The 41st Juno Awards, held in Ottawa this year, was like going to your socially awkward but well-intentioned neighbour's holiday party: Worth grinning and bearing it for a couple of hours, despite cringe-worthy moments, a boorish guest ( host William Shatner) and unwanted yet unavoidable exposure to Michael Buble's Christmas album.
Feist for Prime Minister
The sole Canadian music star under 60 who nearly everyone can agree on is Feist, and she was in stunning form. The Broken Social Scenester won hearts and minds with what seemed to be genuine awe at winning Artist of the Year, accepting in a figure-hugging red dress that even the presenters couldn't help going bug-eyed over. Even better, her rendition of The Bad In Each Other was a pounding, pyrotechnics-filled triumph showcasing both her and her enviable band. Next year, can't they just give out the awards between songs at a Feist concert?
Simple Plan get their props
Selfless charity advocates Simple Plan were given the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, which is deserved and nice, though after hearing the Montreal pop-punkers perform Summer Paradise with K'naan in tow (who delivered his cameo verse with gusto, then tripped over a riser), we'd all appreciate it if the band's next humanitarian mission was to broker a ceasefire between their music and our ears. Also, despite showing a photo of schoolkids in the Democratic Republic of Congo thanking the group, the presenter didn't actually identify who the recipients were, where they were from or what the money was going towards. Hooray for dark-skinned kids of unknown geographic origin used as anonymous props! #kony2012
Lost and found
Confused and/or horrified oldsters who endured Hedley's "powerbockers" jumping around on spring-loaded stilts were rewarded with a soulful rendition of Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Blue Rodeo's evergreen Lost Together, ably abetted by Sarah MacLachlan on the high harmonies. In his speech afterwards, Greg Keelor too-modestly suggested that if the Hall of Fame were a dinner, "while we might not be at the head table, we're just happy to be invited to the party." Classy. At the very least, they deserve a whack of extra drink tickets.
The show's producers deserve credit for the wide variety of music represented, from dance-pop (a medley including Dragonette, JRDN and Anjulie) to indie-folk (Hey Rosetta!, who conquered visible nerves and delivered a memorably invigorating Welcome) to hard rock (Nickelback, who opened with This Means War – yes, Chad Kroeger, it does, because between this and that Detroit Lions halftime show, I've been forced to watch your band twice). But what's with the terrible scripted banter? Lines like "nothing gets the crowd jumping like a good dance song" are so generic, they sound like something from an ESL phrasebook. The Junos' speechwriters may not be proficient in either official language, but evidently they're quite fluent in Dull.
Mau5 in the house
Buble's Christmas album winning Album of the Year was surely a sign of the old music industry's gnarled hand pulling the strings. But based on the young audience's cheering for dance wunderkind deadmau5 both during his set, as well as at the end while the credits were rolling, there are hints that a changing of the guard is in store for our relatively conservative pop landscape. Personally, I believe the children are the future.