Toronto artists didn't collect a lot of hardware at the Shatner-hosted award ceremony, and Drake took an unfortunate loss.
If last year’s Juno awards—a star-studded event hosted by Drake, and featuring performances by a slew of artists, including Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Chromeo—represented a step forward for the awards show, this year’s edition was something of a step back.
Rather than a suave young rapper as host, we had William Shatner, an octogenarian who made Catskills-style jokes. Instead of a showcase of internationally recognized Canadian artists, we got to see both Hedley and Simple Plan, as well as an awkward five-artist medley that featured the barely-famous-in-Canada likes of Mia Martina and JRDN. Sure, Blue Rodeo and Deadmau5 put on strong performances later in the evening, but the show still fell far short of the bar set by last year’s outing. The fact that several high-profile winners—including Justin Bieber and The Sheepdogs—gave their acceptance speeches via satellite didn’t help matters any.
It was also, by and large, a bad evening for local artists. Torontonian-by-way-of-Nova-Scotia-and-Calgary Feist won big, picking up both the Artist of the Year award and the rather awkwardly named Adult Alternative Album of the Year award for Metals. Blue Rodeo also did well: they got inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Beyond that, Toronto artists were thin on the ground. Dragonette won Dance Recording of the Year for “Hello,” a collaboration with French producer Martin Solveig—which was actually released in 2010, making its nomination a little difficult to explain. Critically acclaimed singer (and Torontonian) Melanie Fiona took the R&B/Soul Recording category for the single “Gone and Never Coming Back.” Toronto’s Exco Levi picked up a much-deserved win in the reggae bracket, although it was pretty much a given that a Torontonian would win the reggae award, since all five nominees were from the city. Kiran Aluwalia, another local, picked up her second World Music Juno for Aam Zameen: Common Ground.
On the other hand, the two most shocking losses both went to Torontonians. After going zero-for-six at the 2011 awards, Drake finally managed to get a little Juno love, when his album Take Care won the award for Rap Album of the Year. Drizzy’s satisfaction was short-lived, though, as he inexplicably lost Album of the Year to Michael Bublé’s Christmas. Fucked Up were the recipient of the other major snub. Their album David Comes to Life was called one of the best albums of the year by Spin, The AV Club, and the Chicago Tribune, but lost the Alternative Album of the Year award to Vancouver’s Dan Mangan.
Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the list of Juno performers, 2011 was actually a strong year for Canadian music. As a result, it’s hard to fault the selection committee for not picking more Torontonian artists. But anyone who sees Aubrey Graham (that is, Drake) roaming the streets in the coming weeks should make sure to give him a hug and a word of encouragement. Losing to a Christmas album is almost too much of an indignity for one man to bear.