September 27, 2023

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Wins 2013 Polaris Music Prize

The weirdly secretive Montreal band’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! album was picked as the best Canadian record of 2013, besting out nine others on the Short List.  

They join a list of previous winners that include Feist (2012), Arcade Fire (2011), Karkwa (2010), Fucked Up (2009), Caribou (2008), Patrick Watson (2007), and Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) (2006). 

I was a member of the Grand Jury that voted on this Short List and eventually declared Godspeed the winner.  I wish I could tell you what went on in the jury room but I can’t.  That must remain a secret.

I can tell you, though, that there was plenty of debate, lots of passion and a lot–a LOT–of thought put into the whole process.  Every single juror will tell you that this was a difficult ordeal.  I now have complete sympathy for any Polaris jury, past and future.

So GY!BE gets the $30,000 cheque (they weren’t there last night, of course; that would be out of character for them) while the other nine members of the short list get $2,000 each.  

Don Wilkie of Constellation Records accepted the money on GY!BE’s behalf saying “Godspeed will use the prize money to purchase musical instruments for, and support organizations providing music lessons to, people incarcerated within the Quebec prison system.” 

I wish I could have seen more of the Gala and the performances.  And Kathleen Edwards was fantastic as a co-host.  She’s wonderfully foul.

GY!BE released this statement this morning.


hello kanada.
hello kanadian music-writers.

thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.

and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?

so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.

3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=

-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.

-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.

-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.

give the money to the kids let ‘em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.

us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…

amen and amen.

apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is fucked,
godspeed you! black emperor

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 37113 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “Godspeed You! Black Emperor Wins 2013 Polaris Music Prize

  • I'm not a fan of the band but I agree with the sentiments.

  • They won this with just cause. It's one of the most stark and beautiful albums I've heard. The vinyl packaging is top notch as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.