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Idiot’s guide to the Junos

Neil Young at Summer Sessions in Ambleside Park, West Vancouver, Sept 12 2009. Heinz Ruckemann photo

Won't win. Neil Young at Summer Sessions in Ambleside Park, West Vancouver, Sept 12 2009. Heinz Ruckemann photo

Drake. Bieber. Hedley. Three Days Grace. Arcade Fire. It’s the 2011 Junos!

– by Michael Kissinger

Did Juno?

The Canadian music industry’s annual pat on the back, the Juno Awards, gets its ya-ya’s out Sunday night (March 27) in Toronto, and as usual, Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys promises to be a curious affair.

Named after the first head of the Canadian Radio-Television Commission and CanCon proponent, Pierre Juneau, but without that troublesome French spelling, the Junos have been criticized for being insular, out of touch and mystifying in its methodology.

For instance, in 1989, well-established rock group 54-40 was nominated for Most Promising Group of the Year despite already having four albums under its belt. Then again, they did lose out to powerhouse Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts. The previous year, there wasn’t even an awards ceremony after organizers decided to scrap the experiment of holding the awards at the end of the year in November and rescheduled them the following spring, which has been the case ever since. In 1998, Vancouver hip hop crew Rascalz refused to accept its award for Best Rap Recording to protest the fact that rap, reggae and dance awards were excluded from the televised portion of the show.

But there have been a few bright spots in the 40-year history of the Junos as well. Besides giving insufferable bands like Hedley something to live for other than the adoration of 13-year-old girls who don’t know any better, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to hand out hardware to bands such as the New Pornographers and to some extent Arcade Fire well before The Late Show with David Letterman or the Grammys came calling.

So what does this year’s amped-up affair have in store? For starters, Degrassi: The Next Generation heartthrob-turned-international rap phenom Drake will play host, which can only mean one thing: someone’s gonna get laid that night. My money is on sultry snowbird Anne Murray.

Drake at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, July 27 2010.

Drake, seen here at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, July 27 2010, hosts this year's Juno broadcast.

Of course, Drake follows a long tradition of musician-hosts at the Junos, from the Barenaked Ladies to Alanis Morissette to Shania Twain to a lingering super-STD left backstage the previous year by a member of Nickelback, which grew resistant to antibiotics and developed the ability to talk.

The Junos also have an unfortunate tendency of pandering to the most basic and stereotypical levels of Canadian patriotism, next to Canadian Tire and Molson Canadian commercials. Look no further than this year’s nominees for Single of the Year: Classified “Oh Canada,” Drake “Find Your Love,” Hedley “Perfect,” kd lang “Hallelujah Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010” and Young Artists for Haiti “Wavin’ Flag.” Our money’s on “Wavin’ the Flag” because it has “inspirational” written all over it and Hedley always sounds like the singer is enduring a terrible groin pull. Plus I support anything for Haiti because it makes me feel like I’m less racist and doing something to make a difference when I’m actually not.

Drake also nabs a nomination for Album of the Year, but he’ll have to wrestle it away from Arcade Fire who already surprised a few million people when they won the same category at the Grammy Awards this year. But as my father likes to say, never underestimate the Bieber – especially in the Artist of the Year category, where he’s up against old fogies like Neil Young, Sarah McLachan, someone called Johnny Reid and, wait for it, Drake.

Arcade Fire at the Osheaga Festival, July 31 2011. Adrian Smith photo

Arcade Fire at the Osheaga Festival, July 31 2011. Adrian Smith photo

Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Down With Webster (?), Great Big Sea and Three Days Grace make up the Group of the Year category, also known as “worst concert lineup to see while on acid ever.”

Three Days Grace at GM Place, Vancouver, Jan 12 2010

Three Days Grace are Canadian?

The Best New Artist and Best New Band categories are often as much of a curse as they are confusing (hello, Rose Chronicles), and this year is no exception, particularly with the nod to Caribou. While it’s commendable the Junos would acknowledge such an act, it’s a little odd considering founder Dan Snaith has already released three Caribou albums and two under the moniker Manitoba making him anything but a newbie.

But arguably the most embarrassing category at the Junos has to be International Album of the Year. Why a Canadian music awards show finds it necessary to reward such underappreciated acts as Eminem, Katie Perry, Kesha, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift just because they’ve sold millions of records on our soil is a mystery, right up there with “who let the dogs out?” and Mitsou’s far-too-short musical career.

The whole thing sounds like an episode of Degrassi: the Next Generation, where a well-meaning, slightly awkward character throws a big party and invites a bunch of kids she hardly knows just because they’re popular, but in the end it just comes across as desperate and kind of sad.

Good thing Jimmy Brooks, sorry, Drake will be there to make it all better.

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