The Courtneys II, an Indie Rock Gem

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the-courtneys-the-courtneys-iiVancouver indie fuzz rock trio The Courtneys debuted in 2013 with a set that impressed on an international scale. In fact, New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records signed the group to oversee the sequel, The Courtneys II, released February 17, 2017. The aloof, sugary singing from drummer “Cute Courtney” binds nicely with “Classic Courtney’s” exciting phaneritic guitar work. Together with “Crazy Courtney” on bass, the trio takes us on a highly engaging ride through lo-fi slacker culture and bubble-gum garage punk. The disc opens with “Silver Velvet,” the MV of which we have embedded below (filmed in reverse). “Country Song” bursts with a wall of guitars, the album’s standout jam. “Lost Boys” pays tribute to the 80s’ vampire craze while surf rock dresses up “Mars Attacks”. The Courtneys II has 2017 off to a very good start as far as the music goes.  iTunes

Who Is Close to 100 Million Followers on Twitter?

No one has ever reached 100 million Twitter followers, but three recording artists are closing in. Katy Perry is in the lead. Close behind is Justin Bieber. And swiftly behind them is Taylor … Swift. Katy has an extra thrust from new rocket fuel thanks to her recently released single “Chained to the Rhythm”. Behind the top 3 are Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and then Selena Gomez. Other Canadians in the Top 100 are Drake and Avril Lavigne.

Things are a little different in terms of Facebook likes. Shakira is over 100 million and the top recording artist. She is followed by Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Bob Marley, and then Katy Perry.

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Teen Daze Serves Themes for Dying Earth

teen-daze-themes-for-dying-earthTeen Daze, i.e. B.C. Fraser Valley’s Jamison Isaak, recently served up his sixth LP, Themes for Dying Earth. The disc features contributions from Jon Anderson, Sean Carey, Nadia Hulett, Sound of Ceres, and Dustin Wong. It is a fine banquet of electronic ambient pop that explores themes of nature as a respite from the concrete forest, and the environment as something to be conserved. The album opens with “Cycle,” which begins an exploration of the artist’s personal experience dealing with anxiety and depression, and branches out to examine external forces, like climate change, that affect those moods. Another standout track, “Lost,” gently flutters in like a colourful butterfly before opening up droning vocal harmonies and bringing in Nadia Hulett’s twinkling serenade toward the close. Teen Daze’s Themes for Dying Earth expertly weaves a crystalline web of dream and euphoria. Fans of Seoul should enjoy this.  iTunes

Selected New Releases: February 17, 2017

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We kick off this week’s new Canadian releases with Alive and Kicking, the new rock album from Montreal based group Dany Laj and the Looks that should please fans of the raw and rowdy. Quebec City’s Laurence Castera goes for genre fusion on overall alternative album Le bruit des mots and contributes a number of exquisite tracks. Vancouver’s The Courtneys, an energetic indie rock trio, asserts grindstone guitar work combined with sweet vocals on The Courtneys II, an excellent sequel that betters the debut.

Dancing on Your Grave, LP from Vancouver’s The Matinee, contains a pleasing assortment of alternative rock tunes. Montreal’s Mozart’s Sister, alias of Caila Thompson-Hannant, does a good job on Field of Love, electronic, experimental pop. British Columbian roots leaning outfit Lion Bear Fox surfs up an enjoyable eponymous disc. On the more progressive side, a fine Metropolis appears from Toronto alt-pop group Parallels. Indie rock specialist Tim Darcy of Montreal celebrates Saturday Night with a “Tall Glass of Water” and other tidbits on his new album.

Joel and Bill Plaskett of Dartmouth, NS give us a batch of well-written tunes on singer-songwriter album Solidarity. “The Next Blue Sky” alone will draw you into the highly engaging music. And now we ask a question: Does Canada have an AC/DC? Answer: We do now. Kelowna, BC’s The Wild! has joined forces with eOne Music to release second album Wild at Heart, a more consolidated effort than the band’s strong debut 2015 work. The new album simply rocks. Sam Patch, i.e. Tim Kingsbury of Guelph, member of Arcade Fire, exercises his soloist chops on alternative record Yeah You, and I.

