Amy Winehouse

Though facing competition from fellow British dames Lily Allen and the Pipettes, Winehouse walked into SXSW with the biggest buzz — at least in part based on her legendary alcohol consumption. What the hell would she do? Well, turns out she’d sing her ass off (though rumours abounded that she cancelled several other showcases due to a post-break-up bender). In a small, packed club, Winehouse emerged over an hour late with an enormous bouffant, a horn section and two smooth-as-silk backup singers. The threat of shtick was high — after all, she is a tiny, tattooed white girl belting out old school soul and name-dropping Slick Rick. That is, until that incongruity was made irrelevant by the sheer virtuosity of her hard-living vocals.