The biggest night(s) in Canadian music are about to take place right here in our fair prairie burgh. You know all the details -- the 43rd annual Juno Awards will be broadcast from the MTS Centre on Sunday night; Classified, Serena Ryder and Johnny Reid are hosting; Robin Thicke will be there much to my well-documented chagrin, etc. -- so now there's just one question left:
Who's leaving Winnipeg with a fancy cut-glass statue?
While there are 41 awards to be handed out, a whole six will be televised. Those include the Juno Fan Choice Award -- which, let's be real, is the throwaway Juno (more on that in a moment) -- Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Group of the Year, Breakthrough Group of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.
The rest will be given out at an industry-only gala dinner on Saturday night. Happily, this year the Juno Awards is live-streaming the gala for the first time at junoawards.ca so you, too, will be able to witness the polite, drunken ramblings of Canadian musicians. (Think of the Juno Gala as the Golden Globes to the broadcast's Oscars.)
This year's slate of nominations is marked by a few tight races and some big multiple nominees. Arcade Fire leads the pack with six nominations, including Album of the Year, on the strength of its disco-imbued fourth album, Reflektor. (Céline Dion, Drake, Michael Bublé and Ryder are also up for Album of the Year.)
Host Ryder, who won a Juno Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year in Regina in 2013, has five nominations, while Dion, Drake and Tegan and Sara have four nods apiece. Hedley, Walk Off the Earth and Thicke have three nominations each.
While it's hard to say definitively who has it in the bag -- the Junos like to do zany things, like fête a Christmas record with the award for Album of the Year, as they did with Michael Bublé in 2012 -- here's a look at some of the Juno's biggest categories, and who we think will emerge victorious.
JUNO FAN CHOICE AWARD
And the nominees are: Arcade Fire, Avril Lavigne, Céline Dion, Drake, Hedley, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Robin Thicke, Serena Ryder, Walk Off the Earth
Who will win: Who cares? The fan choice award is a popularity contest that either goes to Michael Bublé or Justin Bieber -- unless, of course, it's a Nickelback year. The Biebs, however, will likely continue his winning streak; he's been the fans' choice three years running and his shiny new petulant bad-boy image likely won't do much to change that. (His mug shot will henceforth be known as the smug shot.)
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Arcade Fire, Reflektor; Classified, Inner Ninja; Michael Bublé, It's a Beautiful Day; Serena Ryder, What I Wouldn't Do; Tegan and Sara, Closer.
Who should win: Tegan and Sara. Closer is a juggernaut of a pop radio hit with an explosive, sing-a-long chorus. Like Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe, it's a single in the truest sense.
Who will win: While Arcade Fire's chances are also decent, this might be a gimme for Ryder. Stompa lost in this category last year to Call Me Maybe -- shocking no one.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Arcade Fire, Reflektor; Céline Dion, Love Me Back To Life; Drake, Nothing Was The Same; Michael Bublé; To Be Loved; Serena Ryder, Harmony.
Who should win: I'd be happy with Arcade Fire, Drake or Ryder, for different reasons. Drake's album was a single machine (six!); Ryder's is the sound of a singer/songwriter transitioning out of adult-contempo and finding her voice; and Arcade Fire's is a master class in ambition -- which has been rewarded before. Arcade Fire previously won in the category in 2011 for its sprawling opus, The Suburbs.
Who will win: Historically, the Juno Awards go pretty safe in this category. Even though Album of the Year is kind of Céline's turf, Bublé may well pick up his fourth Album of the Year statue.
GROUP OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Arcade Fire, Blue Rodeo, Hedley, Tegan and Sara, Walk Off The Earth
Who should win: It's been Tegan and Sara's year. Heartthrob, the twins' synthy sweetheart of an album, has propelled them to new heights. Also, it's about time the Quins won a Juno.
Who will win: Tegan and Sara have a good chance, but this one might go to Arcade Fire, which also broke new ground with a risky new album and an unprecedented promotion campaign to go with it. Secret shows by "The Reflektors," cryptic iconography, an interactive music video -- Arcade Fire's been a band on everyone's lips.
BREAKOUT GROUP OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: A Tribe Called Red, Autumn Hill, Courage My Love, Born Ruffians, July Talk
Who should win: This category is usually cause for LOL moments because many of the nominees are on their third album, but few sum up the breakout ethos the way A Tribe Called Red does. The Ottawa trio's electric powwow has swept the nation, and its fusion of indigenous music and modern electro is fresh.
Who will win: A Tribe Called Red, if the Junos like music.
POP ALBUM OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Hedley, Wild Life; Michael Bublé, To Be Loved; Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines; Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob; Walk Off The Earth, R.E.V.O.
Who should win: Tegan and Sara, obviously.
Who will win: This category is anyone's game. While viral sensation Walk Off The Earth lost out to Monster Truck in the Breakout Group of the Year category in Regina last year in a shocking upset, the band may well get its honour this year. Bublé and Hedley would be the predictable -- and perhaps most Juno-y -- choices. As for Thicke, many are of the mind that he shouldn't have been nominated at all.
ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Arcade Fire, Reflektor; Rah Rah, The Poet's Dead; Royal Canoe, Today We're Believers; The Darcys, Warring; Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Uzu.
Who should win: This is an incredibly strong category; all five of these records are worthy. Still, it would be amazing if Winnipeg's own Royal Canoe snagged this award. While Today We're Believers isn't the band's first record, it is, in a lot of ways, its debut.
Who will win: Arcade Fire has this one pretty much locked in, but Toronto experimentalists Yamantaka // Sonic Titan's Uzu may be the dark horse to watch here. If Godspeed You! Black Emperor could win the Polaris Prize...
RAP RECORDING OF THE YEAR
And the nominees are: Classified, Half Life; Drake, Nothing Was The Same; Rich Kidd, In My Opinion; Shad, Flying Colours; SonReal, Everywhere We Go.
Who should win: In 2011, Shad beat out Drake in the category in a rare Juno shocker, and it could happen again. Flying Colours sees Shad up his game both in terms of lyrics and flow. He understands the power in words; he's a precise, vivid writer.
Who will win: While it was a banner year for rap -- this is another stacked category -- the throw down is between heavyweights Drake and Shad.