Music

Britain’s Mercury Prize vs. Canada’s Polaris Prize: Which Is Better?

Bitching about the Polaris Music Prize is a national pastime amongst Canadian music fans (as well as a few foreign observers).  The Barclaycard Mercury Prize creates the same sort of frothy turmoil in the UK.

With the Mercury set to be handed out tomorrow in London, Britons are all worked up about which of the Short List nominees is worth–or if they should be on the list at all.

With that as a backdrop, check out this article from Clash Music that compares the Mercury with the Polaris from a British point of view. Which do you think comes out on top?

As one of the foremost events in the British music industry calendar, it’s surprising how much it simultaneously provokes ire and indifference. ‘Too safe!’ cry its critics on a yearly basis, and while there have certainly been shock winners in previous years (Talvin Singh, Speech Debelle and even Gomez have raised eyebrows), it’s difficult to deny there’s a certain level of cosiness to the whole thing. Clash’s own Mike Diver has already explored this theme at length, so rather than retread old ground, let’s examine in contrast with one of the awards it has inspired – namely, Canada’s own Polaris Music Prize.

Looking through the lists of previous winners, it’s immediately obvious that the Canadian jury rarely stands on ceremony when it comes to the way winners will be received. Had they formed on this side of the Atlantic, could a swearily-named hardcore group like Fucked Up even be nominated for the Mercury, let alone win the darn thing? (Indeed, you’ll have to go as far back as 1994 and Therapy?’s ‘Troublegum’ to find the last hard rock album nominated over here). Equally, what would the British public have made of an album entitled ‘He Poos Clouds’? The latter won the very first Polaris award back in 2006, placing the already-critically-acclaimed Final Fantasy – now, of course, recording as Owen Pallett – firmly in the media glare. What would sponsors Barclaycard think? Could the self-righteous-when-convenient gutter press have reported either of those remarkable victories without decrying the conscience of pop music, and by extension its audience? More importantly, would anyone care?

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38569 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Britain’s Mercury Prize vs. Canada’s Polaris Prize: Which Is Better?

  • What do we call the prize for national music prizes?

    Reply

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