

Two U.S. singers up against Aussie Minogue
/ Source: The Associated Press

Beyonce and Christina Aguilera will go head to head in a “Battle of the Divas” for a Brit Award, the British record industry’s ultimate accolade.

In the hotly contested category of best international female artist, the two U.S. stars are pitted against Australian Kylie Minogue to land one of the major awards at next month’s ceremony.

But two big names were missing from Monday’s nominations -- the judges turned their backs on Britney Spears and Madonna who made headlines around the world when they shared an open-mouthed kiss at the MTV Music Video Awards in New York.

After a chart-topping year around the globe, Justin Timberlake was hot favorite to be named as international male artist of the year.

Los Angeles hip-hop artists Black Eyed Peas looked to be the hottest tip for best international group, while “Pop Idol” Will Young was favorite to be picked as best British male and Dido as best British female.

At the glitzy nomination ceremony, the big winners were flamboyant British rockers The Darkness. They led the pop pack with four nominations for the Brits, which are handed out in London on Feb. 17.

The Brits awards are famous for rock ’n’ roll excess with inflated egos and flowing champagne proving a potent cocktail.

Pulp lead singer Jarvis Cocker was arrested in 1996 after leaping on stage and making crude gestures while Michael Jackson was performing.

In 1998, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was targeted by a member of the anarchic band Chumbawamba that tipped a bucket of iced water over his head.

Britain, the world’s third-largest music market behind the United States and Japan, is a rare bright spot for the beleaguered global industry.

According to industry statistics, the number of new British albums sent to retailers in the third quarter of 2003 reached an all-time high of 230 million on the strength of releases from The Darkness and Black Eyed Peas.

On a global basis, music industry officials predict CD sales will fall for a fourth consecutive year in 2003 as Internet piracy and the popularity of video games and DVDs continue to eat into music sales.