It was another boring year for the Junos…so here’s hoping next year – in Regina – is better!!

2012 Junos Just Plain Weird

OTTAWA — Well, at least they picked the right date.

The 41st Juno Awards ceremony — held in Ottawa on Sunday, April 1 — should have been Canadian music’s biggest night. So why did it feel like a giant April Fool’s joke?

From the presence of 81-year-old hambone host William “I wanna rock!!” Shatner (and the absence of major international celebrities) to the bizarre comedy bits and inexplicable award choices, this year’s event easily ranks as one of the weirdest Juno nights in recent memory. How weird? Well, how about this: Michael Bublé won Album of the Year for a freakin’ holiday disc. That’s right; the crooner’s Christmas record beat Drake’s acclaimed sophomore CD Take Care. So much for artistic standards. Oh, and just to make the whole thing odder, the prize was presented by two guys from Anvil and Jully Black. As dance music master Deadmau5 eloquently put it backstage: “It better be one hell of a Christmas album.”

Also crazy: Deadmau5 was defeated in the Dance Recording category — his first loss after four consecutive wins — by Martin Solveig and Dragonette’s Hello. Even perennial favourites Nickelback — who opened the show with a typically pyromaniacal performance of This Means War on the high-tech open-platform stage — went home emptyhanded despite four noms. You have to hand it to the Junos: They know how to alienate the talent.

No wonder so many major nominees and winners were MIA. Bublé was performing in Brazil. Justin Bieber apparently preferred getting slimed at the Kids’ Choice Awards to getting his second Fan Choice prize. The Sheepdogs are touring Australia with John Fogerty (Buble, Biebs and Sheepdogs sent thank-you videos). Drake was apparently in Europe. Did they all know something we didn’t? Either way, not the ingredients for the most exciting evening. Though Shatner’s typically kooky spoken-word medley of Can-Rock classics like Born to Be Wild, Summer of ’69, Takin’ Care of Business, Tom Sawyer and Raise a Little Hell — not to mention his bizarre tales of getting loaded on absinthe and heading off to Thailand with the Governor-General — did liven up the affair.

In any case, all those no-shows left Leslie Feist the belle of the ball. And fair enough. The singer-songwriter — who also performed a spindly, thumpy version of The Bad in Each Other during the broadcast — was one of the top winners, taking Artist of the Year honours away from Bublé, Drake, Deadmau5 and City and Colour. It was her 11th career Juno and third this year; her fourth disc Metals won Adult Alternative Album and Music DVD accolades at Saturday’s non-televised (and equally unpredictable) gala.

“I just need a second,” said Feist, clad in a fetching form-fitting red number. “I’m in shock … I guess all I can really do is try to express some genuine gratitude. I can’t believe I’m standing here.”

Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs were 2012’s other top dogs. The shaggy rockers — who were catapulted to prominence after appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone last year — snared the Single of the Year prize for I Don’t Know after winning New Group honours on Saturday, along with the Rock Album prize for their disc Learn & Burn. Not bad for the first three nominations of their career. Vancouver folk-rocker Dan Mangan also had his hands full, winning the New Artist prize to go with the Alternative Album Juno he earned Saturday.

“There’s a certain amount of chatter around the Best New Artist going to artists (for) their second and maybe third album,” the 28-year-old singer-songwriter said. “I choose to look at it like this: It doesn’t matter … It takes time to do anything that’s worthwhile.”

City and Colour singer-guitarist Dallas Green was named Songwriter of the Year over Mangan, Feist, Ron Sexmith (dubbed “Sexy Ron” by Shatner) and Jim Cuddy. “If I can find a way to cut this up into five individual pieces, I’d gladly share it with the other nominees,” Green said.

But Cuddy already had his own piece of the action: He and Blue Rodeo were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

“We have travelled a very long and beautiful road, and this country has given us so much,” the 56-year-old singer-guitarist said, his voice breaking. “We have met and played for amazing people, seen some beautiful things, and had so many unforgettable experiences.”

Before their induction, the Canadian country-rock vets performed Lost Together with Sarah McLachlan. City and Colour, Deadmau5, Hedley, Hey Rosetta, Humanitarian Award winners Simple Plan (joined by K’Naan for a lilting rendition of Summer Paradise), Hedley and a “mixed-tape” medley from Dragonette, Alyssa Reid, JRDN, Anjulie and Mia Martina also “rocked” the two-hour show at Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place.