Saskatchewan’s The Age of Electric who received a JUNO nomination in 1998 for Best New Group has released a new self-titled 4-track EP and reissued 90s album Make a Pest a Pet.

SINGLES

Ottawa superstar Kira Isabella has released an impressive countrified cover of John Waite’s “Missing You”. Canada’s jazz queen Diana Krall of Nanaimo will be releasing new album Turn Up the Quiet in May. She has launched track “Night and Day” as a single. The music video of Gelsea Mae‘s last single, “Need You Now”, broke 100,000 views, and the Vancouver Island raised artist follows up with “Shoulda Known Better” that was released on Valentine’s Day.

Louise Burns in Top Form on Young Mopes

louise-burns-young-mopesSigned to Madonna’s Maverick label when she was just 15, Louise Burns of Cranbrook, BC co-founded all-female, JUNO-nominated rock group Lillix serving as its bass player. Now based in Vancouver and signed as a soloist to Light Organ Records, always ready to participate in various projects including new wave band Gold and Youth, Louise recently released her third solo record Young Mopes. Her 2011 jangle-pop debut album as a soloist earned a Polaris nomination. The new record is introspective, guitar-oriented new wave with some strokes of synth, New Orderesque high-pitched bass pulses, tight drumming, and includes a cover of the Blue Nile’s “Downtown Lights”. Track “Strange Weather” sees Burns master the country-inspired genre complete with lap steel. The tunes are deliciously shadowy, and Burns’ bright vocals and energetic delivery give it a sunny glaze. Young Mopes embodies the spirit of an old soul with a teenage heart. It is yet another ace for one of Canada’s most underrated talents, Louise Burns. Catch her on tour in March and April supporting The Zolas.  iTunes

Occupant of the Rustic Apartment: Ludovic Alarie

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Handsome Canadian singer-songwriter Ludovic Alarie of Montreal recently released his second album L’appartement. Essentially an alternative work, Ludovic writes beautiful folky songs and dresses them with sparkles of electronic hooks. In mood, L’appartement drips with pacifying melancholy. Alarie says the music embodies the “feeling of an apartment in which you lived, how you were, how you evolved, and all the feelings and memories that are attached to it”. He says the musical composition came to him quite quickly but the lyrics not so much, explaining that it took him only 3 or 4 days to finish the music but 3 or 4 months to complete the poetry. Of lyrics, he feels he is completing a puzzle where each word has a precise spot. Overall album production was handled by Warren C. Spicer of locally based group Plants and Animals. Whether you live in an apartment, a condo, or a house, Ludovic Alarie’s L’appartement will fill the rooms with alluring songs. This one’s a keeper.  iTunes

Canadian Chart Highlights: Valentine’s Day, 2017

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The Hot 100

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” continues to reign supreme on the Hot 100. As with last week, there are no new Canadian artist entries which make up 17 of the songs on the chart. DVBBS’ “Not Going Home” is the only one to achieve a new peak position, #59. The Weeknd’s former #1 smash “Starboy” is tops for CanCon at #6.

Hot Digital Songs

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” continues to dominate digital purchases. Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” helped by recent high-profile televised performances, vaults from #48 to #2. The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming” is this week’s best effort by a homegrown artist at #10.

Hot 100 Airplay

The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming”, at #3, is the most favoured at radio, while “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran is #1.

Top Albums

I Decided by U.S. rapper Big Sean debuts at #1. Two Canadian artist albums debut in the Top 10: Big Wreck’s Grace Street at #5 and Patrice Michaud’s Almanach at #7.

Emerging Canadian Artists

The Weeknd’s “Starboy” spends its 20th week at the top spot.

