Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trio of Juno hosts undeniably talented folks, but lacking in star power

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With Vladimir Putin parading a proxy army around Crimea and the oceans acidifying to the point where shellfish can't form shells, it might seem petty to complain about who happens to host an awards show.

Nonetheless, it's tough not to be at least a wee bit disappointed with the lack of major star power at the podium of the 2014 Juno Awards, which will be held at MTS Centre for the second time in a decade.

Early Tuesday morning, while many Winnipeggers were still fumbling with their snooze buttons or pouring themselves their first cup of caffeine, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and Juno broadcaster CTV announced not one but three people will host the March 30 awards telecast: singer-songwriter Serena Ryder, rapper Classified and country singer Johnny Reid.

Ryder, Classified and Reid are all accomplished Canadian recording artists with fantastic professional reputations. All three most definitively deserve to be part of the Junos as nominees and performers.

But when it comes to filling the role of host -- a position usually reserved for a major star in music, film or comedy -- this trio of solid Canadian performers comes across as something of a Plan C for the Juno organizers.

Since CTV took over the Juno telecast in 2002, the show has been hosted by a few big stars (Drake and Shania Twain), a couple of charismatic performers (Michael Bublé and the Barenaked Ladies), comedian Russell Peters (who played host two years in a row) and a couple of actors who sent up their own kitschy images (Pamela Anderson and William Shatner).

Those were more or less inspired choices. Less successful was the 2005 decision to name actor-comedian Brent Butt as the host of the first Winnipeg Junos. The decision sort of made sense at the time, given the popularity of CTV's Corner Gas, which was set in Saskatchewan, which is just a western extension of Manitoba in the minds of many in Toronto.

The choice of Butt aside, the producer's decision to make the Winnipeg Juno set reflect the most embarrassing aspect of urban existence in 2005 -- Sunday-night cruising on Portage Avenue, then at the apex of annoyance -- added a bit of insult to egotistical injury.

So the feeling was Winnipeg deserved a host with a little more star power -- and a show with a little more of a cosmopolitan feel -- than the 2005 event.

In early February, rumours began circulating about a major Canadian female star considering an offer to be host. But as the weeks rolled on without a host announcement, those rumours were replaced by whispers Juno organizers were having trouble landing a big name.

In the end, the decision to tap a trio of known Canadian commodities -- Ryder, Reid and Classified -- is an improvement over 2010, when the show didn't have a host at all.

Juno organizers are spinning the absence of a big name in the hosting slot as way of celebrating musicians.

"Every Juno Awards broadcast is unique and we approach them as such. This year the broadcast committee, comprised of CARAS, CTV and producers Insight Productions, wanted to celebrate with a 'night of musicians,'" Bell Media vice-president Scott Henderson said Tuesday in a statement.

"We loved the idea of asking some of this year's nominees to be more involved in the show, so we looked closely across all genres of music. Ultimately, the committee felt that Classified, Johnny and Serena represented a great cross-section of Canadian music and really illustrated the diversity of the industry.

"All three are Juno winners, adored by fans across the country and respected by the industry. They are a perfect fit for Canada's biggest night in music."

Again, there's no reason to expect Ryder, Reid and Classified to do anything but an excellent job. They're all experienced performers.

But there's a reason they were only handed the hosting duties 25 days before the event. CARAS and CTV, whose goal is to secure the highest possible ratings for Canada's biggest music awards show, were more than likely taking the time to try landing a bigger name.

How do you feel about the trio of hosts chosen for the Junos? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2014 C3

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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