TORONTO — New albums from the Weeknd, Daniel Caesar and Jessie Reyez have been longlisted for the 2020 Polaris Music Prize.
The projects are among 40 records that will progress to the next stage of consideration, a short list of 10 contenders to be revealed on July 16.
The Weeknd made the cut with his retro-pop megahit “After Hours,” which held the top spot on the U.S. sales charts for four weeks earlier this year. Caesar’s sophomore R&B album “Case Study 01” was recognized alongside Reyez’s debut full-length “Before Love Came to Kill Us.”
Other artists vying for the $50,000 prize include Toronto R&B duo Dvsn (pronounced: “division”) with “A Muse In Her Feelings,” avant-garde pop singer Allie X’s “Cape God,” and alt-rock musician Joel Plaskett’s “44.”
The Polaris Music Prize is given to the artist or group that created the best Canadian album of the previous year — irrespective of genre or sales — as chosen by a team of journalists, broadcasters and bloggers. The long list was selected from 223 albums that made the first ballots.
The Polaris is considered one of the country’s most prestigious music awards and, beyond its cash value of $50,000, puts the winner’s music in the global spotlight.
Last year’s Polaris prize went to Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty for “13th Floor,” which reflected on her experience as a Black woman growing up in Canada. It marked the first time a female rapper won.
This year, an array of Indigenous performers, both established and relative newcomers, join the pool of artists on the long list.
Among them is acclaimed Winnipeg-based folk musician William Prince with “Reliever,” and Edmonton-area rock act Nehiyawak’s “Nipiy.”
Anachnid, an Oji-Cree and Mi’kmaq performer based in Montreal, is being recognized for her debut “Dreamweaver,” while Inuk electo-pop singer Riit is on the list with “Ataataga.”
Several francophone artists were among the long listers, including classic rock-infused act Chocolat’s “Jazz Engage” and P’tit Belliveau’s “Greatest Hits Vol. 1,” a slyly named debut LP from artist Jonah Guimond under his country pseudonym. Guimond grew up in francophone community of Baie-Ste-Marie, Nova Scotia.
The 2020 contenders are in good company with new albums from past Polaris winners. Kaytranada’s “Bubba,” Lido Pimienta’s “Miss Colombia,” Caribou’s “Suddenly” and Owen Pallett’s “Island,” are all in the running from the previous champions. Pallett picked up the first Polaris prize in 2006 when he performed under the name Final Fantasy.
There were also notable omissions on the Polaris long list.
The jury has often been criticized for paying little attention to rap and hip hop, and this year may not do much to change those sentiments. Few artists in those genres are represented, with the exceptions being Super Duty Tough Work, which consists of six musicians and one MC hailing from Manitoba, for “Studies in Grey,” and Zambia-born, Canadian-raised transgender rapper Backxwash for “God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It.”
Several popular artists who received Polaris nods in the past were also missing from the list. Tegan and Sara didn’t get a spot for their reflective high school project “Hey, I’m Just Like You,” while Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album “Thanks for the Dance” was also absent.
Justin Bieber’s latest “Changes” was snubbed after his previous effort “Purpose” made the long list four years ago.
The Polaris winner will be awarded the cash prize during a live presentation that will be webcast on CBC Music and the CBC Gem streaming service this fall.