All-Format Airplay

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” leaps from #3 to #1 becoming king across all radio formats. Alessia Cara has the most spun Canadian entry thanks to “Scars to Your Beautiful”. With 3,143 plays through the week, it scoops up #3. New in the Top 50 is “Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry (#31), “Fake Love” by Drake (#39), “Any Ol’ Barstool” by Jason Aldean (#49), and “She’s Desire” by Brett Kissel #50.

Contemporary Hit Radio

While “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran sitting at #1 isn’t surprising, Nielsen is quick to point out that it is his first chart topper at CHR. “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd is #3 this week. New in the Top 40 is no stranger to pop hits, Katy Perry, with “Chained to the Rhythm” at #25.

Rock Airplay

Green Day is “Still Breathing” at #1 and July Talk is still “Picturing Love” at #3. New at rock radio’s Top 40 is Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” at #35 and Danko Jones’ “My Little RNR” at #39.

Country Airplay

Jon Pardi sings “Dirt on My Boots” and stomps his way up to #1. Dean Brody’s “Time” is #5. New in the Top 50 is Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Black Road” (#48) and Aaron Pritchett’s “When a Momma’s Boy Meets a Daddy’s Girl” (#49).

Adult Contemporary Airplay

“Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 decks the summit while “Let Me Love You” featuring Justin Bieber sits at #5. Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” debuts at #26.

Hot AC Airplay

Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” which topped the chart last week spends its second at the crown. The aforementioned track from Katy Perry debuts at #28.

Canadian Franco

According to Nielsen, the top Franco song at radio continues to be “Kamikaze” by Patrice Michaud In terms of sales, the #1 single is “Aimons-nous” by the trio of awesomes Ariane Moffatt, Karim Ouellet, and La Bronze. The former two are both JUNO award winners. The best-selling Franco album is Almanach by Patrice Michaud. Bear in mind that the data is from the province of Quebec only, not Canada wide.

Canadians Snatch a Few Grammy Awards

Cultural roles in the big Anglo countries seem to have worked themselves out over the years to yield the following results. In the case of Britons, their job is to think. In the case of Americans, their task is to talk. The role then of Canadians is to ensure that the Brits think and don’t talk and that Americans talk and don’t think. There was certainly a lot of chatter at last night’s Grammy Awards, the biggest night in music for the United States. It is unfortunate that such empty talk often degraded into political commentary which does noting but divide citizens of the Republic into different camps who bicker back and forth having the rest of us strengthening our eye muscles by rolling them repeatedly.

What we are most concerned with here is looking at how Canadians did at that particular awards show held on foreign turf. Looking past some interesting performances which were set up not necessarily for excellence but for grabbing attention and gazing beyond the discovery of some exquisite music flying under Canadian radar (we were quite taken with electro-R&B trio KING), we restate that Canadians were nominated in some 18 categories. We won three of them. The media was quick to mention the two awards snatched by Drake: “Hotline Bling” won both Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. The Torontonian rapper was not in attendance. The third award was given to Bob Moses for Best Remixed Recording on Andre Allen Anjos’ “Tearing Me Up (RAC Remix)”. We can sneak in a 4th nod to the maple, as Bernie Herms was a co-writer on song “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family which won Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.

The big winner of the night unsurprisingly was the UK’s Adele. Céline Dion was a presenter of one of Adele’s many awards—Song of the Year (“Hello”). The Weeknd, who has become quite a high-in-demand performer, did “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming”. Fans were no doubt happy that he finally performed with Daft Punk though technically, the two could have been stand-ins hidden in the helmets arbitrarily turning knobs, making it seem like they were doing something…

Grimes Knocks Out All Competition with One Music Video

Honestly speaking, there is no competition when it comes to recording artists; all make contributions to the great pool of music from which we all draw. But in the spirit of fun, let’s just say that Grimes has pretty much decimated everything and everyone around her.

Vancouver’s Claire Boucher, known by her stage name Grimes, can now add to her CV, which includes critically acclaimed recording artist and music producer, one of the world leaders in making music videos. Her newly released MV for “Venus Fly”, which she herself directed, is just about the most dazzling and artistic music video ever made. It features U.S. singer Janelle Monáe.

