The Polaris Prize recently announced the 2015
long list at a press conference in Halifax.
As with every year, even a healthy list of forty albums is generating heated debate amongst music obsessives as to its inclusions and exclusions: some praising the relative diversity of its selections; others lambasting it for providing just the opposite (i.e. another predictable dosage of college's mushy middle).
One thing is for certain: with the absence of Arcade Fire, Feist, and other alt-friendly heavy hitters, the Polaris features very little crossover with the Junos (save one, whom we'll get to soon enough). This is especially clear when one takes the Long List — culled from the votes of 200 journalists, bloggers, and broadcasters across Canada — and ranks it according to each artist's popularity amongst the broader public. How do they settle? Well, no prizes for guessing who would be number one.
Combining his Twitter followers, Facebook page likes, and such, Drake has a staggering 73,398,756 fans online as of the award announcement. The total for the other 39 artists on the 2015 Polaris Long List? 6,632,928. This means that Drizzy has ELEVEN times the fans of all the other artists put together.
But when it comes to awards, fans are far from everything (even the Grammys relish in odd populist snub — see Beck's recent Album of the Year win for an album that sold only 300,000 units, a.k.a. a drop in Beyoncé's oceanic bucket). Another, perhaps more sympathetic, way of looking at the lack of big ticket acts on the Long List is that it strongly represents a modern reality for musicians these days. That being that the era of megastar is firmly in the rearview. Aside from the well-established Caribou, New Pornographers, and DFA 1979 — who all hover on either side of 1,000,000 fans — half of these acts would be very excited to reach the 100,000 fan mark. In other words, it's really hard to get a broad fanbase.
The numbers also tell interesting tales of artists for whom Canada is essentially the extent of their fanbase currently. Arkells and Joel Plaskett have strong catalogues and can do some serious damage touring this country. But as they are fairly low profile outside our borders, they sit a relatively modest 247,886 and 158,058 fans respectively, far behind the more internationally recognized DFA or Caribou. Or, in the case of Haligonian Rich Aucoin (47,692), perhaps the numbers reveal the crutch of being a big deal in a lower population area like the Maritimes.
Underneath it all, reside a solid dozen or so artists for whom this is easily the strongest moment of national attention they've ever had (or in the case of Lee Harvey Osmond, in quite some time). And here in lies the beauty of the Long List. For a month, Canada has been given its homework assignment, and for even the most ardent music fans, there's likely to be some new subjects to cover. We're looking forward to tracking how the Long List announcement affects each of these artists. Check back in a month, when we'll publish an updated chart as the Short List is revealed.
Until then, check the numbers for yourself.
|RANK||ARTIST||RELEASE||NUMBER OF FANS JUNE 2015|
|1||DRAKE||If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late||73,398,756|
|3||THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS||Brill Bruisers||914,841|
|4||DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979||The Physical World||877,505|
|5||PATRICK WATSON||Love Songs For Robots||413,360|
|6||BADBADNOTGOOD & GHOSTFACE KILLAH||Sour Soul||360,689|
|7||BAHAMAS||Bahamas Is Afie||282,423|
|9||BRAIDS||Deep In The Iris||209,994|
|10||THE ACORN||Vieux Loup||182,336|
|12||JOEL PLASKETT||The Park Avenue Sobriety Test||158,058|
|13||JEAN LELOUP||À Paradis City||130,154|
|14||VIET CONG||Viet Cong||95,497|
|16||WHITE LUNG||Deep Fantasy||86,760|
|17||LOUIS-JEAN CORMIER||Les grandes artères||85,201|
|18||BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE||Power In The Blood||76,802|
|19||COLIN STETSON AND SARAH NEUFELD||Never were the way she was||71,086|
|21||TOBIAS JESSO Jr.||Goon||48,285|
|23||WHITEHORSE||Leave No Bridge Unburned||39,293|
|24||THE BARR BROTHERS||Sleeping Operator||38,283|
|26||ELIZABETH SHEPHERD||The Signal||33,608|
|27||LYDIA AINSWORTH||Right From Real||32,661|
|28||JAZZ CARTIER||Marauding In Paradise||32,178|
|29||LEE HARVEY OSMOND||Beautiful Scars||24,869|
|30||THE WEATHER STATION||Loyalty||23,348|
|31||MILK & BONE||Little Mourning||20,890|
|32||FRAZEY FORD||Indian Ocean||18,017|
|33||ABSOLUTELY FREE||Absolutely Free||16,783|
|34||B.A. JOHNSTON||Shit Sucks||9,149|
|35||JENNIFER CASTLE||Pink City||5,677|
|37||PIERRE KWENDERS||Le dernier empereur Bantou||3,967|
|38||STEPH CAMERON||Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady||780|
|39||YOUNG GUV||Ripe 4 Luv||150|
|40||VARIOUS ARTISTS||Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country, 1966-1985||n/a|