It Is What It Is

The guy I felt most sorry for after Sunday’s yawn-inducing 2013 Juno Awards ceremony staged at Regina’s Brandt Centre is Insight Productions’ John Brunton. He is the creative driving force behind the two-hour CTV telecast who has enjoyed great success in the past making something out of very little.

Yet even Brunton must have been dismayed at the lack of elements he had to work with in planning Sunday’s production in Saskatchewan. Based on k.d Lang winning the CARAS hall of fame award, and being available for the event, he had two legendary figures to work with (her induction by Anne Murray, her speech and performance) were the show’s highlights. Yet considering that the Junos is supposed to be Canada’s yearly opportunity to showcase its talent to the rest of the country (if not the world) last night’s show was bereft of star power.
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Now I know the Junos doesn’t have the talent base to compete with the Grammys or even the American Music Awards – and that’s okay. Something uniquely Canadian that shows off our domestic talent is fine. Therefore, we could have done without the opening skit of show host Michael Buble seeking advice from the likes of Russell Peters, Kelly Ripa, Gerald Butler and Dr Phil on how to host the show. Ripa, Butler and Dr Phil probably didn’t have a clue what they were doing. And was the intro of Carly Rae Jepson by British heartthrobs One Direction really necessary – or just desperation on the show’s producers part – to inject some current hysteria into the show?

Having Michael Buble as host was acceptable, like Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette and Burton Cummings before him, all he really needed was some level of public recognition to get the job. Yes, we had to endure a strained opening monologue with a few local references to Potash Mines and the Roughriders football team tossed in, and yes there was the obligatory Justin Bieber joke. But other than a tasteless remark about Carly Rae Jepson’s crumpled shorts (meant to solicit an on-camera response from his pregnant wife) Buble was harmless enough.

And having a talent lineup of Carly Rae Jepson, Metric, The Sheepdogs, Billy Talent, Serena Ryder, Mariana’s Trench, The Tenors and East Coast Rapper Collective was also fine if all we wanted to do was showcase a group of decent upcoming artists.

But this is an awards show, and to this end the Junos is falling flat. It’s almost like they don’t mean anything anymore! Okay, how Mariana’s Trench beats Rush for group of the year was the bigger Uh! for me – but then again I’m used to CARAS’s strange selections. CARAS pretty well had to give Carly Rae Jepson, top single for ‘Call Me Maybe’ as well as top song production, but also top album for “Kiss” ???

But here is the kicker. Carly Rae Jepson didn’t win Top Female Vocalist award – because this category doesn’t exist! , same with Top Male Vocalist. In other words, CARAS can’t find five nominees in each category for this award. So what they do is combine them together and present a best Artist of the Year award – which went to Leonard Cohen!! Now nothing against Leonard – who was a big deal in the 70’s – but come on!, this is 2013. If Leonard Cohen was Canada’s artist of the year for 2013 this country’s music scene is in bad shape.

Following this theme, has anyone noticed that the Junos have cut back on handing out awards to artists and instead continue to make awards for CD’s – which are pretty well a dead issue? They awarded Johnny Reid, Country Album of the Year (even though Reid is not a country artist) yet there were no awards for top Country artist or Group! – same with Reggae and R&B/Dance.

stompin_tom_connors_01But the night’s biggest faux pas was CARAS failing to honor Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil. Yes I know Stompin’ Tom said on his deathbed he didn’t want to be honoured – but still… would it have hurt for Buble to mention Connors, maybe play a video of Sudbury Saturday Night. If this had been the States, he would have gotten a major tribute – regardless of what he thought. Same with Rita, a passing mention over the show’s final credits hardly gave her any exposure.

This is where John Brunton dropped the ball. As the Junos is a show for Canadians, he had the time to create something for Stompin’ Tom and probably could have scrambled something for Rita. Maybe got Anne Murray to sing “Flying On Your Own” or brought in Matt Minglewood to sing “Working Man” I am sure CARAS will come out and say “Yes but Tom didn’t want a tribute” Right, but Tom is dead – didn’t have to induct him into the Hall Of Fame – but surely Brunton could have concocted some kind of meaningful tribute for his family and fans across the country.

If the awards themselves are redundant, then give them all away in a pre-awards ceremony and save the main show as a talent broadcast for Canadian performers. But right now, the Junos are caught between a rock and a hard place – still wanting to be meaningful, yet lacking the star power to produce an “Awards-type event” of any stature.

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