Handsome married couple Gilda and Jason were just two of the thousands of Canadian music fans who were thrilled to attend the JUNO Awards gala Sunday, April 3 at Calgary’s Saddledome. In a city heavily dependent on petroleum with plans to diversify its economy, including a much bigger investment in music and the arts, the city of Calgary was arguably the biggest winner at the annual flagship of Canadian music award ceremonies. Early estimates are that the JUNOs brought 10 to 15 million dollars in economic activity to the denizens straddling the Bow River. The gala gave pride to the attendees, not only owing to the quality of music being made by Canadian recording artists but also to the talent emerging from their hometown and province. When Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger (from Hanna, Alberta) stood on the stage and addressed the crowd with “hello fellow Albertans”, the arena shook with the deafening cheers that ensued.
Brampton, Ontario teen star Alessia Cara opened the show by performing her hits “Here” (platinum) and “Wild Things” (currently Top 20). She took home the JUNO for Breakthrough Artist of the Year as announced later in the program by the Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly and Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle.
Multiplatinum recording artist Jann Arden from Calgary and Olympic gold medalist (skeleton) Jon Montgomery from Manitoba co-hosted the event. In their opening prologue, Jann joked that she accepted the job in order to increase the number of her Canadian Twitter followers.
Toronto’s Scott Helman performed his gold single “Bungalow” before announcing the winner of the Group of the Year award which went to Burlington, Ontario group Walk Off the Earth.
Legendary Canadian artist Buffy Sainte-Marie who had won 2 JUNOs at the untelevised event the night before, during which all but six of the JUNOs were handed out, performed an inspiring spoken word piece. Buffy has been making music for over half a century. She presented the Single of the Year JUNO to Toronto’s The Weeknd for his #1 hit “Can’t Feel My Face”. The Weeknd was the undeniable champion of the 2016 JUNOs collecting five trophies in all.
With impressive fingers on the piano, Shawn Hook performed his platinum hit “Sound of Your Heart”. He returned later in the evening to join Jann Arden for a rendition of Burton Cummings’ classic “Break It to Them Gently”. Shawn’s fellow British Columbian Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench spoke about the work of organization MusiCounts to help keep music programs in schools and put expensive musical instruments into the hands of children and youth whose parents find them unaffordable. It was announced that TD Canada Trust had donated a cool million to the organization. Following up with this, electropop superstar LIGHTS introduced one of those recipients, Sam Spensley. The two performed LIGHTS’ song “Running with the Boys” on acoustic guitars.
Kardinal Offishall and YouTube comedian Jus Reign lightened the atmosphere by presenting the Country Album of the Year award, referencing their complexions as dead giveaways that they are huge fans of the genre (Offishall is Jamaican Canadian and Reign Indian Canadian). The award was given to Dean Brody for Gypsy Road. He performed his hit “Bring Down the House” later in the program. Jann Arden provided more comedy with a skit wherein she had to collect the JUNO statuettes along the roadside while entertaining her pet dog with Anne Murray’s song “Snowbird”.
Four successive performances ensued. The youngest of this year’s JUNO nominees, 17-year-old Shawn Mendes, performed a special string arrangement of his hit song “Stitches”, Hamilton roots duo Whitehorse “Tame As the Wild Ones”, The Weeknd “Acquainted” and “Might Not” (with a surprise appearance from rapper Belly), and electronic rock duo Dear Rouge “I Heard I Had”.
Nickelback mounted the stage to induct Burton Cummings into the Music Hall of Fame. While on the red carpet, Burton had commented that he recently met the post-grunge band for the first time. Preceding his call to the stage, a clip ran reviewing Burton’s successful music career from frontman of the Guess Who to scoring a slew of hits as a soloist. The Winnipegger seemed a little surprised, and very grateful, at the lengthy, enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd.
It was Jon Montgomery’s turn to be featured in a skit. Jann teased him for being an avid fan of teen star Shawn Mendes. A pre-recorded video showed him taking a selfie with the superstar and doing gleeful backflips and couch jumping after Mendes left the room.
Veteran Canadian rocker Bryan Adams performed next with “Go Down Rockin'” before LETTERKENNY stars Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales took the stage to announce the results of JUNO Fan Choice. They pointed out that there was a record 6 million votes cast. Winner Justin Bieber, currently on tour, was not in attendance but sent a video of his acceptance. Bieber’s Purpose won the JUNO for Pop Album of the Year, announced at the untelevised gala.
The final and possibly most coveted JUNO award, Album of the Year, was announced by Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and local country superstar Paul Brandt. The award went to The Weeknd for Beauty Behind the Madness. The gala closed with tribute performances for Burton Cummings. The man with the iconic moustache himself joined band The Carpet Frogs for “My Own Way to Rock”. The Tenors covered Burton’s song “Stand Tall”.
The 2017 JUNO Awards will be held in Ottawa in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.