Juno Awards celebrate star power

The Weeknd Juno Awatds GigCity Edmonton


If you were Rip Van Winkle and sealed in a time capsule for the last 20 years, you might find the Juno Awards a bit different than you remember. More star power.

Jann Arden is still there – but she’s the host! A competent host she was, too, at the show from her hometown Calgary on Sunday night, with her sports guy sidekick Olympian Jon Montgomery.

“Thankfully in music there’s no drug testing or there wouldn’t be a single soul here tonight,” said Jann, her best line of the night.

Leave it to the reader to guess the habits of a bright new class of Canadian music stars of a level never seen before. Many of the winners are artists people outside of Canada may actually have heard of. Imagine.

On the rightful top of the heap was The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, who cleaned up with five Junos, including the coveted Album of the Year and Single of the Year for that I Can’t Feel My Face song we just haven’t heard enough of. He’s deeper than that one song. In the realm of modern soul music, Tesfaye is the for-real deal, destined to outlast derivative stars like, say, Bruno Mars (who sounds like he went back in time to steal his older brother’s record collection), and not likely to ever to be sued by the Estate of Marvin Gaye.

Alessia Cara GigCity Edmonton Juno Awatds

Alessia Cara

That most of this year’s Juno winners and performers are victims to being horrendously overplayed by pop radio is a positive thing for Canadian music. Bryan Adams aside – who rocked out for old time’s sake – Canadian content is moot. Time to retire this antique policy. Among other worthy winners was the new girl, Alessia Cara, winner of the “Breakthrough Artist.” The category was formerly known as “New Artist of the Year,” considered a kiss of death – but in this case it’s far too late as Cara has already attained chart success beyond a mere best new artist. Two singles, two huge hits, not bad so far.

Among some pretty good performances – The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, the weird inspirational poem by the great Buffy Sainte-Marie – and a couple of bad ones (Coleman Hell seemed to be having some vocal problems) – the best performance of the night was a pleasant surprise: Whitehorse, the husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, no stranger to Edmonton. Their performance of Tame as the Wild Ones was captivating, vulnerable, real, one of the finest examples of folk in the pop music world as you will see on television. You’d almost believe they’re actually from Whitehorse instead of Ontario.

A lot of time was given to Burton Cummings, this year’s inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame – you Americans have heard of Burton Cummings, haven’t you? The members of Nickelback delivered a heartfelt introduction, with Chad Kroeger admitting that his mom was such a fan that he was almost named “Burton” – but viewers were spared Nickelback doing a rendition of These Eyes. Instead, a dreaded Burton medley ensued featuring a who’s who of Canadian ringers, including the mustachioed honoree himself on piano, getting off the last lick of the night in the difficult extro to My Own Way To Rock. He got misty during his speech earlier.

Another Canadian golden boy didn’t fare so well. Poor Justin Bieber. He was booed by the live crowd following his pre-taped acceptance speech for winning the Fan’s Choice Award – because he was apparently too busy to attend the Junos because he was boxing. Obviously a pre-planned bit meant to be funny, but it sure didn’t go over in Calgary.

No matter. There was more than enough Canadian star power to go around at this year’s Juno awards.