Grimes who legitimately expressed dissatisfaction with the male-heavy nominations at the 2016 JUNO Awards now finds herself nominated for three trophies at 2017’s: album Art Angels, which includes “Venus Fly” as one of the tracks, is up for Alternative Album of the Year and Recording Package of the Year. Her music video for another track, “Kill vs Maim”, is up for Best Video and also received a Top 20 nod from the Prism Prize. We all need to really acknowledge the amazing work that this Canadian recording artist is doing. Go Grimes!

Selected New Releases 10 February 2017

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Vibrant Heels of Lévis, QC contributes a good metal album for fans of the genre. Crank up Driven for some concussion inducing hard rock tunes. It’s not all noise and fury but offers too some skilled instrumentation and blends in a little alternative rock which makes the disc more engaging.

Winnipeg’s The Treble could not be more excited to release its debut album Modernaires, and we are impressed with it. The group has a pleasant, driving folk-pop sound which will get you slapping your knee along to the well-crafted tunes.

Vancouver alternative group Mother Mother delivers No Culture. Described by iTunes as a mix of “crunchy rock and explosive pop”, it debuted on the platform’s chart at #2. It is certainly a fun album to listen to with ample theatrics and pizzazz.

Like Mother Mother, but more on the roots as opposed to progressive side, two JUNO nominations deck The Sadies‘ halls. The new album Northern Passages blends several genres together resulting in an alternative soup that is quite delicious.

Surprisingly fine is the self-titled album from Cape Breton’s Port Cities. Smooth groove and punchy pop music with some heartland ambiance makes this one of the best releases this week.

Raton Lover does soft rock right on Le sens du vent. The band is from Quebec City. You will hear the occasional spark of country and some clever hooks yielding a rewarding listening experience.

Our pick for the week is electronic project Teen Daze from the Fraser Valley, BC’s exceptionally talented Jamison Isaak. Album Themes for Dying Earth is both soothing and dazzling, conjuring up an atmosphere of futurism and dreamy melancholy that transported us to another dimension. The album is unbelievably good.

Those eager for some 60s style French pop, look no further than the new album from bilingual artist Sally Folk, 3e acte. She’s from Montreal.

There are a few EPs this week to talk about. Montreal’s Nicolas Patterson contributes a really nice singer-songwriter disc Everything Is Changing. Begonia, project of Chic Gamine singer Alexa Dirks, releases alternative EP Lady in Mind. Raphaël Dénommé of Quebec makes decent blues trash rock on a new eponymous disc. Finally, Vancouver’s Emma Citrine serves gritty folk rock on EP Sad Surprise.

Drake: First Canadian to Score Diamond Single, Tops IFPI’s Global Best-Sellers

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Big news for country star Tim Hicks, as he lands his first platinum certified single, that being “Get By”. Tim grew up in Niagara Falls, ON. His provincial companion, Toronto rapper Drake, has become the first Canadian artist in history to score a diamond single. The gold/platinum program at Music Canada has awarded “One Dance” diamond certification which is equivalent to 10x platinum or 800,000 units. The units are determined by the sale of digital downloads and streaming at the rate of 150 streams equivalent to 1 unit. “One Dance” is not an original composition but a reworking of “Do You Mind” by Crazy Cousinz and Kyla. Previously, the UK’s Mark Ronson scored a diamond single via “Uptown Funk”. The Black Eyed Peas of the United States received digital download only diamond certification for “I Gotta Feeling”. Other certifications have come in for Drake as well. “Too Good” now stands at quadruple platinum and “Controlla” at double platinum. His album Views has been upgraded to double platinum status.

