TORONTO – The first time Kathleen Edwards was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize back in 2008, she didn’t know much about the award.
But it’s a sign of how much the $30,000 prize’s profile has grown over the past four years that the Ottawa singer/songwriter felt very differently when she was nominated for a second time on Tuesday. She joined an eclectic 10-artist short list that also includes Toronto rapper Drake, Vancouver rock duo Japandroids and Calgary-reared songstress Feist.
“The first time I was nominated … it was quite a new event,” Edwards said after the announcement was made at a trendy hotel in downtown Toronto.
“My head was in the sand a bit and I didn’t really know it was going on. It feels like there’s a lot more momentum behind the list (now).”
Edwards wasn’t the only artist making a second Polaris bow.
In addition to fellow repeat nominee Feist, innovative Edmonton-bred rapper Cadence Weapon is up for a second time for his latest record, “Hope in Dirt City,” while Toronto hardcore band F—ed Up nabbed a nomination for the ambitious concept album “David Comes to Life,” just three years after winning the award.
Plenty of newcomers made the cut too. In addition to Drake â€” the 25-year-old superstar is up for his moody, chart-topping opus “Take Care” â€” and Japandroids, whose sophomore rager “Celebration Rock” was nominated, other first timers included Montreal electro-pop upstart Grimes, Toronto folk-soul singer Cold Specks, recently split Montreal-based electro-rock duo Handsome Furs, and the Montreal avant-garde outfit Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.
The Polaris Music Prize â€” awarded to the top Canadian album of the year based strictly on merit and not sales â€” is voted on by 200-plus music journalists, bloggers and broadcasters. Past winners include Karkwa, Patrick Watson and Arcade Fire.
While this year’s diverse list is a testament to the prize’s directive to ignore genre boundaries, the Polaris still has a reputation for favouring hip, cutting-edge records â€” and Edwards said her inclusion was a major compliment.
“I’ve been doing it 10 years, touring hard for 10 years, and you get to a point where you sort of feel like I’m not the cool kid anymore â€” maybe I never was. And maybe I’ll never be in the company of people making really interesting records,” the 34-year-old said.
“So to be considered … makes me feel like, ‘OK, yeah, I’m doing good work.'”
The winner of the Polaris will be announced at a gala at Toronto’s Masonic Temple on Sept. 24.