THE nation’s capital will serve as the country’s music capital this weekend.
The Canadian music industry is converging on Ottawa this weekend for the 41st annual Juno Awards, a celebration of homegrown music that is more than just an awards show: it includes a charity hockey game featuring musicians playing against ex-National Hockey League players; a songwriters circle; a giant autograph session known as Fan Fare; and a twoday music festival, JunoFest.
The awards themselves are held over two nights — a non-televised gala tonight, where the majority of the 41 awards are handed out, followed by the glitzy broadcast airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on CTV. Actor William Shatner hosts the televised awards from the home of the Ottawa Senators, Scotiabank Place.
Four seems to be the big number this year with singer-songwriter Dallas Green’s City and Colour project, folk-rocker Dan Mangan, rapper Drake, art-popster Feist, pop-rockers Hedley and post-grunge group Nickelback leading the list of nominees with four each.
There are also four Manitoba acts nominated: Doc Walker, the Wailin’ Jennys, KEN Mode and Bruthers of Different Mothers (see sidebar).
Other multiple nominees include pop star Avril Lavigne, neo-crooner Michael Bublé and electronic artist Deadmau5, who made headlines this week for slagging Madonna after she used a drug reference during a show in Miami. (The two have since made up via Twitter.) Last year’s host, Drake, is tied for the lead in nominations and is favoured in three of his categories, but won’t be at the show because he is performing in Manchester on Sunday.
Bublé also won’t be in Ottawa this weekend because of concerts in Brazil and teen dream Justin Bieber — up for two awards — hadn’t confirmed his appearance at press time.
"We’ve got a star-studded lineup and we’ve got some amazing acts. We have international superstars — you can only expect them to be on the road. We have to share them; we can’t have them every year," Melanie Berry, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which runs the Junos, told the Canadian Press earlier this month.
Even though some of the big guns won’t be showing up, the two-hour broadcast will still feature plenty of star power with Blue Rodeo, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan, Hedley, Feist, Deadmau5, City and Colour, Hey Rosetta, K’Naan, Lights, MC Flipside and Simple Plan scheduled to perform.
Veteran Toronto roots act Blue Rodeo will be inducted into the 2012 Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
The 2011 Juno telecast was watched by 2.4 million viewers, a 48 per cent increase in total audience over 2010, with 7.6 million Canadians tuning in to at least some of the program, according to CTV.
The broadcast gets the most attention, but it is actually the second award show of the weekend. The majority of the awards, 34, are bestowed at a non-televised gala Saturday at the Ottawa Convention Centre. The remaining seven for artist, fan choice, single, songwriter, new artist, dance recording and album of the year are handed out Sunday.
Several expats will also have the chance to take home some Juno hardware, including violinist Ehnes (Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble or Soloist(s)); Twilight Hotel (Roots & Traditional Album: Group); Dave Young Quintet (Traditional Jazz Album); Bob Rock (producer); and the late Ann Southam (Classical Composition). Toronto’s David Travers-Smith earned a Recording Engineer of the Year nod, in part for his work on the Wailin’ Jennys’ Bright Morning Stars, and local imprint Balanced Records is the label behind Ottawa fusion act Flying Down Thunder and Rise Ashen, up against Bruthers of Different Muthers in the aboriginal album category.
KEN Mode and Bruthers of Different Muthers are both playing JunoFest, while the Wailin’ Jennys are scheduled to perform at the nontelevised gala tonight.
All our nominees are strong, but there is no such thing as a shooin. Here’s how the locals stack up against the competition and some unscientific guesses about their chances of winning:
Country Album of the Year
Doc Walker, 16 & 1 ; High Valley, High Valley; Jason McCoy, Everything; Jimmy Rankin, Forget About the World; Terri Clark, Roots and Wings.
The main competition: Everything is Jason McCoy’s first solo album since 2003, while the brothers in High Valley won over many with their big smiles and country-pop sound. Both Clark and Rankin have name recognition, but 16 & 1 is the best album on this list.
Doc Walker’s chances: Heavily favoured, 75 per cent.
Aboriginal Album of the Year
Bruthers of Different Muthers, Speakers of Tomorrow; Donny Parenteau, To Whom it May Concern; Flying Down Thunder and Rise Ashen, One Nation; Murray Porter, Songs Lived & Life Played; Randy Wood, The Gift of Life.
The main competition: Flying Down Thunder and Rise Ashen’s fusion of modern electronica and traditional Algonquin chants is intoxicating.
Bruthers of Different Muthers chances: Could go either way; 50 per cent.
Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group
The Wailin’ Jennys, Bright Morning Stars; Good Lovelies, Let the Rain Fall; The Deep Dark Woods, The Place I Left Behind; The Once, Row Upon Row of the People We Know; Twilight Hotel, When the Wolves Go Blind.
The main competition: With the sheer number of roots and folk groups in Canada, this is one of the toughest categories to win and the Jennys are up against some solid competition, most notably the hauntingly beautiful Deep Dark Woods and the rustic mood-shifting of When the Wolves go Blind by Austin, Texas-based Winnipeggers Twilight Hotel.
Wailin’ Jennys chances: A tough category — 45 per cent.
Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year
KEN Mode, Venerable; Anvil, Juggernaut of Justice; Cauldron, Burning Fortune; Devin Townsend Project, Deconstruction; F--- the Facts, Die Miserable.
The main competition: Venerable is easily the best album of this bunch and deserves to win, but I fear Anvil’s recent re-emergence thanks to the excellent 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil and their sheer longevity could win over the judges. It’s not quite in the Jethro Tull-over-Metallica Grammy vein, but it would still sting.
KEN Mode’s chances: They should win, 100 per cent, but if the judges go soft and sentimental with the Anvil vote then all bets are off.