Drake leads the world according to the recently released IFPI annual report for 2016. The international trade organization has handed him the IFPI 2016 Global Artist of the Year Award, which recognizes a recording artist’s worldwide success across physical and digital formats, including downloads and steams. The award has been presented annually since 2013, and Drake is the first Canadian to receive it. The Top 10 of 2016, which include three Canadians, are as follows:

1. Drake
2. David Bowie
3. Coldplay
4. Adele
5 .Justin Bieber
6. Twenty One Pilots
7. Beyoncé
8. Rihanna
9. Prince
10. The Weeknd

Note that only some countries around the globe keep data on music consumption which may help explain why all top 10 artists are Anglophone.

Charts, Juno Nominations, Prism Prize Contenders

The Canadian Charts, February 7, 2017

Nothing terribly exciting on the charts this week. There were only 17 entries by a Canadians and no new Canuck entries. No domestic albums debuted in the Top 10. One highlight is that Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” becomes her first #1 hit at Hot AC radio.

JUNO Nominations

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The JUNO Award nominations were announced at a press conference yesterday morning. The three amigos, Drake, The Weeknd, and Shawn Mendes lead with five each. The aforementioned Alessia Cara snapped up four as did the late Leonard Cohen. Up for Album of the Year are Starboy by The Weeknd, Illuminate by Shawn Mendes, You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, Views by Drake, and Encore un Soir by Céline Dion. Single of the Year nominees are “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes, “One Dance” by Drake, “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara, “Starboy” by The Weeknd, and “Spirits” by The Strumbellas. You can find a full list of nominees here.

CARAS also announced a batch of performers at the main gala in Ottawa, April 2. In addition to the previously confirmed Shawn Mendes are A Tribe Called Red, Alessia Cara, Ruth B, and The Strumbellas.

We hope that the JUNOs, which have always been more progressive, do not veer towards Grammy style with excessive focus on roots and urban music and going with sentimental favourites.

Prism Prize Top 20

The good folks over at the Prism Prize have unveiled their 20 picks for the year’s best music video. The collective can now boast the highest cash prize award in the world for the year’s best music video which is now $15,000. The prize will be awarded May 14 after the 20 is pared down to 10 on March 28. The Top 20 in alphabetical order are as follows.

A Tribe Called Red feat. Black Bear – Stadium Pow Wow
Aidan Knight – What Light (Never Goes Dim)
Andy Shauf – The Magician
BADBADNOTGOOD feat. Kaytranada – Lavender
Braids – Companion
Dilly Dally – Snakehead
Grimes – Kill V. Maim
Harrison feat. Clairmont The Second – It’s Okay, I Promise
Holy F*** – Tom Tom
Jazz Cartier – Red Alert / 100 Roses
July Talk – Picturing Love
Kaytranada – Lite Spots
Lisa LeBlanc – Gold Diggin’ Hoedown
PUP – DVP
PUP – Sleep in the Heat
Ronley Teper’s Lipliners – Lucky and Finnegan
Somewhere Else feat. Majid Jordan – Move Together
SonReal – Can I Get a Witness
Tanya Tagaq – Retribution
Wintersleep – Amerika

By comparison, the five MVs up for JUNO Music Video of the Year are “Kill v Maim” – GRIMES (Claire Boucher), “Lite Spots” – KAYTRANADA (Martin C. Pariseau), “R.E.D.” ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear – A Tribe Called Red (Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman), “Killa” – WIWEK/SKRILLEX (Jodeb), and “The Stranger” – Gord Downie (Justin Stephenson).

Selected New Releases February 3, 2017

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We kick off this week’s releases with Almanach from Cap-Chat, QC’s Patrice Michaud. It debuted at #3 in the iTunes chart and is essentially a pop album with some rock and singer-songwriter flavours in the mix. It’s a nifty little album.

For blues-rock lovers, Matt Minglewood is the man. The native of Glace Bay, NS releases the fine work, Fly Like Desperados.

Edmonton’s Peter Sagar, recording under the moniker Homeshake, contributes alternative disc Fresh Air. He is now based in Montreal.

Ottawa’s Her Harbour may oscillate between soloist Gabrielle Giguere and a band but new album Go Gently into the Night settles on a relaxed, sparsely arranged folk album.

