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It’s official: the 43rd annual Juno Awards were all about Tegan and Sara.
The twins picked up awards for Group of the Year and Single of the Year — for the cotton-candy synth-pop gem Closer — at Sunday night’s ceremony at the MTS Centre. Their latest album, Heartthrob, was crowned Pop Album of the Year at Saturday night’s industry-only gala where the bulk of the awards were passed out.
Heartthrob has been nothing short of a game-changer for Tegan and Sara. They shoved aside indie rock in favour of resplendent pop — and the risk paid off. The album allowed the 33-year-old sisters to break into Top-40 consciousness in a big way; they’re even opening for Katy Perry on her arena tour this summer.
"This was an important one for us — we’ve been all kinds of bands," Sara said when she accepted the pop album award on Saturday. "We wanted to make a pop record. Thanks for honouring that."
They were similarly thankful on Sunday. "Tegan said this last night, but this award is about you," Sara said when she accepted the award for Single of the Year. "Canada has been supporting us since the ’90s."
"I don’t think many people, especially us, thought two queer kids from northeast Calgary would get to here," Tegan said with a laugh later, accepting the Group of the Year award.
Backstage, Sara talked about the band’s transition from indie rock to pop: "For Tegan and I to be able to shed our skin artistically, it allows us to see a longer future for us as a band. Entering our second decade, how do we survive? They way we do that is by surprising people."
Host Serena Ryder also emerged a multiple winner, snagging a Songwriter of the Year award Sunday night to go with her Artist of the Year award she received Saturday. Ryder finally got her due for Stompa; last year, she lost out in the Single of the Year category to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe which, let’s be honest, could be Single of the Decade.
"Holy cow, I really didn’t expect to win this. I come from a really small town, Millbrook, Ont., and this has been a dream of mine my entire life," she said onstage.
She also went to bat for Justin Bieber, who won the Fans Choice Award for the fourth year in a row to a chorus of screams and boos in almost equal measure. "I really think Justin Bieber is an amazing musician and deserves every part of that award."
Backstage, Tegan and Sara also defended Bieber. "I thought it was tacky to boo," Tegan said. "It made me feel sad. We were only booed once — and it was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. That sound? It feels horrible."
After snagging the award for Alternative Album of the Year at Saturday’s gala, Arcade Fire’s disco-inflected double album Reflektor was named Album of the Year, besting efforts by Drake, Celine Dion, . The Montreal art-rock outfit’s ambition has been rewarded in this category before; 2010’s sprawling double album The Suburbs was named Album of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards.
Deservedly, A Tribe Called Red won Breakthrough Group of the Year to a roar of approval. Twitter also erupted with congratulations from fellow musicians and fans alike. The Ottawa trio’s boundary-pushing blend of powwow and electro has made people sit up and take notice. DJ NDN gave a shout-out to native youth in his acceptance speech. "Your goals are completely attainable — so aim high."
Backstage, he elaborated. "This moment right here is a perfect example. Aboriginal youth can achieve whatever they want — we’re proof of that," he told the press gallery.
Performer and triple nominee Robin Thicke had to bail from the broadcast at the last minute, citing mandatory vocal rest, but his presence wasn’t missed. Sunday night’s show had several memorable performances, including the opening mashup of Ryder’s What I Wouldn’t Do and Halifax rapper Classified’s Three Foot Tall.
Triple-nominee Walk Off The Earth — which went home from this year’s awards empty-handed — turned in the second performance of the night, an incendiary collaboration with Red Robe Women’s Drum Society.
Tegan and Sara’s performance of the single of the year fell a bit flat, but the contribution of Choir! Choir! Choir! was fun. Ryder’s film-noir inspired performance of For You absolutely killed. Arcade Fire’s video performance of Afterlife just made this writer wish the band was actually there.
The show closed with a high-energy tribute to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, which was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame earlier in the evening. "I’m glad we won this award before Justin Bieber," quipped Robbie Bachman in his acceptance speech. Robbie and Randy shook hands onstage, a gesture as momentous as the induction itself.
BTO, along with The Sheepdogs (who look uncannily like BTO’s old promo photos), Matt Mays, Tim Hicks and The Sadies’ Travis Good, rocked out Let it Ride and Taking Care of Business in a triumphant hometown show.
The 44th annual Juno Awards take place in Hamilton on March 15, 2015.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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