Juno Awards a missed opportunity
By MARY DICKIE — Toronto Sun
It’s a great time for Canadian music, as everyone will tell you.
In the past couple of years, artists of many musical styles have emerged from thriving scenes across the country to make great records, and bask in an unprecedented amount of international support.
The indie boom is undoubtedly the story of the year, so tonight’s Juno Awards will naturally celebrate those artists and their success. Right?
Broken Social Scene may sell out in London, New York and Tokyo, but the Junos are more about celebrating TV karaoke contests and the priorities of major labels, which seem to be increasingly relying on Canadian Idol judges as their talent scouts.
The list of nominees for the major awards reveals a dependence on characterless, TV-polished material that could have (and in some cases did) come from elsewhere, rather than reflecting the flavour and variety of recent Canadian music.
What’s up for album of the year, for instance? Surely The Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which has sold half a million copies. No doubt Neil Young’s Prairie Wind. Perhaps Jully Black’s This Is Me, Blue Rodeo’s Are You Ready, Stars’ Set Yourself On Fire, K’naan’s Dusty Foot Philosopher or The New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema?
Oh, no. Those artists are lucky to get nominated for non-televised genre awards.
Instead, the nominees include a Christmas album, a collection of retro standards — which contain exactly one Canadian song between them — two forgettable releases by Canadian Idol contestants and Nickelback’s All The Right Reasons.
Nearly the same bunch — Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Kalan Porter and Rex Goudie, plus token francophone Boom Desjardins — are up for artist of the year. (Rex Goudie for artist of the year? He didn’t even win Canadian Idol! Hello?! Neil Young put out an album last year. It didn’t have to be his best to top Diana Krall’s Jingle Bells.)
The thing is, despite being named after Pierre Juneau — the CRTC boss who helped give us Canadian content regulations in the ’70s — Juno submissions don’t actually have to meet CanCon regulations. As long as the artist was born here, or is a landed immigrant, the album qualifies.
The lack of interest in actual Canadian music is reflected in the fact that no songwriter-of-the-year nominee was also nominated for best album, artist, single or group. How can the best songwriting not be part of the best albums? Only in Junoland.
As well, the Juno show producers felt they needed performances by Coldplay and The Black Eyed Peas to win their TV time slot — despite a slew of Canadian performers, plus host Pamela Anderson.
It’s sad that the folks who should be Canadian music’s loudest cheerleaders actually have so little faith in it.
You could give yourself a headache trying to figure out how the Junos work. There are seven different ways to determine the winners: Various combinations of sales figures and voting by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), the public, and the CARAS board and “panels of experts.”
Sales factor into album of the year, but not single. Artist and group are partly determined by sales, but new artist and new group are not — and neither are they subject to the same eligibility period as everything else.
I guess that’s why the Pocket Dwellers, now on their third album, were nominated for new group.
By the way, did you know that we had adult alternative radio in Canada? Neither did I. But we do have an adult alternative Juno — a convenient place to put country-rock artists such as Kathleen Edwards, Blue Rodeo, Luke Doucet and Neil Young so that they’re not completely ignored.
I could go on, but I’d just be banging my head against the wall of Juno complacency. I guess all we can do is hope that some Halifax flavour somehow sneaks into the show.
Juno Awards a missed opportunity