Polaris Music Prize 2018

22 September 2018 / by Nam-An Dinh (author)
Jeremy Dutcher speaks to the audience after winning Polaris 2018 (photo: Nam-An Dinh)
Jeremy Dutcher speaks to the audience after winning Polaris 2018 / (photo: Nam-An Dinh)

The Polaris Music Prize is awarded annually for the best full-length Canadian album, regardless of genre, album sales, or record label.

The winner of the prize is crowned annually at a gala in Toronto, at The Carlu.  The winner of the prize not only gets to boast putting out the best Canadian album of the year, but also takes home $50 000.

With a very talented and also musically diverse short list this year, gala attendees had a lot of incredible performances to look forward to that night.



As the gala begins, the guests transition from the foyer into the theatre and the first performance kicks off the night. Weaves hits the stage, the first of many stellar performances during the night.  

The evenings host Raina Douris takes the stage to welcome everyone, and the performances continue. 

Jean-Michele Blais sits at a grand piano on stage, the audience dead silent as they're encapsulated by his performance. Moving from whisper quiet passages to huge crescendos with ease, he also adds interesting sonic textures to the performance by directly plucking and muting the piano strings through the open top of the grand piano.

In somewhat of a contrast to this, Hubert Lenoir comes to the stage next back with a full band and all the energy in the world.  He struts and dances across the stage, and then decides the stage is not big enough.  Jumping from table to table, he finishes his performance with a mic drop, hops off the table, and casually strolls back to his own seat at the gala. 

The next performance brings a special guest to the stage.  Giving a nod to Girls Rock Camp Toronto, Deep Waters, which formed during the camp, perform in place of Alvvays.  The young musicians nail their own rendition of "In Undertow," to standing ovation from the audience.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids came to Polaris to not only represent hip hop, but also the west coast. They performed their stereotype-destroying music surrounded by a dancers from as far away as the Yukon Territory.

U.S. Girls takes to the stage backed by no instruments except the human voice.  Surrounded by a 12 piece acapela group, the 2 song set is rich and harmonic and awe-inspiring. 

Jeremy Dutcher moved the audience with his operatic tenor voice.  Accompanied by a piano, cello, percussions, and a handful of other voices, the audience hung on every note and word that he sang in his traditional Wolastoq language.


Pierre Kwenders delivers a smooth and groove filled performance infused with his Afro-Canadian flare. By the end of his set, most anyone that isn't seated is moving to the beat. 


Partner caps off the night of stellar performances with their hook and guitar riff laden pop rock music. 

As the night winds down, last years Polaris winner Lido Pimienta comes on stage to present this year's winner: Jeremy Dutcher.  

His first words are in his traditional Wolastoq language: "All of my people, this is for you!" he exclaims in Wolastoqey.  

Addressing the audience, Jeremy proclaims "Canada, you are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance. Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?"

Polaris 2018 ends on a strong note, having presented what is likely one of the strongest shortlists in recent memory, and a gala filled to the brim with stellar performances.  For more images from the night, make sure to check out the gallery on the right. 

You can view the winner's press conference below: 

Polaris Winner's Press Conference from CJRU1280 on Vimeo.


The author

Nam-An Dinh

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