The Polaris Prize does not traditionally reward the bigger names in music, and the unknown indie band has a better chance of coming away a winner than bands that are well established. But the brilliance and sheer impact of Canada’s biggest band will not be denied, and Arcade Fire took home this year’s Polaris Prize for their latest album “The Suburbs.”
So while an upset of sorts, the award was well deserved, most everyone agrees.
Past winners were artists whose names were on the lips of no one. In 2009, F—ed Up won the award, although their name couldn’t be spoken on the radio without sending the censors scrambling. Last year the award went to a Quebecois group unknown to English speaking Canada. Sure, many established artists have been nominated, but none have claimed the prize.
Enter Arcade Fire. “The Suburbs” has won a Grammy, a Brit Award, and a Juno award for album of the year. In spite, or perhaps because of this, they were the Polaris underdogs.
“There is a perception that our jury wilfully selects obscurity over popularity and that is not true,” said Polaris Prize executive director Steve Jordan in a previous interview.
This year that statement was proven true.
The competition on this year’s 10-artist shortlist was mostly made up of Canada’s unknown talent: Hey Rosetta, Timber Timbre, Austra, and The Weekend, among others.
The 2011 top mainstream contenders, Arcade Fire and Ron Sexsmith, produced two of the country’s most brilliant albums of the past year, but few really expected them to win. Deserving? Yes! But the Polaris Prize jury is staunchly un-swayed by popular opinion
Not everyone agrees on who should win the award but everyone agrees that the Polaris Prize is good for Canadian music.
“Anyone who is under 18 and playing music, and everyone who has ever been on stage and had the opportunity to play music and have someone hear it—just stick with it, because in 20 years you could be up here and have an album much better than this,” said Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara as he accepted the award on the band’s behalf.
Canada’s answer to Britain’s Mercury Music Prize, the Polaris Prize awards $30,000 to the band or artist most deserving without regard for musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history.
The Polaris jury is comprised of 200 music experts and critics from across Canada who choose the nominees based on their own individual criteria for best album. An initial 40-
title list is narrowed down to a shortlist of 10, from which a winner is chosen by an 11-person grand jury.
Uninfluenced by record sales or popularity, the artistic merit of the album is the only criterion that ensures a winner.