POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE 2023
Good Luck by Debby Friday
- PLAYLISTS: Good Luck on YouTube and Spotify
- THE FILM: Good Luck by Nathan De Paz and Debby Friday on YouTube (17:39 mins)
- THESIS: Friday’s Simon Fraser University MFA thesis, LINK SICK, a 42-minute audio play on YouTube
- VIDEO INTERVIEW: Friday speaks with CBC’s Damhnait Doyle about how writing her Good Luck album was a way to process a tumultuous period
- ARTICLE: Debby Friday opens the doors to herself on genre-hopping Sub Pop debut / Globe and Mail
- REVIEW: The Toronto-based artist is hungry for violence again on her debut album, but this time she explores her adolescence with gripping candour / Resident Advisor
Nigerian-born and Toronto-based artist Debby Friday won the $50,000 2023 Polaris Music Prize at last Monday’s Massey Hall presentation
PUSHING THE EDGE AND DEFYING GENRE, DEBBY FRIDAY’S GOOD LUCK WINS
Debut album tops Polaris field of 10 including Alvvays, Dan Mangan, Begonia, Feist, Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Canada’s unique Polaris Music Prize stayed true to its groundbreaking form in awarding Canada’s Best Album from the past year to Debby Friday’s debut Good Luck. The record is a fierce and sweeping, genre-defying amalgam of “electropunk, noise, synth, industrial techno and hip-hop” according to in-the-know critics who easily roll call music categories and their subsets. (I’m not among them.)
Polaris thrives on unearthing strong musical and often multicultural talent that’s sequestered in Canada’s regions, dance clubs or campus radio stations. It also rewards Canadian stars. Over 18 years its jurors have chosen unknowns alongside the famous; the somewhat knowns and the obscure. Winners include Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire, Fucked Up, Tanya Tagaq, Jeremy Deutcher, Karkwa, Pierre Kwenders, Feist, God Speed You Black Emperor and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
That doesn’t mean Polaris has something for everyone. It doesn’t. Classical and jazz are consistently underrepresented in its lists. The award often skews to the kind of lyrically smart, personally bold and musically challenging work made by Debby Friday.
Good Luck on the dance floor
Friday is a commanding performer. The big sounds she’s shaped on Good Luck are aimed squarely at sweaty dance floor abandon. Pounding rhythms and hyper bpm’s are awash in synth sound waves and piercing minor chords. And, if you pay attention to lyrics, you’ll hear her forceful vocals sing about vulnerability, her black heart, sexual desire and more.
There’s contrast and variety in both her sound and themes. Here are two examples. So Hard to Tell, the album’s lead single, sounds pop with her sweet vocals, repeating musical motif and echoing harmonies. She sings innocently:
You’re just a young girl
All alone by yourself in the city
Act like you don’t need help
Is this heaven or hell?
When it gets like this
Oh, it’s so hard to tell
“I made the skeleton of the beat, and from there, I opened my mouth and started to sing – ‘You’re just a young girl,’ ” Friday told the Globe and Mail‘s Josh O’Kane in a March interview. “I don’t even know where that came from, but I had it inside of me.”
O’Kane observes: “She became a musician by taking a chance in a dark moment; her least-expected single came by chance at a moment when things started feeling brighter.”
In contrast, on the revving and high octane I Got It she’s all bitch and bravado singing and panting over a gnarly groaning low register riff:
Come and see about me
Big ol’ ego
Red blood libido
I love to love and I love to leave
I’m the master baby
I said “faster baby”
Down on your knees
Do you believe?
Working with high energy and talent Debby Friday has the confidence to plumb vulnerability and assert herself on a big stage with a sound to match. On Good Luck she’s on her way.
(from the YouTube blurb)
Link Sick is a 42-minute audio play written, directed and scored by Debby Friday in 2021 for her Master of Fine Arts thesis at Simon Fraser University.
Set against the backdrop of an ambiguous dystopia and eternal rave, LINK SICK is a tale about the threads that bind us together. The project is a science-fiction exploration of the connective tissue of human experience as well as an experiment in sound art; blurring the lines between theatre, radio, music, fiction, essay, and internet art.
Listeners are invited to gather round, close their eyes, and open their ears; submerging straight into a strange future peppered with blink-streams, automated protests, disembodied DJs, dance floor orgies, and only the trendiest S/S 221 G-E two-piece club skins.
The 2023 Polaris Shortlist
Alvvays – Blue Rev
Aysanabee – Watin
Begonia – Powder Blue
Daniel Caesar – Never Enough
Feist – Multitudes
Debby Friday – Good Luck
Gayance – Masquerade
Dan Mangan – Being Somewhere
The Sadies – Colder Streams
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – I’m Good, HBU?
23 September 2023