Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Moneyballing the 2016 Polaris Longlist

I know it's been a week now, but I've been off the continent. So in case you missed it, your 2016 Polaris Music Prize longlist looks like this, with my analysis below:

Art Bergmann – The Apostate
Justin Bieber – Purpose
Black Mountain – IV  
Jean-Michel Blais – Il
Un Blonde – Good Will Come to You 
Basia Bulat – Good Advice
Daniel Caesar – Pilgrim’s Paradise 
Jazz Cartier – Hotel Paranoia
Tanika Charles – Soul Run
City and Colour – If I Should Go Before You
Couer de Pirate – Roses  
Dead Obies – Gesamtkunstwerk  
Destroyer – Poison Season
Dilly Dally – Sore
Drake – Views
Essaie Pas – Deman est un autre nuit
Fred Fortin – Ultramarr
Foxtrott – A Taller Us
Grimes – Art Angels
Half Moon Run – Sun Leads Me On
Veda Hille – Love Waves
Carly Rae Jepsen – E*MO*TION
Junior Boys – Big Black Coat
Kaytranada – 99.9% 
Jessy Lanza – Oh No
Michelle McAdorey – Into Her Future
Majid Jordan – s/t
Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale
Safia Nolin – Limoilou
Operators – Blue Wave
Peaches – Rub
Pup – The Dream is Over
Daniel Romano – Mosey
Andy Shauf – The Party 
Suuns – Hold/Still
U.S. Girls – Half-Free
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
White Lung – Paradise
Donovan Woods – Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled 

Un Blonde
This marks a strong comeback for Montreal, who only had 6 longlisters in 2015; normally Toronto and Montreal split 75% of the longlist. To account for mobility, Basia Bulat is counted as both Toronto (her current residence) and Montreal (her formative career years); likewise, Calgary’s Un Blonde moved to Montreal somewhat recently.

Toronto: 15 (includes Basia Bulat)
Montreal: 14 (includes Basia Bulat, Un Blonde)
Vancouver: 5 (Destroyer, Black Mountain, White Lung, Veda Hille, Carly Rae Jepsen)
Calgary: 2 (includes Un Blonde)
Hamilton: 2 (Junior Boys, Jessy Lanza)
Halifax: 1 (Nap Eyes)
Regina: 1 (Andy Shauf)
World domination via Stratford, Ont.: 1 (guess)

West of Ontario: 8

East of Quebec: 1

Art Bergmann
It ain’t nothin’ but a number. Last year’s winner, Buffy Sainte-Marie, was 74 at the time.

Oldest longlister: Art Bergmann, 63. Runner-up: Michelle McAdorey, whose exact age I don’t claim to know, but based on historical record, I’d say 52.

Others on this side of 40, as far as I can tell based on dubious Internet sources: Black Mountain’s Stephen McBean (47?), Destroyer’s Dan Bejar (43), Fred Fortin (45), Veda Hille (47), Peaches (47), Junior Boys (just a wild guess).

Youngest longlister: Un Blonde (19)

Other babies: Kaytranada (23), Jazz Cartier (22), Justin Bieber (22)

Personally, I think Kaytranada will win the prize this year—which would make him the youngest winner ever, and an amusing 180 after Buffy’s win.

Justin Bieber
This is about par for the course based on previous longlists, though this is easily the biggest year for chart pop in Polaris history; Tegan and Sara are really the only prior representatives (and arguably Drake). There is a strong chance that at least four shortlist artists could be bona fide mainstream stars, not just Drake.

Electro: 5 (Junior Boys, Peaches, Essaie Pas, Jessy Lanza, Foxtrott)
Hip-hop: 4 (Jazz Cartier, Drake, Kaytranada, Dead Obies)
Instrumental artists: 2 (Jean-Michel Blais, Kaytranada)
Chart pop: 3 (Justin Bieber, Carly-Rae Jepsen, Weeknd)
Aggressive: 3 (Pup, Dilly Dally, White Lung)
Countryish: 2 (Donovan Woods, Daniel Romano)
R&B: 3 (Daniel Caesar, Tanika Charles, Majid Jordan) also Weeknd, Bieber

Veda Hille
All the solo ladies: 11
Lady-led bands, or ladies in duos: 3 (Dilly Dally, White Lung, Essaie Pas)
Singing ladies who co-front bands: 1 (Black Mountain)
Non-singing lady instrumentalists in otherwise male bands: 2 (Operators, Strumbellas)

Percentage of 2016 longlisted acts featuring women: 42.5%

(The following numbers are for solo acts and lady-led bands but also for acts like Godspeed and Fucked Up where women are supporting players)
Ladies of 2015: 37.5% of longlist, 40% of shortlist
Ladies of 2014: 25% of longlist, 50% of shortlist
Ladies of 2013: 32.5% of longlist, 70% of shortlist
Ladies of 2012: 37.5% of longlist, 70% of shortlist
Ladies of 2011: 45% of longlist, 40% of shortlist

Franco: 5 (Essaie Pas, Coeur de Pirate, Dead Obies, Fred Fortin, Safia Nolin) 