Big Wreck needs no introduction. The acclaimed rock band debuts at #2 on iTunes with Grace Street.

How about giving Montreal gridlock a dose of grit rock from local band Le Trouble. But be careful. The new album may lead to Making Matters Worse.

How about that JUNO Award winner Rose Cousins? The Halifax folk artist is back with a very good album as usual—Natural Conclusion.

Kitchener-Waterloo group Courage My Love launches album Synesthesia which should impress fans of Crystalyne and Hedley.

Last but not least is our favourite album of 2017 to date: Young Mopes from Cranbrook, BC’s Louise Burns. It’s guitar-oriented new wave with some synth touches and reminds us that she stands as one of Canada’s most gifted recording artists. A wonderful album.

Gold/Platinum Certifications: Dec ’16 – Feb ’17

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Vancouver twin sisters Dani & Lizzy score their very first gold record, thanks to the popular “Dancing in the Sky”. Reggae pop group MAGIC! continues to do well. Big hit “Lay You Down Easy” is now a platinum single in Canada. Coleman Hell’s “Fireproof” is now platinum. It follows the success of “2 Heads” which struck the triple platinum mark. The country artists come through as well. Gold now decorates Tebey’s “Wake Me Up” and Chad Brownlee’s “I Hate You for It”.

For albums, no stranger to selling them like hotcakes is Bryan Adams. His ICON compilation is now gold. Gord Downie, accustomed to diamond awards with the Tragically Hip, gets gold status as a soloist for his Secret Path. Sarah McLachlan goes gold with Christmas album Wonderland. The Weeknd’s Starboy album upgrades itself to platinum.

“Lay You Down Easy” by MAGIC!, Platinum Single
Bryan Adams ICON Compilation, Gold Album
“Dancing in the Sky” by Dani & Lizzy, Gold Single
“Fireproof” by Coleman Hell, Platinum Single
Starboy by The Weeknd, Platinum Album
“Wake Me Up” by Tebey, Gold Single
“I Hate You for It” by Chad Brownlee, Gold Single
Secret Path by Gord Downie, Gold Album
Wonderland by Sarah McLachlan, Gold Album

2017 JUNO Fan Choice Nominees Announced

Voting is now open for the JUNO Fan Choice Award. The question is: who are the 10 up for the trophy this year? The answer is…

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Alessia Cara (Brampton, ON R&B female soloist)
Belly (Ottawa rap male soloist)
Drake (Toronto rap male soloist)
Hedley (Abbotsford, BC pop rock group)
  Justin Bieber (Stratford, ON pop/R&B male soloist)
  Ruth B (Edmonton pop/R&B female soloist)
Shawn Mendes (Pickering, ON acoustic pop male soloist)
The Strumbellas (Lindsay, ON folk rock group)
The Weeknd (Toronto R&B male soloist)
Tory Lanez (Brampton, ON R&B male soloist)

CARAS states that eligibility for the award hinges on the following. “Artists who have one of the top 20 selling tracks and top 20 streamed tracks are given an individual rank for each. Those ranks are combined to determine the top 20 artists. Next, these artists are evaluated using Next Big Sound, through online music analytics to measure their growth and popularity across social networks and streaming services. All the results are reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the Official Ballot Accountants of The JUNO Awards. Finally, each artist receives a rank after combining sales, streams and online buzz to determine the top 10 artists – The 2017 JUNO Fan Choice Award nominees!”

Past winners of the award, which was introduced in 2003, are Shania Twain, Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, Nelly Furtado, Michael Bublé, and Justin Bieber. The JUNOs do not disqualify an artist who has won from future eligibility whether permanently or for X number of years meaning that artists can win the special prize multiple times. Nickelback has won the JUNO Fan Choice award twice, Michael Bublé thrice, and Justin Bieber five times. Participants can vote as many times as they want simply by clicking the vote button and refreshing the page with an F5.

Vote here: http://junoawards.ca/juno-fan-choice/