At one point during the recent Polaris Salon here, the prize’s founder Steve Jordan interrupted himself to say, “I’m going to check Twitter to see if anyone’s talking smack.” People laughed, but was it a joke? As Jordan told me later, he’s used to getting nasty comments online, and on the street, from people about Polaris, a prize that rewards $30,000, and the ultimate stamp of approval from Canadian critics, to one Canadian musical act every year. “Sometimes the complaints are legitimate, and we try to adjust to that. But most of the time it amounts to ‘you didn’t pick my band, therefore Polaris hates everything about what I represent’,” he says.
Polaris hosts public forums like this one around the country as a way of explaining how they make their often-controversial decision every year. Jordan, on the panel with jurors Lisa Wilton (Metro Calgary) and Katherine Duncan (CBC Radio), opened the talk with an outline of the process: initially, a couple hundred selected music critics pick what they consider the best Canadian albums of the past year, regardless of ticket sales or genre. After a shortlist of ten titles is tabulated, a smaller group of jurors chooses a winner. Feist, who took the prize in 2012 for her album Metals, likened winning Polaris to ‘getting the Valentine from the right boy.’