This year’s JUNO Awards, celebrating the best works and talents from the Canadian music community, took place Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Hamilton, a city with a metro population of about 720,000 in southern Ontario. Thirty-five of the 41 awards were given out at an untelevised dinner party the night before leaving six announced at the main gala: Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Rock Album of the Year, and the JUNO Fan Choice Award. The latter is the only award open to voting by the general public.
The Sunday gala also inducted alt rock superstar Alanis Morissette into the Music Hall of Fame, and she joined 10 other performers through the two-hour program: local band Arkells, soul singer Bobby Bazini, dance singer-songwriter Kiesza, electropop female soloist LIGHTS, EDM icon deadmau5, reggae band MAGIC!, rock champion Sam Roberts Band, teen sensation Shawn Mendes, R&B crooner The Weeknd, and pop group Hedley. Emcee for the evening was the latter band’s frontman Jacob Hoggard. Kiesza was the big winner at this year’s JUNOs winning three awards: Breakthrough Artist, Dance Recording, and Music Video. Below is a run through of Sunday’s big night.
The evening opened with host Jacob Hoggard twiddling on his cell phone before being called to the stage. As he made his way down the corridor, interruptions came. Sam Roberts asked him questions, then his phone rang, and it was Michael Bublé from Dubai (who hosted the show two years ago) on video screen. Michael gave him some advice telling him to “just be nice” to the audience before proceeding to chew out the man who served him a drink. His next video call came from the Prime Minister who apologized for not being able to attend showing Jacob tall stacks of documents on his desk. The final call was from the Trailer Park Boys in prison who accused him of turning his back on them to host when they were easily sexier than him. At the side of the stage, Jacob ran into the other members of his band, Hedley, who did not seem informed that he was hosting without them. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you guys… It’s just me hosting.” Hedley then performed hit song “Anything”.
The first award given out was Rock Album of the Year, presented by country star Dallas Smith and the rock duo Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker. The award was given to Arkells. “Our first show was about 10 minutes away from here at McMaster University,” the band pointed out to a cheering crowd.
“Welcome to the very last JUNOs ever,” joked Hoggard, “It’s an absolute thrill to be hosting tonight and a total honour that everybody else said no.” He then complimented CTV on acquiring a world-class teleprompter which did not seem to be working properly. “Exciting stuff: we’ve got the damn Alanis Morissette … dame Alanis Morissette … Alanis is getting abducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame … inducted.”
Jacob asked if the audience had any questions. “Yeah, I got a question,” the camera panned over to television personality Ben Mulroney (son of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney) seated in the audience. Ben was the host of Canadian Idol when Jacob Hoggard was a finalist on the show back in 2004. “Hey, it’s that guy from the talent show I lost,” quipped Hoggard. Mulroney queried, “I just want to ask a question I think everybody is asking themselves right now: why aren’t I hosting this show?” Jacob returned, “Well, I guess they didn’t ask you.” Ben said that they actually did but he turned them down. Jacob had the final word, “Thanks for that … daddy’s boy.”
Kiesza brought down the house with a piano and voice performance of “Sound of a Woman”, title-track from the Dance Recording of the Year JUNO winner, and then her smash hit “Hideaway” accompanied by a squad of dancers. Presenting the award for Single of the Year were actors Jared Keeso and Adrian Holmes. The JUNO went to MAGIC! for triple platinum song “Rude”. In a piece of trivia yet unknown to mainstream media, MAGIC!, thanks to “Rude”, became the first purely Canadian band in history to top the British Singles Chart. Arkells followed performing “Come to Light” along with the National Academy Orchestra.
Aboriginal album winner Tanya Tagaq and EDM duo Adventure Club presented the next award. Tanya delivered her lines playfully which added some sparkle amidst the monotonous teleprompter readings: “Take one part legendary poet and four parts Alberta rock, add a Quebec romantic, mix in a Montreal star, and sprinkle with some West Coast pop-rock: a great Canadian cock-rocktail, hey?” The Album of the Year JUNO went to Leonard Cohen for Popular Problems. He was not in attendance. Shawn Mendes performed his hit “Life of the Party” with guitar and voice only.
