Northern stars: The Polaris Music Prize is tonight

Award for the "best Canadian album of the year" to be given out at Toronto gala, nominees include Carly Rae Jepsen, Grimes
carly rae jepsen polaris Carly Rae Jepsen is one of ten musicians up for tonight Polaris Prize Prize for the best Canadian album of the year. (© Jaguarps | Dreamstime.com)


Awards shows. There was a big one last night. The Emmys happened in Los Angeles, giving out awards for the stars of television. They're often chock full of superstars and glamour, but they also focus on so many categories, it can be a bit dizzying. Acting, writing, directing, mini-series, special, variety show... it's easy to glaze over after a while.

But sometimes you get an arts award show that's a little more understated. An event that's about giving out a single trophy to a list of artists, many who aren't household names. In this case, that would be the Polaris Music Prize. It's a relatively new music award (it was started in 2006) that is given out every September to the best Canadian album of the year without regard to music sales. In other words, the Polaris is an award show where it's okay to not be super popular. Why is that a good thing?

Mercury was the messenger

Leslie Feist won the Polaris Prize in 2012. (Getty Embed)

You may recall that Canada already has a music awards show. It's called the Junos, and it does indeed produce an award for the best album of the year. So why would anyone need something like the Polaris? A lot of music fans and writers feel that something like the Junos is all about being a big star. It's a big TV event—it needs to get lots of people watching. The Polaris, however, was modelled after a similar award in the United Kingdom called the Mercury Prize. Both of these awards don't really care about album sales and popularity. All that matters is did you make a really good album?

Though Drake hasn't won the Polaris yet, he has been nominated to their ten album Short List three times in the past. (Getty Embed)

And it shows. Big stars have been nominated, mind you: Drake and Metric have been nominated a few times, and both Arcade Fire and Feist have won the award. And this year, Carly Rae Jepsen is in the running. But in the end, the list is dominated by musicians that the average person on the street doesn't know very well. It makes the award a really difficult one to predict. In 2014, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq won the prize for Animism, a record full of complex rhythms and guttural screams. But the Polaris has also been awarded to folksy singer/songwriters, punk bands, electronic dance, and French-Canadian art rock. Basically, it's all over the map.

That's what makes it fun!

This year's list

Grimes is definitely pumped that she is nominated for tonight's award. (Getty Embed)

Above all, who wins isn't all that important (okay, the winner gets $50,000, but still...). The prize's top ten, or Short List, was made in the first place to give more people a chance to hear records that didn't always get a lot of attention when they first came out. Plus, every artist gets the chance to play a couple songs live for the audience over the course of the show.

So who's up for it this year? Let's have a look at the Short List.

Andy Shauf - The Party

Basia BulatGood Advice

Black Mountain - IV

Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion

Grimes Art Angels

Jessy LanzaOh No

Kaytranada 99.9%

PupThe Dream is Over

U.S. Girls Half Free

White LungParadise


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