Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: The Polaris Prize Reaction

On Monday The 2012 Polaris Music Prize, which rewards the best Canadian album of the year based solely on artistic merit, was awarded to Feist for her album Metals. It was a choice that I don’t think anybody really expected. In most of the lead-up to the big day all the talk was swirling around more buzzed about acts like Grimes, Fucked Up and Japandroids.

To be honest, I found the Jury’s choice of Feist to be a bit disappointing for a number of reasons. I've already expressed my thoughts on which albums I thought deserved to win (namely Yamantaka // Sonic Titan and Fucked Up). I’m sure most people have their opinions on which album should have won though, so my opinions are kind of a moot point. Although I will say that just based on my internet observations since Feist’s win that more people seem to be discontent than not.

I’m going to steal a tweet from Steve because it almost perfectly encompasses how I feel about Feist's Polaris win: “Not saying Feist is undeserving, but I feel the award was given based on Feist the artist more so than Metals the record”.

Now I can't be sure that this is actually the case, but something in my gut tells me that Feist’s track record had some kind of influence. She’s a Canadian music veteran, a former member of Broken Social Scene (although who isn’t?) and she was thrust into massive popularity with her 2007 album The Reminder. The interesting thing about The Reminder was it’s amount of commercial success, which was undoubtedly helped out by her song “1234” appearing in an apple commercial. Along with some hit singles, The Reminder was also very well received by critics because across the board.

The big question is how much The Reminder had to do with the 2012 Polaris Prize. Like I said above, I think it had at least a little bit to do with the win. Now I’m not going to blame the jury because judging an album in a vacuum is almost impossible. We’ll always consider an artist's past work when trying to judge their latest album. If a critic doesn’t consider all the context surrounding an album then I’d say they aren’t doing a good job of being a critic.

Another reason for her win may have been that while Feist may not have been everybody’s favourite album, it was high enough on each juror’s lists so that she ended up being the consensus pick. As a result we didn’t end up with something a lot of people thought was high end, but something a lot of people thought was good enough.

I think that with the choice of Metals and 2011’s choice of The Suburbs, The Polaris Prize seems to be moving away from more divisive albums like The Chemistry Of Common Life. Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, But I’d like to see them go out on a limb a bit more.

All of this being said, The Polaris Prize is an exciting event. The amount of music based discussion it generates year round is something that I enjoy. Anytime a big Canadian album is released there is always talk about whether or not it’s “Polaris worthy”. I know I’m already looking forward to next year.

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