A commercial for the 2015 Juno Awards features shirtless host and harbinger of Hedley, Jacob Hoggard, wailing on an anvil with a sledgehammer. A conspicuous ode to the Junos host city Hamilton (Canada’s Steeltown, a.k.a. the Hammer), this promo unwittingly introduces a visual metaphor for the evening’s proceedings. We see two immovable objects collide; the sledgehammer is the Juno Awards, violently asserting that this is the biggest night in Canadian music, while the anvil is a proxy for the fussy television audience, unwilling to suppress an audible scoff at the notion that they should watch a Canadian awards show instead of The Good Wife.
The Juno Awards are continually facing an uphill ratings battle, but every year, the producers seem to have a trump card in their back pocket, giving them a fighting chance at fending off Netflix and early bedtimes. In 2011, it was Drake. Last year, it was meant to be soulful slimeball Robin Thicke, who canceled last minute. This year, a much anticipated performance by Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Alanis Morissette would keep us tuned in until Mansbridge O’Clock.
For an event that has “Awards” in the title, the statuettes themselves seem almost inconsequential to the evening’s broadcast—the televised portion of the Junos is clearly all about the performances. On Saturday evening, 35 awards were already given out, leaving just 6 categories for the main broadcast. Before the show even began, both Bahamas and Kiesza had already won two Junos, with trophies also going to Arkells, Magic!, The Weekend, and Naturally Born Strangers, who brought it home for Rap Recording Of The Year.
To open the show, Jacob Hoggard and Hedley performed a pyro-rific version of "Anything," with the manic energy of someone who just drank seven Redbulls backstage. Hoggard's appearances throughout the night were rare, but his occasional presence on stage helped anchor the show, which moved at a breakneck pace, squeezing 11 acts into just 2 hours.
Performances by Arkells, deadmau5, and Kiesza electrified the crowd, but no one got a bigger reaction than guitar-strumming teen hunk Shawn Mendes. The mere mention of his name shook dust from the rafters, and left us wondering if we could buy stock in his career, ie. the safest bet in Canadian music right now. It wouldn't have been an awards show in 2015 if Magic! didn't bless Hamilton with a rendition of "Rude," and a nice duet between gruff radio-rocker Sam Roberts and electro-pop's manic pixie dream Lights was probably the most unnecessary Canadian collaboration of the weekend.
Where can an absentee octogenarian win Album Of The Year? Only at the Junos. Leonard Cohen took home the top prize for Popular Problems, much to the delight of presenter/throat singer Tanya Tagaq, who let out a shriek of glee that rivaled a Shawn Mendes fan. Kiesza won for Breakthrough Artist, Magic! took home another trophy for Single Of The Year "Rude," and Bublé was the audience-voted favourite in the Juno Fan Choice Category. It's tempting to call the Junos rockist, given that the only genre-related category awarded on television is Best Rock Album. But we'll let it slide, because hometown heroes Arkells got the nod for High Noon tonight.
After a stirring performance of 50 Shades Of Grey favourite "Earned It" earlier in the night, The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, beat out Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, deadmau5, and Leonard Cohen to win Artist Of The Year, proving that drugged-out R&B is as Canadian as maple syrup.
Tesfaye isn't much for lengthy speeches, so moments after he accepted his award, Alanis finally stepped on stage. This was what everyone was waiting for. The newly minted Canadian Music Hall Of Fame inductee sang flawlessly, running through a medley of "Uninvited," "You Oughta Know," and "Thank U." A capacity crowd was finally united, and sang along word-for-word with one of Canada's finest.
Trying to squeeze 6 awards and 11 performances into a 2-hour Canadian awards show could have been painful to watch, but as Hoggard sang his goodbyes in front of a grand piano, the mood in Hamilton was strangely calm. What could have been as unpleasant as two giant hunks of metal clanking together, turned into a downright pleasant cross-genre celebration of Canadian music. And hey, it even wrapped before The Good Wife came on. Bonus.
Check out the full list of Juno winners below:
Album Of The Year: Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems
Single Of The Year: Magic!, "Rude"
Artist Of The Year: The Weeknd
Breakthrough Artist: Kiesza
Rock Album Of The Year: Arkells, High Noon
Juno Fan Choice: Michael Bublé
Group of the Year: Arkells
Breakthrough Group of the Year: Magic!
Pop Album of the Year: Lights, Little Machines
Adult Alternative Album of the Year: Bahamas, Bahamas is Afie
Alternative Album of the Year: July Talk, July Talk
Rap Recording of the Year: Naturally Born Strangers, The Legends League Presents: Naturally Born Strangers
Dance Recording of the Year: Kiesza, Sound of a Woman
R&B/Soul Recording of the Year: The Weeknd, “Often”
Reggae Recording of the Year: Exco Levi, “Welcome the King”
Aboriginal Album of the Year: Tanya Tagaq, Animism
Roots and Traditional Album/Solo: Catherine MacLellan, The Raven’s Sun
Roots and Traditional Album of the Year/Group: The Bros. Landreth, Let it Lie
Electronic Album of the Year: Caribou, Our Love
Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year: Devin Townsend Project, Z2
Adult Contemporary Album of the Year: Sarah McLachlan, Shine On
Songwriter of the Year: Bahamas, “All the Time,” “Bitter Memories” and “Stronger Than That,” from Bahamas, Bahamas is Afie
Country Album of the Year: Dallas Smith, Lifted
Vocal Jazz Album of the Year: Diana Panton, Red
Jazz Album of the Year/Solo: Kirk MacDonald, Vista Obscura
Jazz Album of the Year/Group: Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, Jane Bunnett and Maqueque
Instrumental Album of the Year: Quartango, Encuentro
Francophone Album of the Year: Jimmy Hunt, Maladie d’amour
Children’s Album of the Year: Fred Penner, Where in the World
Classical Album of the Year/Solo or Chamber Ensemble: James Ehnes, Bartok:Chamber Works for Violin, Vol. 3
Classical Album of the Year/Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment: Angela Hewitt, Mozart:Piano Concertos Nos. 22 & 24
Classical Composition of the Year: Brian Current, “Airline Icarus,” from Airline Icarus: The Complete Opera
Blues Album of the Year: Steve Hill, Solo Recordings, Vol. 2
Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album: Manic Drive, VIP
World Music Album of the Year: Quique Escamilla, 500 Years of Night
Jack Richardson Producer of the Year Award: Adam Messinger, “Change Your Life” (co-producer Nasri Atweh) from Iggy Azalea, The New Classic; “Rude” from Magic!, Don’t Kill the Magic
Recording Engineer of the Year: Eric Ratz, “Ghosts” from Ghosts, Big Wreck; “Satellite Hotel” from Black Buffalo, One Bad Son
Recording Package of the Year: Roberta Hansen (art director/designer/illustrator) and Mike Latschislaw (photographer) for Steve Bell, Pilgrimage
Video of the Year: Kiesza, “Hideaway” (directors: Blayre Ellestad, Rami Afuni, Juba Castot).
International Album of the Year: Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour