JUNOs in Focus: Francophone Album of the Year Nominees

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From the 2011 census, 22% of Canadians have the French language as their mother tongue. If it is also true that 22% of the music being made in Canada is in French, then we can rightfully ask why so little of the music nominated at the JUNOs is Franco. Does it have more to do with a lack of submissions or with bias of the judges towards Anglo music? It seems to us to be mere tokenism that one of the roughly 40 categories is devoted to Franco music: Francophone Album of the Year, and Franco works seldom get nominated in other categories. Also, note that, though a national event, performances at the JUNO Awards gala are normally all Anglophone ones.

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Canadian Anglophones have demonstrated over the years that they are more than happy to listen to and purchase music in various Allophone languages: “Gangnam Style”, “Sleepy Maggie”, “Der Kommissar”, etc. But when it comes to the other official language, the music is not embraced. It is also interesting that when an international artist uses French in a song, for example Peter Gabriel in “Games Without Frontiers”, no one raises a hand. When a Canadian artist does, watch the nasty “I can’t understand” comments pour in (and from people who are supposed to be learning French in school). Can we even understand the supposedly English lyrics American rappers dish out? But no complaints there. No complaints and no lack of radio spins when Madonna puts Spanish into “La Isla Bonita”. We think all of this is due to prejudice, and nothing would give us more pleasure than seeing it take a hike. In the immortal words of Howard Cunningham to the Fonz, however, “Prejudice is stronger than cool.”

With that off our chest, and not offered in a spirit of idle criticism but of “let’s make things better”, let us celebrate the five excellent albums nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2016 JUNOs.

Ariane Moffatt, 22h22

Ariane Moffatt - 22h22From Lévis, Quebec, Ariane Moffatt previously won a JUNO in 2009 for her album Tous les sens. Her debut album in 2002, Aquanaute, was certified platinum for sales of 100,000 units. Ariane’s 22h22 won Pop Album of the Year and she won Female Artist of the Year at the ADISQ gala in Quebec last year. The JUNOs state, “Since the release of her album Aquanaute in 2002, Ariane Moffatt’s name is forever closely associated with Montréal’s francophone scene. Three years after her bilingual MA (2012), an album that blends the sensual and the organic using high quality sampling (‘Mon corps,’ ‘Hôtel amour’) and whose live tour enjoyed great success across Québec and all the way to SXSW in Austin Texas, the singer-songwriter pushes her trajectory towards 22h22, a dreamlike pop record where intimacy meets great spaces. Produced alongside long-time collaborator Jean-Phi Goncalves, 22h22 is making its way into homes and hearts since March 2015 – without a key, without breaking in.”  iTunes

Galaxie, Zulu

Galaxie - ZuluThis is the first nomination for the Saint-Félicien, Quebec rock group. In the words of the JUNO Awards, “Galaxie is a francophone rock band formed in 2002, in Montréal, by Olivier Langevin. Formerly known as Galaxie 500, the band released two albums, Galaxie 500 (2002) and Le Temps au point mort (2006). Following the release of Le Temps au Point Mort, Galaxie was nominated for the Group of the Year award in the 10th annual MIMI (Montréal International Music Initiative) awards. The band released its third album, Tigre et diesel, in 2011, which was subsequently a shortlisted nominee for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. On February 24, 2015, Galaxie released its fourth album Zulu. The band has since then been touring across Québec. Zulu won the Felix for Alternative Album of the Year at l’ADISQ 2015 and was also nominated for Critic’s Choice Album of the Year. Galaxie also won the Felix for Group of the Year, and performed their hit song ‘Dragon’ at the ceremony. … They were also chosen to open for the Rolling Stones at their show on Les Plaines d’Abraham, in Québec City in July.”  iTunes

Jean Leloup, À Paradis City

Jean Leloup - A paradis cityWe are overjoyed that this album is also nominated for Album of the Year. Jean Leloup and À Paradis City won five awards at the ADISQ gala last year. The work was one of the best-selling albums of the year in Canada in 2015. Leloup was nominated twice for JUNOs in the past. The JUNOs write, “Jean Leclerc is a [Canadian] singer-songwriter and author from Sainte-Foy, QC. He is popularly known as Jean Leloup (which he likes to translate to John the Wolf in English), a stage name he kept using until 2006, when he temporarily changed his name to Jean Leclerc, only to resurrect his wolf character in August 2008. He is known for his colourful personality and unique musical style in the francophone rock community. In 2015, he released À Paradis City, his eighth album of original songs, now certified platinum in Canada.”  iTunes

Louis-Jean Cormier, Les grandes artères

Louis-Jean Cormier - Les grandes arteresThis album is also nominated for Recording Package of the Year. Both Karkwa, the band he fronted, as well as Cormier as a soloist have won past JUNOs. Originally from Sept-Îles, Quebec, Cormier formed band Karkwa in Montreal before releasing solo works. The JUNOs explain, “Landing in Montréal as a 17 year old to study music at CÉGEP, he befriended four musicians with whom he would go on to form Karkwa, a group who created immediate attention. Across four albums that aligned critics and crowds alike, Karkwa became a leading light of the Québec independent rock scene and the first francophone group to win the Polaris Prize for Les Chemins de Verre (2010). He also produced the debut efforts of Marie-Pierre Arthur, David Marin, Lisa LeBlanc, and filled the coach’s chair on La Voix for a season. With a voice and sensibility affirmed, his debut solo album Le Treizième Étage emerged in 2012, winning Writer/Composer of the Year, Rock Album and Critics’ Choice at that year’s Felix Awards, followed in 2015 by his second solo album; Les Grandes Artères.”  iTunes

Marie-Pierre Arthur, Si l’aurore

Marie-Pierre Arthur - Si l'auroreThis album won a Felix for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year. Marie-Pierre was nominated once before at the JUNOs in this same category. More from the JUNOs: “A bassist trained in jazz singing, she accompanied many [Canadian] artists (Ariane Moffat, Stefie Shock, Mara Tremblay) before unveiling her own musical project in 2009, with a self-titled first album coproduced with François Lafontaine and Louis-Jean Cormier. The pretty Gaspésienne mastered the art of being a frontwoman and received several [honours]: the SPACQ’s André ‘Dédé’ Fortin Award for New Songwriter of the Year, the SOCAN’s Pop Song of the Year award for ‘Pourquoi’ as well as three ADISQ nominations in 2009. Same story for her second album, Aux alentours (2012 in [Canada] and in France on the Polydor label): critics gave it rave reviews and fans couldn’t get enough. A hushed, steamy atmosphere: bodies, voices and harmonies intertwine, curl up against each other, and cast a lasting spell. Marie-Pierre Arthur completely seduces us with her third opus, Si l’aurore, which was launched on February 16, 2015, in [Canada], on the Simone Records label.”  iTunes

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