The New Pantheon Music Award burst onto the scene with a roar — but its first year is ending with a glorified whimper.
When the award was first announced back in November, founder Tom Sarig said the New Pantheon will be “a platform and a way to shine a light on musicians who might not get the attention they deserve,” a successor to the discontinued Shortlist Music Prize, chosen by an elite group of tastemakers intended to honor the best under-the-radar music of the year (see “Linkin Park’s Bennington, Shinoda Help Do The Honors For Shortlist’s Successor” ).
Sarig announced a gala concert to crown the inaugural NP winner, an “event … that will be attended by artists like Alicia Keys or Missy Elliott,” that was originally scheduled to take place on February 6 in Los Angeles. But as that date grew closer, no venue or performers for the concert were announced, and in late January organizers said the ceremony had been postponed until March (see “New Pantheon Award Ceremony Postponed To Undetermined Date” ).
Finally, on the last day of the month — without a concert or even much fanfare — the winner of the first New Pantheon has been announced: Sufjan Stevens’ sprawling Illinois.
The ambitious and critically lauded album (see “MTV News: You Hear It First: Sufjan Stevens”) was chosen from a field of finalists that included Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans, Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine and the Arcade Fire’s Funeral (see “Death Cab, M.I.A., Fiona Among New Pantheon Finalists” ). The New York-based folkie will receive $5,000 and a snazzy New Pantheon trophy.
In the end, Sarig blamed the New Pantheon’s rather anti-climactic climax on “logistical reasons,” which were the cause for the cancellation of the Los Angeles ceremony too. But he pledged to iron out all those problems by next year, adding in a statement that “plans are already under way for next year’s proceedings.”
“It’s our first year for the New Pantheon [and] the intention has only ever been to set up a completely independent, totally organic effort for creative people by creative people that could help further expose the creative leading lights of the year,” he said in the statement. “Thanks to our incredible nominating panel for generously giving of their time. They nominated an incredible slate of artists’ albums, and ultimately the records which became New Pantheon finalists have proven to be among the most important music to be released in the last several years.”
And though this year’s New Pantheon didn’t exactly help to dispel memories of the Shortlist, there appear to be no plans to revive the erstwhile Prize. Greg Spotts — who, along with Sarig, founded the Shortlist in the summer of 2001 — was reportedly considering legal action against Sarig if he proceeded with the New Pantheon ceremony, though he did not respond to MTV News’ requests for comment on the subject of that award or a relaunched Shortlist Music Prize.