Congratulations to Leslie Feist for winning this year’s Polaris Music Prize. The prize committee’s grand jury chose her introspective album Metals as the best example of Canadian music for 2012. The prize seeks to reward “artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history, or label affiliation”.
More importantly, the nomination process helps to give exposure to dozens of worthy candidates each year. Many of the nominees, often underground artists without the luxury of serious record-company ad money promoting them, would otherwise receive scant coverage in the national press. Feist already has mainstream recognition in Canada – affiliations with Broken Social Scene and Apple products will do that. But short-listed artists like Japandroids, Cadence Weapon, Cold Specks, and Grimes will surely get a ‘Polaris bump’. If this helps draw a few more people to their live shows or sell a few more records, then so much the better.
Feist’s acceptance speech at Monday night’s gala got off to a rocky start. When her name was announced, her first instinct was to hide under her table. After collecting her thoughts, Feist ambled to the stage and it quickly became evident that she hadn’t prepared a proper speech. She eventually managed to thank the appropriate people and waxed philosophical about the burgeoning Canadian music scene.
This anecdote from Feist about 2008’s Polaris prize winner Dan Snaith (aka Caribou) neatly sums up the true value of the event:
I was sitting in a bar with a friend having a beer, and this song came on in the bar that was beautiful and arresting, and I went over to the DJ and asked him what he was playing, and he said to me, ‘Caribou.’ So I am grateful to the Polaris for creating a conversation about music, and I am grateful to Caribou for making me think about how I hear things.
After the gala, the hopeless romantic rhapsodized that winning feels:
… a bit like getting the right Valentine from the right boy at school. It’s got this sense of secretness to it and it just has a sense of being personal that’s small and quaint and real.
Rumour has it that Feist is considering donating some of her $30,000 prize to her favourite cause, a group preparing a legal challenge against southern Ontario’s monstrous new Melancthon limestone quarry. Proceeds from her tour merch already go to this cause, so she puts her money where her mouth is. Meanwhile, on Valentine’s Day, this songstress’ heart is also in the right place.