Saturday, September 24, 2011

Polaris Music Prize 2011

Hello Friends,

As I sit watching the re-broadcast of this past week's Polaris Music Prize I can't help but feel very fortunate to be in such a great industry. The Polaris Music Prize is Canada's equivalent to the UK's Mercury Music Prize which honours the album of the year as voted on by a jury of music media. The winner is awarded $30,000 along with the prestigious title of Album of the Year.

The jury starts with 200 or so media types from across Canada representing all genres and media platforms from Print, Radio, Online and Television. As the list of nominated albums is narrowed down so is the jury. The jury becomes 11 members for the final voting at the same time the shortlist of 10 albums is announced. This year I had the honour of being selected as 1 of the 11 and it was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my career.

As part of the jury we were responsible for living with the final 10 albums with gruelling task of determining which one was the best. Once given the albums the only instruction we were given was to listen to the albums in sequence without shuffling.

I can honestly say the process was pure, democratic and amazing. This is the way that any decisions surrounding music should be...but I digress.

All 11 grand jury members met in person, some for the first time, the night before the actual awards. The goal was to meet one another and of course talk about these final 10 albums. The people around the table came prepared with both ammunition and a passion like I've never seen before. I had goosebumps and was scared shit less for my turn to talk about these albums.

The following night we went to The Masonic Temple to deliberate and narrow it down to 1 winner. After having lived with these 10 albums for the better part of 2 months - it was time to make our pick. It was taken very seriously by all members along the way. I know that my choices changed throughout these 2 days based on the passion of others and of course the music I'd been living with for so long.

My approach was to study these 10 albums even further as I was running. I run longer distances this time of year in anticipation for race season so this was perfect timing for me. There's nothing like listening to music when you're running outside - be it through a forest or a busy street. These 10 runs were among the most intense ever as there would be no play lists nor would there be any skipping past songs. The albums would be heard the way that the artist/s meant for us to hear them. Something that's missing in the 2011 music world:( I highly recommend giving Colin Stetson's - 'New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges' at 7am while running through the woods.

I can't say how all the voting went down - but I can tell you there was never a clear cut winner throughout the process. There were compelling arguments as to why each and every shortlisted album should have won and perhaps there really should have been 10 winners in the end. Like any competition there can only be one winner and this year's winner went to Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs'.

Here are some tunes from this year's shortlisted 10 albums that I think you should check out.
If you missed the show then you can watch all the performance from this year's gala here. I'd love to hear back from you as to how you would have voted:)

I met some truly amazing people throughout this process and it's restored my faith in this industry. With people this passionate and in it for the right reason - things will only get better and great music will rise to the surface.

Thanks for reading/listening.

Gregg Stewart

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