Feist wins Polaris Prize because it was her turn
Why else would she win an award for best Canadian album?
Back on July 19, Josiah Hughes and Mark Teo teamed up in FFWD Weekly to write an odyssey of an article about how the music scene and industry in Canada had become stagnant and I wanted to be upset.
How dare they insult my wonderful home country, especially at a time where it seemed like Canada was on the cusp of something big?
I mean, Justin Bieber jokes aside, it probably wouldn’t be hard to name five, 10, 20, even 30 Canadian artists you listen to. The article was inspired by the shortlist for the Polaris Prize and, while I wasn’t necessarily in love with the list, I thought I would defend against Hughes and Teo’s argument no matter what.
Then Feist won the Polaris, and I began to eat my words faster than Feist blushed with humility after hearing her name called at the awards gala.
Feist winning the Polaris was such a brilliant slap in the face that it made me actually look at the problem the Polaris has unintentionally highlighted.
The prize was such a good idea in the beginning: having an independent award in Canada to highlight the best album based on merit alone. None of that stuff from the circle-jerk session that is the Junos, where it seems like anyone can win one if they really want to.
(My old high school janitor told me last summer that he won a Juno years ago, and it honestly didn’t even seem like that much of a stretch. No offense, Tim.)
When the first Polaris prize was awarded to Owen Pallett, who performed then under the stage name Final Fantasy, the reaction was split half and half between, “Aww yeah that’s so rad, Final Fantasy really deserved some recognition,” and, “Can someone please explain to me what the hell the Polaris Prize is?”
Then, for another couple years, lesser-known but interesting artists took home the prize, and the Polaris became a name worth knowing and to be nominated seemed like a cool thing.
Then Fucked Up won in 2009, and everyone simultaneously high fived and giggled over how journalists were going to say that a punk band named Fucked Up won a major award without dropping the F word.
Apparently, it’s bad to say fuck when you can’t take it back, which is why there was a good feel about Fucked Up winning.
Then things took a turn south last year when Arcade Fire won for The Suburbs.
Some people argued that it was odd for Arcade Fire to win when The Suburbs wasn’t even their best album. They were right.
Some people argued that the voting panel might have been swayed by how many awards and how much acclaim the album received. They may have been right.
Some people argued that Arcade Fire won because it seemed like they were due, despite there being better albums on the short list. Those people were definitely right.
Yet, no one seemed to make a fuss over it, because to say you hate Arcade Fire nowadays is like saying you didn’t like McDonald’s in grade school. No one really wants to come out and say it unless they want attention for it.
What should have just been a momentarily lapse in judgment has now led us to this. Feist won the Polaris prize with Metals.
Do you know what kind of album Metals is? The kind you buy your mother at the holidays because it was on sale for $5 at HMV.
It has no business winning the Polaris, but felt like it was given to Feist because she was due to win.
Take the fact that she’s the ideal story of a Canadian girl with big dreams, add in her 11 Juno awards, mix in a healthy dose of “1-2-3-4” and top it off with the fact that she had been previously shortlisted, and presto! Polaris Prize, apparently.
No one really wanted to come out and say that Feist shouldn’t have won, but the only people who were thrilled were the kind of people who still describe her as a “darling of her genre,” whatever that even means.
With Metals, Feist does indeed make the best album she’s ever made. If I made Metals, it would also be the best album I’d ever made. That doesn’t make it the best Canadian album. There is no experimentation, rather Feist “maturing” with a sound from a Canadian Idol winner to maybe an American Idol winner at best.
Sorry Japandroids. Apologies to Cadence Weapon and Drake. Due condolences to Handsome Furs, Grimes, and almost nearly everyone else on the short list who tried to push themselves in making an album. Hell, sorry to Dan Mangan and every other short list snub who apparently just didn’t have the same artistic merit that Feist “possesses”.
Feist, an artist who has for the most part of her career been has been divisive to the general population, put out Metals as an album that everyone could enjoy because there really wasn’t enough substance to have anything go wrong with it. That doesn’t make it a great album, and Polaris should acknowledge that instead.
When we award Feist with a gala and a novelty-sized cheque, we are sending out a horrible message that this is the kind of effort we want to encourage from young, up-and-coming artists.
Don’t push boundaries or try and make the best album possible. Make something that the whole family can agree on when you’re in the car and turn to CBC to appease everyone.
All that’s left to do after the gala ends is to pray the message doesn’t sink in.