Lido Pimienta, Junia-T, more: Polaris Music Prize hopefuls on who they want to win

Pantayo and more shortlisted artists fan out over their fellow nominees.

Pantayo and more shortlisted artists fan out over their fellow nominees

'I love and support and am rooting for every short lister, but God has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It is the record that resonates with me the most.' — Lido Pimienta (Photo by Daniella Murillo; design by CBC Music)

Winning the Polaris Music Prize would count as a massive highlight in almost any Canadian artist or band's career. But the old cliché is also true: it's an honour just being nominated, particularly with a short list as stacked as 2020.

CBC Music reached out via email to all the Polaris Music Prize's 2020 shortlisters with two probing questions: If not you, who? And, more importantly, why?

Many of the nominees weighed in, some of whom are hyped for their friends, in love with an album, and/or in awe of a blazing new talent. Ahead of the Polaris Music Prize virtual gala and winner's announcement on Monday, Oct. 19, Jessie Reyez, Caribou, Backxwash and more share their thoughts. 

Jessie Reyez

"I hope Junia-T wins. That man is talented, driven, he emanates light, he's a kind soul, and I can't think of anyone more deserving. He brings people together with ease and it's apparent in his project. He advocates for so many BIPOC artists, and a lot of BIPOC women. He's been at it for years, he was actually one of the first people I worked with in the city, he's been on the road with me since my very first tour 'til now and he's become family. I just love him."


"If I don't win Polaris this year, I'd love to see my sister Jessie bring it home for the FMLY! There are many great albums in this year's short list, but Jessie's album is next level! Her album is truly a testament to music that lasts. All of the songs evoke a wide variety of feelings and grows on you with every listen."


"I would like Pantayo, Lido, Witch Prophet or nêhiyawak to win. I'm usually into experimental/left-field music, which carries lyrics that have meaning. I feel like those artists executed that perfectly. Isn't the basis of Polaris to award people that push the envelope? If that is the case then I do not see a more perfect choice than those four."

Lido Pimienta

"If I don't win, Backxwash should. I love and support and am rooting for every shortlister, but God Has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It is the record that resonates with me the most. As a metalhead myself, I am excited by the new take on it that she provides and feeds her children with. I think Backxwash is a star in her own right and an artist that understands concept and the execution of said concepts, so that they don't fall short. In another life, Backxwash and I would do a metal album together. She is living my dreams right now, pushing the boundaries of what metal and even hip hop should sound like. The references and the pain and hurt Christianity has left in some of us are beautifully and terrifyingly portrayed in her music, and that is the kind of dichotomy that excites me in the context and of course the construct of the Canadian landscape. Good luck and love to everyone this year, including myself! But if not me, Miss Backxwash would be a nice consolation journey for all of us!"

Joanna Delos Reyes (Pantayo)

"This is a hard question. Props to the selection of the jury! If I'm speaking to where I'm at right now ... I'm rooting for Backxwash. This is the metal horror rap I need in my life. I f--k with it so hard from the Sabbath samples to the collabs and just the sheer consistent energy carried throughout the album. It's been my quarantine album (and much more!) for sure.

They [nêhiyawak] play with heart while creating a musical landscape where traditional and contemporary sounds intersect.- Eirene Cloma, Pantayo

Katrina Estacio (Pantayo)

"Backxwash. I was surprised and excited to see the short list for the first time! It was a welcome surprise to see Pantayo in it and it would still be great if we go all the way and win it! Backxwash, Caribou and Lido were already in my current rotation but it didn't hurt to listen to them again. Then I was excited because I listened intently to Junia-T, nêhiyawak, Kaytranada, Witch Prophet, U.S. Girls and Jessie Reyez to round out the short list. For some reason though, I always went back and put on Backxwash on repeat. It had a refreshing and familiar feel to it.

"Music tends to have labels stuck with them, but I find I really enjoy those that mash up a bunch to create their own sound. Yes [LOL] it's reflective of what we do with Pantayo to an extent, but I guess that's just how my brain works? Backxwash was refreshing in the way that the mashup of different components she used for her record was something I do not see often, but it's also familiar because the styles and themes she made use of are the same ones I gravitate towards already! I do have my biases but her work is such a creative feat, and I am ecstatic for her to have a shot at Polaris!"