After the commercial break, Hoggard returned for some more jokes. “Leonard Cohen, album of the year! Congratulations, sir. That guy’s won a lot of JUNOs, huh? Hedley’s still two for 29. Kind of makes us like the Toronto Maple Leafs of bands. Only, we’ll still be playing in the spring.” He then introduced heavyweight American producer and songwriter Glen Ballard who inducted Alanis Morissette into the Music Hall of Fame. Glen made sure to dress himself appropriately for Canadian weather with gloves and a scarf. He told the story mainly of making a 19-year-old’s album Jagged Little Pill, an album that spawned four number one hits in Canada, was certified double diamond, and sold 33 million copies worldwide.
“It was obvious to me that she was brilliant, curious and full of passion to express something that’s inchoate but important,” Glen said. “The phrases that were hewn out of Alanis’ journals and our discussions and the sound of syllables as she sang became the DNA for the album. … I remain astonished by the fact that there were no barriers between her voice and her intention. Her voice rang like a bell of truth and the emotional honesty in the room when we created it is something that we managed to capture for all time. What remains is a record called Jagged Little Pill.”
A video tribute and brief bio followed with comments offered by Shania Twain, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida, and Alanis herself. Alanis was portrayed as someone who swooped down like a saviour at a time of popular charts dominated by boy and girl bands to a become rock’s avenging angel.
Alanis took the stage to a standing ovation and proceeded to say, “I am deeply appreciative of this country, in particular based on the fact that I’m clearly from here, and supported in an emotional, dialogical, stream-of-consciousness, storytelling way. … I moved to Los Angeles,” she continued, “And I waited six months for someone to ask me a question, so I listened and then I realized I had to adopt a whole other approach to life, because Canadians are very engaging, very curious, very self-deprecating, very funny. And so I took advantage of the cloth from which I was cut and continued to tell stories and I feel so touched by how people interpret my songs.”
The Weeknd performed his hit song from the Hollywood film Fifty Shades of Grey, “Earned It”. The Minister of Official Languages and Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover appeared on stage with JUNO Award winning band (alternative album) July Talk. The group announced the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award which went to Kiesza who, in a spirit of good will, hugged fellow nominee Shawn Mendes on her way to the stage. She thanked her fans saying “You’re the reason that any of us create music.” MAGIC! in matching suits performed “No Way No” and “Rude” next.
In perhaps the funniest segment of the show, a pre-recorded video was shown of the host behind the scenes backstage. Jacob ran into Kiesza in the corridor and had trouble pronouncing her name. She invited him to join their dance rehearsal, and he quickly whipped off his clothes revealing a skin tight, gold jumpsuit. This hailed back to his performance in a blue one during his Canadian Idol days. Jacob busted some rubbery moves to “Hideaway” leaving Kiesza looking anything but impressed.
2014’s number one selling album artist Bobby Bazini performed next and introduced the work of MusiCounts which supports music education in Canadian schools. MAGIC! had donated $100,000 and expanded on the organization’s work. Deadmau5 performed next.
Recording artists Melanie Durrant, Trevor Guthrie, and Kira Isabella announced the JUNO Fan Choice award. Like Leonard Cohen, its winner, Michael Bublé, was not in attendance. LIGHTS performed together with Sam Roberts Band her hit “Up We Go” and the band’s song “We’re All In This Together”.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, recently named world’s best mayor, and Big Wreck’s Ian Thornley mounted the stage. Ian informed about two special awards presented at Saturday’s dinner gala: the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award to Rush and the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award Recipient to Ray Danniels. Nenshi pointed out that Rush had instantly responded to the Calgary floods of 2013 donating $575,000. He also invited all to attend the 2016 JUNO Awards at Calgary’s Saddledome. He announced that the National Music Centre will open next year. Jann Arden appeared in a video garbed in construction attire, including a hard hat and reflective vest, wielding a jackhammer, reassuring everyone that progress on the building was going well. Ian and Naheed presented the final award of the night, Artist of the Year, which went to The Weeknd.
Alanis Morissette performed a three-song medley: “Uninvited” from the City of Angels Soundtrack, “You Oughta Know” from Jagged Little Pill, and “Thank U” from album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Jacob Hoggard closed the show by performing a parody of “Thank U” on tile-covered piano: “How about having the JUNOs somewhere not freezing. How about way more chocolate chip cookies backstage. How about still no @#$%! JUNO for Hedley … Thank you Hamilton, thank you Canada, thank you Ben Mulroney’s hair.”
The JUNO gala took place before an audience of 11,700 and drew a Canadian television audience of 1.6 million.
A list of awards at the dinner gala is here.