Non-white artists, based on incredibly superficial, patronizingly racist, probably inaccurate yet arguably necessary assessment for diversity purposes: 7 (17.5%) (Un Blonde, Drake, Jazz Cartier, Kaytranada, Weeknd, Daniel Caesar, Tanika Charles)

Basia Bulat
Check your CV
Previous Polaris experience: 19

Debuts: 9 (Blais, Caesar, Tanika Charles, Foxtrott, Dilly Dally, Kaytranada, Majid Jordan, Safia Nolin, Foxtrott)

Kinda debuts: 1 (Operators, a band led by 2x shortlister Dan Boeckner)

New to Polaris (includes those debuts): 21

Previous winners: 0 (though none had an eligible release)

Previous shortlisters: 8 (Black Mountain, Basia x2, Destroyer, Drake x3, Grimes, Junior Boys, Jessy Lanza, Weeknd), plus Fred Fortin was a member of Galaxie

Previous longlisters: 11 (City and Colour, Coeur de Pirate x2, Jazz Cartier, Dead Obies, Fred Fortin, Veda Hille, Pup, Romano x2, Suuns, Strumbellas, White Lung)

Polaris Hall of Fame: Drake and Basia Bulat are making their fourth appearance on a Polaris list; Romano, The Weeknd and Coeur de Pirate are now at three. Operators’ Dan Boeckner is also now at at whopping five, albeit with different projects, having been shortlisted and longlisted twice each with Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs.

Previous Hall of Fame members: Last year, in the 10th year of the prize, the New Pornographers, Joel Plaskett, Patrick Watson and Tom Wilson (Lee Harvey Osmond, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) all made their fourth appearance on a Polaris list.

The Reaches of Peaches
Last year marked the first Polaris Heritage Awards, given to an album in each of the four decades of music that preceded the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006; Peaches’ The Teaches of Peaches won for the 2000s. Yet Peaches has been snubbed by Polaris until now; Rub, her first album in six years, is the first of her last three albums to make a Polaris list.

Jonathan Hayward/CP
This is not the Junos:
While Justin Bieber might raise eyebrows on a Polaris list—alongside Juno bait Drake and The Weeknd—plenty of Juno winners and nominees who were eligible during the Polaris period (June 1, 2015-May 31, 2016) do not appear on the long list:

Shawn Mendes, Hedley, Marianas Trench, Walk Off the Earth, Francesco Yates, Young Empires, Majical Cloudz, Bryan Adams, Matthew Good, Sheepdogs, Kardinal Offishall, k-os

Of records released in the Polaris eligibility period, the Juno nominees in all following categories were snubbed: country, jazz, franco, instrumental, classical, roots, blues, reggae, Aboriginal, world, electronic, metal.

Heroes to zeroes:
Anyone who thinks Polaris keeps giving free passes to previously nominated artists might want to talk to these former shortlisters, all eligible but absent from the 2016 longlist.

Metric (shortlist x3)
Besnard Lakes (shortlist x2, longlist x1)
Young Galaxy (shortlist x1, longlist x2)
Colin Stetson (shortlist x2, longlist x1)
Holy Fuck (shortlist x2)
Plants and Animals (shortlist x1, longlist x1)
The Dears (shortlist x1, longlist x1)
Radio Radio (shortlist x1)
Mac DeMarco (shortlist x1)

Tim Hecker's Love Streams
I wouldn’t have been surprised to see any of these critically acclaimed artists’ records on the long list; I even voted for some of them!

Geoff Berner
Jim Bryson (longlist x1)
Alessia Cara
Jason Collett (longlist x1)
Tim Hecker (longlist x2)
Hooded Fang (longlist x1)
Corb Lund (longlist x1)
Majical Cloudz (longlist x1)
Selina Martin
Lindi Ortega (longlist x1)
Venetian Snares
You Say Party

Shortlist prediction:
I usually get between three to five titles wrong, so have your salt shaker ready. Lots of heavyweights this year, so this is a pretty conservative guess. I’m looking forward to being surprised. Shortlist will be announced July 14 at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Justin Bieber
Black Mountain
Coeur de Pirate
Carly Rae Jepsen
Kaytranada (my guess for winner)
Jessy Lanza
The Weeknd

As always, any fact-checking on any of the above stats is more than welcome.

Upon reflection, some of those heavyweights don't seem so heavy: I have a hunch that Coeur de Pirate won't make it, contributing to Polaris jurors' collective snubbing of franco acts, and I'm not totally sure Bieber will go all the way to shortlist (though I'm pretty sure Jepsen will). The Weeknd is up in the air: not sure if the strength of the singles carries the whole album for most critics. Not 100% convinced Lanza or Operators will make the list, either. Which could leave four spots open.

I wouldn't be surprised if any of these dark horses snuck on the list—like Jennifer Castle, Jessy Lanza or Zaki Ibrahim did in recent years—based on overall critical goodwill:
Un Blonde, Andy Shauf, Peaches, Nap Eyes, Veda Hille (#1 on my ballot), U.S. Girls, Daniel Romano, Daniel Caesar

My Maclean's colleague Adrian Lee and I will be discussing the shortlist on Facebook live at 11.30 a.m. Eastern on July 14. Check

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