Suburban trumps urban at Junos

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Arcade Fire walk away with four Junos, but Canada’s music awards don’t reflect the Great White North just yet

Josh O'Kane
Canadian University Press

TORONTO (CUP) — Neil Young stands up, shakes his neighbour’s hand, and begins walk to an elevated platform. He is wearing a black cowboy hat, a black coat, and a red scarf. He takes his time; he high-fives some fans for a few moments, then gives up and heads up to the platform. He hugs Randy Bachman. He turns to a microphone.

“Is this real?” he asks. “What year is this?”

It is 2011, and Bachman has just handed the Artist of the Year Juno Award to 65-year-old Young, who released his 33rd studio album, Le Noise, last year.

The Junos, now in their 40th year, are meant to be a celebration of Canadian music. While its previous iterations have been lauded for an arguable disconnect from real pop culture, some saw this year as the introduction of cool to the Junos. After all, hip-hop giant Drake was to host, and critical darlings the Arcade Fire were nominated for a slew of awards.

In that sense, the system worked: Arcade Fire walked away with four awards, including Album, Group, and Songwriter of the Year. Drake was charming, despite being completely shut out by the awards – at six, he had the most original nominations – and led the ceremonies with class.

But much was missing. Rap Album of the Year? Given out the night before at a gala dinner. R&B Album of the Year? Gala dinner. Reggae? Country? Aboriginal? Rock? Alternative? Jazz? Gala dinner, too. Just about any reflection of any kind of diversity of Canadian music – both in terms of creators and consumers – was left out of the official ceremony to leave more space for the Justin Biebers and Arcade Fires.

Of course, the ceremony only has so many hours it can take up – two and a half to be precise – and, in fairness, is indeed meant to be a celebration, which is perhaps best done through live performances by our celebrated artists. Most of these were delightful, though they skewed predominantly white and were largely guitar-driven pop and rock, and were completely anglophone.

The night’s other winners included Meaghan Smith, for New Artist of the Year; Justin Bieber, for both Pop Album of the Year and Juno Fan Choice Award; and Young Artists for Haiti for Single of the Year, for an adaptation of K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag”.

Winners from the night before included Matthew Good for Rock Album of the Year, for 2009’s Vancouver (yes, 2009); Said the Whale for New Group of the Year; Johnny Reid for Country Album of the Year, for A Place Called Love; and Shad for Rap Album of the Year, for TSOL.

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