The Junos play it safe once again, snubbing or downplaying much of Canada's exciting new musical talent
They're not fooling anyone. On Sunday, the Junos will do their little song and dance, and try to convince us that they're catching up with the times, but the list of album-of-the-year nominees says it all:
Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Nickelback, Kalan Porter and Rex Goudie.
That would be: one adult-contemporary jazz-pop princess (for a Christmas album, no less!), one Frank Sinatra wannabe, one stupendously generic and grating radio rock act, and two - count 'em, two - former Canadian Idol contestants.Ouch. Just when it looked like Canadian music was finally stepping up its game with some exciting, world-class talent, along come the Junos to remind us that we really are the hokey, jokey and painfully irrelevant nonentity to the north of the U.S.
Not that the Americans are any better. Ridiculousness reigned at this year's Grammys, as U2 swooped up every award in sight. Bono's a good guy and all, but come on.
Look to other Juno categories and the song remains the same. Celine Dion, Krall, Buble, Nickelback and Montreal pop-punk powder puffs Simple Plan battle it out for the Juno Fan Choice Award (presented, fittingly, by Doritos).
Krall, Porter, Buble, Goudie (getting the deja-vu dizzies yet?) and token Quebecois Boom Desjardins compete for artist of the year.
Barenaked Ladies (remember them?), Blue Rodeo (see Barenaked Ladies comment), Nickelback, Our Lady Peace (see Blue Rodeo and Barenaked Ladies comments) and Theory of a Deadman face off for group of the year.
Things open up ever so slightly in other categories. Desjardins, Jann Arden, Porter, Buble and Theresa Sokyrka fight for pop album of the year; and Hedley, Montrealer Jonas, Nickelback, Our Lady Peace and Theory of a Deadman are in the running for rock album of the year.
But don't kid yourself. It's going to be Nickelback, Krall and Buble all the way. Yippee-kye-yay.
As in previous years, enjoying the Junos will be a question of finding little rays of light in the darkness. In the recent past, we have cheered as an inebriated and off-key Sam Roberts bellowed his way through Brother Down, k-os dropped some funky and distinctly un-jiggy hip-hop, and Feist got a chance to show off her off-the-cuff charm on national television.
This year, Toronto indie-rockers Broken Social Scene are performing, as are reggae-pop upstarts Bedouin Soundclash, while not-so-Canadian acts Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas add international clout and - ooh la la! - controversy.
In a surprising show of smarts, the always talent-loaded best alternative album category (this year featuring Broken Social Scene, Hot Hot Heat, Metric, Tegan and Sara and the New Pornographers) will be televised (in previous years, it was handed out off-air), as will the songwriter of the year award (Arcade Fire, Joel Plaskett, Kathleen Edwards, Neil Young and Ron Sexsmith).
Bedouin Soundclash may offer further respite by taking the televised best new group award, but if our darling Martha Wainwright wins best new artist, she'll get her prize on Saturday during the non-televised ceremony.
The televised vs. non-televised question is noteworthy, as many of the interesting categories tend to get pushed to the side. Other off-air categories include best rap, jazz, reggae, folk, country, classical and francophone album prizes, as well as the above-mentioned group and pop and rock album of the year awards.
So yes, there are glimmers of hope, but by and large, the Junos remain the big, sludge-like, corporate-bankrolled, creatively challenged, industry back-slapping event they have always been.
At least we have Pamela Anderson.
The Juno Awards, hosted by Pamela Anderson, will be broadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. on CTV-8 and CTV-12.