By Keith Sharp
Most of the usual suspects are present as CARAS announced its 2019 Juno Award nominees for the Sunday, March 17th CBC telecast to be staged at London Ontario’s Budweiser Gardens, hosted by Nova Scotia native Sarah McLachlan.
As expected, Pickering’s Shawn Mendes leads the way with six award nominations, including Best Album and Best Pop Album for his self-titled release, Artist of the Year, Single of the Year (‘In My Blood’), Songwriter of the Year and Juno Fan Choice while Scarborough’s The Weeknd chalked up five nominations for Best Album (`My Dear Melancholy’), Artist Of The Year, Juno Fan Choice, Best R&B/Soul Album (`My Dear Melancholy’) and Single Of The Year (‘Pray For Me’).
Brampton songbird Alessia Cara attracted three nominations along with Three Days Grace and Jann Arden and the likes of Michael Buble, Sheepdogs, Trews, Arkells and Metric are in the running for Juno hardware. But there’s one noticeable absentee.
Aubrey `Drake’ Graham totally shattered existing streaming records with the release of his latest album, Scorpion, chalked up three No 1 hits including the mega-hit ‘God’s Plan’ and had no less than 11 tracks featured on Billboard’s Top 200 charts. Achievements which have earned the Toronto native no less than seven Grammy nominations. But is Drake listed on any of this year’s Juno categories?
Er No! Not a sausage.
The reason for this apparent oversight is, according to CARAS President Allan Reid, Drake’s people refused to nominate him for any of this year’s categories and in doing so, basically boycotted the entire process. “Artists need to submit their work for consideration and for the last two years, Drake’s people have not submitted so he cannot garner a nomination,” Reid explained. “It’s unfortunate as he is a great artist but we hope he will return in the near future.”
The internationally acclaimed rap artist became disenchanted with CARAS after hosting the 2011 Juno Awards. Drake was nominated in five different categories but lost all five and obviously felt snubbed by the process. Two years ago, the Junos tried to placate Drake by awarding him a special International Achievement Award but that didn’t impress him and failed to appear to pick up his trophy.
Despite a few positive International breakthroughs with the likes of Drake, Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara, Justin Bieber and Nickelback in the past six years or so, the Canadian music industry is notorious for turning its back on artists once they elevate themselves to the world stage. It’s almost as if the industry feels slighted if our home bread stars have the nerve to expand their talents globally. The reaction seems to be that CARAS then promotes domestic artists to win key awards over established international stars.
By boycotting the past two years, Drake is only following in the footsteps of Bieber and Nickelback, two other internationally established artists who have recently snubbed the Junos due to critical backlash on the home front.
And these aren’t the first artists to go this route. Anne Murray famously snubbed the awards in the early ’80s because she thought the telecast and show production at that time was second-rate and she was tired of always winning the female and best album categories. Vancouver manager Bruce Allen also declared war on the Junos voting process when his band Loverboy wasn’t even nominated for the top new band award in 1981 even though their debut release went 4x Platinum in Canada and sold two million copies in the States while another Allen artist, Bryan Adams twice lost out in the New Artist award.
The reality is that Canada only boasts a handful of legitimate International stars and when they collectively decide to pass on the Junos, leaving it to a crop of domestic artists to carry the load, then the credibility of the show suffers. Even if Drake doesn’t want to be considered for any artist-based awards, his name should be amongst the Fan Choice nominees. Nothing against Killy, bülow, Loud Luxury or Tory Lanez but I’ll bet you couldn’t find five or 10 kids on the street who have ever heard of these people…but everyone knows who Drake is!
And there are other flaws in this year’s nominations process, especially in the New Artist and New Group categories. Bowmanville’s Meghan Patrick has ruled as the Queen of domestic Country Music for the past three years yet she finds herself in the Breakthrough Artist of The Year category up against the likes of Johnny Orlando and bülow. Same with Vancouver’s Washboard Union who are up for a similar award in the Breakthrough Group of the Year category. Washboard Union happens to be the reigning Canadian Country Music Group of The Year recipients. Both artists would argue they achieved their collective breakthroughs like three years ago but they are now being categorized as though they are afterthoughts, shunted into a convenient category??
The lack of star power at recent Juno shows has lead to a drastic drop in television ratings and unless they can convince Bryan Adams to plug his new record and get Corey Hart to accept his Hall of Fame award by performing live – this year’s show is also going to be bereft of big names.
Which does mean the telecast has been a launch pad for new talent with Hamilton’s Arkells, Red Deer’s Dear Rouge and Toronto’s Metric receiving a significant boost from well-received performances. This year’s show benefits from the exposure that the likes of bülow (four award nominations), Lord Loud (four nominations) and Quebecois singer Hubert Lenoir will receive.
Yet, there is no way the Junos can rival even the Canadian Country Music Awards which always trots out an A-list of outstanding artists (Dallas Smith, Brett Kissel, Washboard Union, Meghan Patrick, and yes even Shania Twain) whose collective talents always make for an evening of great live entertainment.
For a complete list of 2019 Juno Award nominees, please link to https://junoawards.ca//nominees/