Simu Liu – Photo by Mike Marsland – WireImage
By Keith Sharp
A few years ago, the Canadian Academy of Arts and Sciences (CARAS) literally tore up the game plan on how its annual Juno Awards presentation should be executed. Knowing it lacked the star power to compete against American (and British shows of its ilk) the JUNOS started to focus more on spotlighting fresh talent and presenting fewer awards. Yes, they had the occasional appearance by the likes of Shawn Mendes, Alicia Cara (who hosted the 2021 virtual online telecast), and a rare video by Justin Bieber but nothing from Drake or The Weeknd.
Yet CARAS pressed on, replacing established stars with fresh talent and making the telecast more of a live event than an awards show. This fresh approach was never more evident than on Sunday, May 16th when the Junos reflected Canada’s global multinational scope with its live broadcast from Toronto’s Budweiser Stage.
Hosted by Chinese-Canadian Simu Liu, who has earned his own international cred by starring in the Marvel blockbuster movie “Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings,” Liu captured the global spirit of these awards with his own spin on the famous “I am Canadian” Molson Canadian rant in which he managed to work in the reality of growing up in Canada, living off roti’s, ketchup chips and Jamaican Patties but also working in references to Weeknd, Drake, Timbiebs, curling, pacemakers (a must for Toronto Maple Leaf fans) but even jabs at affordable housing and women’s rights to control their own bodies, a rant which had everyone out of their seats cheering, and pretty well ensuring he’ll back to host next year.
Yes, there was some star power on stage and it was great to see Montreal’s Arcade Fire and Napanee’s Avril Lavigne back in front of the spotlights. Hamilton’s Arkells continue to be Canada’s “It” band (although it would be great if they had some competition) and Shawn Mendes was on hand to pick up two Juno’s for International Recognition and the Tik Tok fan choice award.
But Sunday was all about cultural diversity. Montreal’s Charlotte Cardin claimed her fourth JUNO, Haviah Mighty became the first woman to win the JUNO Rapper award, the Juno audience was introduced to new talent like Lauren Spencer Smith, Manitoba’s Tesher and breakthrough artist, Jessia. Round this, off with The MONOWHALES and other multi-cultural artists such as Snotty Noz Rez Kids and Mustafa and you were presented with a true cultural experience.
CARAS’s one big missed opportunity was passing on the chance for Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, Coney Hatch bassist Andy Curran and cohorts Maiah Wayne and Alfio Annibalini to showcase at least one track off their “Envy Of None” opus, maybe next year!
And finally, and I think CARAS president Allan Reid knows this is coming, but there has to be a clearer designation of what constitutes entry into Canada’s Hall Of Fame membership. Nothing against Deborah Cox and it’s great to see a black female be inducted. But this award, to my mind, should go to artists who truly created the infrastructure of today’s music scene, most of whom have been previously recognized.. For all of her success, it’s hard to say Deborah has had such an impact. Until the likes of Trooper and (maybe even The Stampeders – original trio since 1971 yet still together rocking) ) are inducted, it’s hard to give this honour the credibility it deserves. Otherwise, job well done.
For a complete list of all 2022 Juno Award winners, please link to https://junoawards.ca