Michelle Cruz (Pantayo)

"Ahh this was so difficult! I have a few at the top of my list and I am absolutely in love with these folks' work but after listening to all the shortlisters' albums again and again, if I could pick only one, my pick would be Backxwash. The first time I heard Backxwash was live at Slut Island, and damn did she blow my mind. I was mesmerized the moment she dropped the first word on her first verse on 'Black Sailor Moon.' But then the hook came around and I was in euphoria. Everyone was chanting 'I just pulled up in my skirt!' and I was f--keddd upppp [sic] in goodness. I was so high off of Backxwash's music that when we got back home, I listened to everything I could find online. When I learned that she was dropping a new album, I was so excited. I have never been so excited about being a music listener in so long! Her album God has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It dropped, I listened to it (on repeat), and Backxwash did not disappoint. Backxwash's music is so fierce and powerful and I simply can't help but fall in love with her music."

Eirene Cloma (Pantayo)

"I love the depth and complexity of nêhiyawak's nipiy album and, without a blink, think nêhiyawak deserves to win Polaris. From start to finish, each layer and bar on the album is crafted with care and intention, making it feel like a story or a journey for the listener. I have listened to nipiy numerous times since its release in October 2019 and I feel like there is something new to discover with every rotation. Songs like "perch" and "open window" evoke so much emotion for me and have kept me company during hard times this past year. I haven't had the chance to watch nêhiyawak live but I was almost in tears just five minutes into their full live concert on CBC Music. All three members are mesmerizing to watch and it is clear that Kris [Harper}, Marek [Tyler] and Matthew [Cardinal] are such talented musicians and a force when they come together. I love how they play with heart while creating a musical landscape where traditional and contemporary sounds intersect. I really look up to them. I'm excited for what's ahead for nêhiyawak if they win."

[This list] is a testament to the vitality of Canadian music at the moment.- Caribou

Kat Estacio (Pantayo)

"It's libra season as I'm writing this and I'm confronting and befriending my shadow self! In classic libra fashion I pick nêhiyawak's nipiy and Backxwash's God has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It (GHNTDWTLHOOI) because I need the balance of both in my life! There is a grounding and comfortable familiarity in nipiy that encourages introspection and meditation, that uncovers universal truths, and expresses the beautiful mess of our lives. And I feel like GHNTDWTLHOOI is a worthy complement that embodies the frustration and productive rage towards a world that isn't meant for us, but instilling action so that we may build our own in our own terms. Both add to living a lush and artful life, have so much to say, and feel weighty but not heavy, a necessary release (phew). I have such a visceral reaction to music after experiencing it live and the memory of those experiences are kept in my body. I was captivated by nêhiyawak's music after seeing them at their Toronto show in September 2017, and Backxwash in Slut Island Montreal in July 2019, so revisiting nêhiyawak and Backxwash now and listening to these two albums gave me so much vitality. It's COVID times and there's an overhauling of systems so maybe there is room for both to win! And anyway, in an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist world, there is room for more than one 'winner'! Best of luck and much love to Kris, Marek, and Matthew, and to Ashanti [Mutinta]!"

Kris Harper (nêhiyawak)

 "It's my own personal opinion that if a melanated or female artist does not win the 2020 Polaris Prize, there's been a mistake. The history of arts in this continent is rich, and extends much further back than any hybrid colonial interpretation. Connecting our stories to decolonized and matrilineal sources brings our attention to how and which land has been bought and sold from beneath our mothers' feet. In so many cases our people, the melanated Indigenous peoples of the world, exist as spectators viewing our own interpreted stories from an outside perspective. A certain way to ensure direct current to the fountain of all life is to firstly recognize these matriarchs in their work, and secondly to ensure their ownership to their birthright."


"Sorry to duck the question but you're not going to get me to pick one album but I will say that to my ear the list is full of unique and musically inventive albums. It's a testament to the vitality of Canadian music at the moment. To my mind the most important thing that a prize like this can do is shine a light on remarkable but underappreciated music and there are plenty of albums on this list that would benefit from the attention winning the prize would bring."


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