Getting it right when it comes to diversity: Polaris Prize Shortlist

2019 is more than half over and, finally, I’ve received a press release pertaining to a list of artist that hasn’t made me cringe or rage.  It was the Polaris Prize Shortlist and it was STACKED.

*Haviah Mighty from her album 13th Floor

All year I’ve been annoyed with almost every music festival announcement that’s landed in my inbox or come across any of my social media feeds.   It seemed no matter what the genre, so many lineups just seemed to follow the status quo; namely male, namely white.  You’d think after all the rantings about inclusion and need for diversity of all kinds, someone would be paying attention.  It’s 2019, and I for one am frankly sick not only of the status quo, but of the ranting.  I’d love to put my energy into something positive.  So I was very glad to see that when it came to the Polaris Prize top ten, I had only raves, and not rants, to share.

But let me rant for one more second about the abject lack of diversity pretty much anywhere in music, from festival stages to award shows.  What irks me and I think most other music lovers is that there is SO MUCH GREAT MUSIC OUT THERE being made by people who come from all sorts of places and look and live all sorts of ways.  And it’s great to see that be recognized by Polaris yet again this year, and then some.  I defy anyone to call tokenism on any of these solid acts, coming from all walks of life and making truly incredible music that reflects that.   I could spend time expounding on the many artists I already love on that list, and the many I’m excited to discover but really, the list speaks for itself.

Check out the list that finally made me excited to receive a list in my email.

The 2019 Polaris Music Prize Short List is:

Marie DavidsonWorking Class Woman

ElisapieThe Ballad of the Runaway Girl


Dominique Fils-AiméStay Tuned!

Les LouangesLa nuit est une panthère

Haviah Mighty13th Floor

PUPMorbid Stuff

Jessie Reyez Being Human In Public

ShadA Short Story About A War

Snotty Nose Rez KidsTrapline

Now that would be a festival lineup I would be thrilled to see.  But the Polaris Prize is pretty cool too, considering it awards $50,000 to the artist who creates the Canadian Album of the Year, judged solely on artistic merit (with no consideration given to genre or record sales).  And to keep up the good vibes, the nine other shortlisted artists will receive $3,000 each courtesy of Slaight Music.  Recent Polaris prize winners have been Jeremy Dutcher (2018), Lido Pimienta (2017), Kaytranada (2016), Buffy Sainte-Marie (2015), Tanya Tagaq (2014), Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2013), Feist (2012), Arcade Fire (2011), Karkwa (2010), Fucked Up (2009), Caribou (2008), Patrick Watson (2007) and Final Fantasy / Owen Pallett (2006).

If you want to relive the beauty of this announcement and get a taste of the tunes made by each nominee, check out the CBC Music’s Polaris Music Prize Short List radio special with host, Raina Douris. One nominated album was revealed every half-hour, with each album receiving expert analysis from CBC guests and Polaris jurors. The special is now available on-demand here.

From Polaris jury foreperson Katherine Duncan:

“This year’s Short List offers a mix of returning Polaris nominees and new voices in a terrific range of genres. As always, thanks to the jury for the care they take to come up with a Short List that represents what’s currently exciting in Canadian music. No matter what your taste, I think you’ll find something to love here.”

Be sure to check out all the Polaris shortlisters for yourself on their website here.

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.