By Keith Sharp
The one thing you can say about Sunday’s 2017 Juno Awards staged at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre is that it was typically Canadian – Eh!
A tasteful opening salute to Indigenous People executed by Buffy Ste Marie and A Tribe Called Red, featuring Tagaq, television cameos by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and an impassioned eulogy for the late Leonard Cohen delivered live by Trudeau and his wife Sophie gave the tight 90-minute CTV telecast it’s distinct Canadian flavour. And then there was those running Brampton gags (a suburb of Toronto for the uninformed) between co-host Russell Peters and fellow Brampton native (and Pop Album award winner) Alessia Cara.
It wasn’t that long ago, Canada’s premier music awards event tried desperately to model itself after more glamourour U.S events like The Grammys and the American Music Awards. Don’t have the star power? let’s bring in Rod Stewart and (heaven forbid, Milli Vanilli!).
But ever since John Brunton’s Insight Productions took charge of the telecast, The Juno Awards have (slowly but surely) evolved into a (mainly) live event which does a reasonable job of showcasing both established and up and coming domestic talent.
Staged in hockey arenas instead of staid theatres with an enthusiastic live audience instead of a listless bunch of music execs, the Junos have developed into a captivating live event. Where else would you capture performances by the likes of Billy Talent, Dallas Smith, Hall Of Fame inductee Sarah McLauchlan and even co-host Bryan Adams on the same stage as promising new talent like The Strumbellas, July Talk and Edmonton’s Ruth B.
True, it’s more of a live event than an awards show, with most of the Junos handed out the previous night a Gala Awards Presentation. Which makes for a less cluttered telecast that allows for the Indigeonous performance, a special tribute for the late Leonard Cohen performed by Feist and an interesting feature on the Music Counts schools program with Ruth B performing her “Peter Pan” hit supported by young musicians in the Orkidstra Group.
And let’s face it, some of the CARAS award winners are head scratchers. I mean, how does Jazz Cartier’s `Hotel Paranoia’ record beat Drake’s `View’ album which was only one of the biggest selling records on the planet in 2016. And nothing personal here but who exactly are The Dirty Nil who beat out Cold Creek County and Bleeker for Breakthrough Group winner, sorry, never heard of them? And how come Neon Dreams weren’t even nominated??
And really, I can empathize about the loss of Leonard Cohen, but to award him Album Of The Year and Artist Of The Year?, that’s a bit over the top!
Is it a Canadian thing that the bigger you are and the more successful you become, the less chance you have of being recognized at the Juno’s. Drake was given some bogus International Achievement Award Saturday but none of the five awards he was nominated in, Justin Bieber was totally blanked but The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ at least won top R&B plaudits.
In his opening monologue, top comedian Russell Peters drew attention to the show’s absence of the top three when he said “Drake is on tour, The Weekend is bopping Bieber’s Ex and Bieber himself is probably in Brazil beating up some fan.” But you’d have to say, by not winning an obvious category like Drake’s Rap Award, there isn’t much incentive for these artists to attend.
And yes, there was the controversy of The Tragically Hip’s Rob Baker and Paul Langois being played off while accepting the band’s Top Group award. Yes they did ramble on a bit, but considering what the band achieved in 2016, and the sad plight of lead singer Gord Downie, (who gave an emotional speech about Canada needing to provide more support for indigenous people in winning two awards for his `Secret Garden’ project), they deserved a little more respect than what was given to them.
But overall, few complaints. Both Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara gave stunning live performances which underlined why they are Canada’s Next Big Stars, Peters and Adams did an admirable job co-hosting in place of Michael Buble who is still attending to his sick son), the show capably reflected that Canadian music in general, is stronger than ever and what the Junos lack in real star power is made up by the performances of the likes of The Strumbellas, July Talk and The Arkells who continue to reflect this country’s development of musical talent.
And how appropriate was the show to conclude with an all-star cast joining Bryan Adams on stage for a rendition of “Summer Of 69”, old and new coming together in one sparkling performance.
So now it’s on to Vancouver for 2018 where Nickelback will no doubt be the show’s ace performers (really!!!) and Trooper will finally be inducted into The Music Hall Of Fame – isn’t that right Randy!!!
Winners of the 46th annual Juno Awards
Album of the Year: You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen
Group of the Year: The Tragically Hip
Breakthrough Artist of the Year: Ruth B
Songwriter of the Year: Gord Downie
Country Album: Kiss Me Quiet, Jess Moskaluke
Pop Album: Know-It-All, Alessia Cara
Juno Fan Choice: Shawn Mendes
Electronic Album of the Year: 99.9 Percent, KAYTRANADA
Francophone Album of the Year: XO, Laurence Nerbonne
Classical Album, Large Ensemble: Going Home Star, Steve WEood and the Northern Cree Singers
Producer of the Year: A Tribe Called Red
Contemporary Roots Album: Earthly Days, William Prince
Children’s Album: I Believe in Little Things, Diana Panton
International Album: A Head Full of Dreams, Coldplay
Reggae Recording: Siren, Exco Levi
Breakthrough Group: The Dirty Nil
Classical Album, Solo or Chamber: Brahms: String Quartets, New Orford String Quartet
Dance Recording: Off the Ground, ft. Shae Jocobs, Bit Funk
Instrumental Album: Bird’s Nest, The Fretless
Single of the Year: Spirits, Strumbellas
Vocal Jazz Album: Bria, Bria Skonberg
Video of the Year: Kill v Maim, Claire Boucher (Grimes)
Contemporary Christian/Gospel: Hootenany!, Tim Neufeld and the Glory Boys
Classical Composition: Immersion, Jordan Cartier
Artist of the Year: Leonard Cohen
Classical Album, Vocal or Choral: L’Aignon, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal
World Music Album: Okavango African Orchestra
Adult Contemporary Album: Wonderland, Sarah McLachlan
Blues Album: Ride The One, Paul Reddick
Recording Engineer: Jason Dufour
Traditional Roots Album: Secret Victory, The East Pointers
Jazz Album, Group: Twenty, Metalwood
Recording Package of the Year: Jonathan Shedletzky, Isis Essery, Jeff Lemaire (Secret Path, Gord Downie
Rap Album: Hotel Paranoia, Jazz Cartier
Alternative Album: Touch, July Talk
Adult Alternative Album: Secret Path, Gord Downie
Metal/Hard Music Album: Coral Throne, Mandroid Echostar
Indigenous Album: Try Hands, Quantum Tangle
R&B/Soul Recording: Starboy, The Weeknd
Rock Album: Man Machine Poem, The Tragically Hip