Canadian music awards hosted in London, Ontario. Hosted by Sarah McLachlan.

Why Canada has never nailed The Junos

Disclaimer: This is completely based on my opinion and by no way discredits the immense effort and organization that goes into The Junos.

After watching the 2019 Junos last night, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed – again. When I asked my friend if she had watched, she quickly replied with a no, and was curious if there were any good moments she should bother Youtubing. I honestly had nothing dazzling to report other than a couple of our favourite bands scoring some awards…

I LOVE Canadian music. I think our country produces some of the most honest and creative songwriters there are, and there’s an overwhelming sense of pride when you see a Canadian artist make it big internationally.

But when it comes to celebrating these artists, we struggle. The Junos are like The Grammys’ little cousin, once removed. The Grammys are a spectacle, a gala, a VIP event. The Junos are consistently disenchanting and lacks that “wow” factor.

(Sarah McLachlan is literally talking about how she is a nice and happy person in her introduction monologue. Little stab at our neighbours down south though! *Feisty*)

This is by no means due to the musicians, presenters, sponsors, venue, or the incredible team behind the event. I think it has to do more with who Canada is, and something we’ve always struggled with.

Our identity.

Canadians alike have struggled with nationalism for the last 152 years. We just can’t quite figure out who we are, and what defines us as being Canadian. As a sad reality, I think not having a firm grasp on our identity, is our identity.

To address the elephant in the room, Canada is dealing with a lifetime of guilt in terms of our relationship with indigenous peoples. For so many years they were ignored and neglected and now that we are finally recognizing our mistakes and embracing our diverse and rich roots, we are almost trying to compensate by lathering them in love and appreciation.

jeremy-dutcher-junos-2019

Jeremy Dutcher winning Indigenous music album of the year. Sourced from CBC.

So, at awards shows like The Junos who pride themselves on all things Canadian, they pay a lot of tribute to indigenous musicians and activists. WHICH IS AMAZING – DON’T GET ME WRONG. The music they are creating is powerful and blazing with emotion. But the recognition seems forced, and there is almost a “us and them” feeling from both sides. It ultimately creates a lot of tension, which does not help for the “wow” factor for the show.

There’s also Canada’s life long struggle between Canadians, and French Canadians. Because the two are different. And that will be made known. French Canadian culture is strong and feisty and somehow lives within Canada, while continuously disputed that Quebec is a culture and nation of its own. So again, how do you lump such a unique culture under an umbrella with others that deserve just as much recognition?

(Hubert Lenoir [left] introducing Coeur de pirate [right] who shared a performance with Loud.)

Then, not to mention the mosaic that is Toronto culture – ranging from the country outback of The Washboard Union, to the CN Tower shining down on Drake, to the small-town pretty boy Shawn Mendes. We represent many many types of music and backgrounds. WHICH AGAIN, IS AMAZING. But how do you make sure that everyone is being showcased, and that The Junos are a show that everyone can enjoy?

Enter: Canada’s most becoming quality – our humbleness.

How can Canadians expect a grand and overzealous show when we ourselves are generally down-to-earth, humble people? I feel like if The Junos tried to be anywhere near as dramatic as The Grammys people would be outraged. There would be poutine and maple syrup flying everywhere, while people screamed “I’m sorry” out their windows in the Tim Hortons drive thru.

canada-stereotype-4

(Sourced from The Travel)

But seriously, we are just not showy people. We don’t like exuberant amounts of attention, we are never hogging the spotlight, and we don’t need to be showered with fame to know we’re creating some incredible talent. Even the artists who receive their awards are always a little awkward. They are always truly thankful and humbled by winning, but they never gloat and they rarely expect to win.

Just look at how people dress for The Junos! There must not be a a formal dress code because I swear some of these artists just rolled out of bed. They’re casual in nature, so they don’t give audiences a reason to get excited.

(Bahamas (top left), Jessie Reyez (bottom left), and Bülow (right) receiving their Juno awards.)

Besides that, Canada doesn’t have many cities that ooze “coolness.” We don’t have LA’s or NYC’s where your life is constant movie. The 2019 Junos were held in London, Ontario. Again, extremely humble. They even joked about going out to the student bars later that night (on St. Patty’s day – no doubt would be rowdy). Next year, The Junos are set to be hosted in Saskatoon. Saskatoon is not the epicentre of anything but winter and prairies.

Canada as a country just isn’t traditionally “cool”. We are loving, simple, modest folk and that is greatly reflected in our attempts for an awards show. We focus heavily on live performances rather than the award giving, I guess in hopes to showcase our talent. But even then, the performances seem over rehearsed and bound to the confines of timing for live television. We just haven’t nailed that “je ne sais quoi” that makes awards shows so fun and dazzling.

I think what The Junos, and Canada, needs is to be showier. Be more selfish. Be more daring. Stop trying to please everyone and stop trying to be so heartfelt and sweet in everything we do. Add some edge and stop saying god damn sorry!

But that doesn’t sound very Canadian, does it?

1_4340176

Arkells during the performance. Source from CTV.

What do you think about The Junos? Who are some of your favourite Canadian artists right now?

Much love,
Macauley

(Featured image sourced from CBC)

10 comments

  1. selfishsaturdays · March 18

    I absolutely adore this post.

    I love Canadian music, and I find I have more Canadian music in my library than ever before. I think our global presence is growing at an exciting pace, but there’s something holding us back.

    It probably has something to do with what you’ve written here. This is an extremely candid and scarily accurate take on not only the Junos, but Cdn music as a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. macauleybullock · March 18

    I’m so happy you enjoyed it!! 🤗 And more importantly found it relatable. I want to love The Junos so badly and have them be our beacon of Canadian music, but I just don’t think we’ve figured out how to yet. Might take a couple of PR gals like us to launch them into the glam status they need…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. IB · March 18

    This post really nails it. I have been listening and loving Canadian music since the 70’s and we have had (and continue to have) so many talented artists, but I always felt that the artists are composing and performing just for the sheer love of music for them selves and if they end up with followers, so be it. But as Canadians we never want the glamour that can go along with the fame. So award shows , like the Juno’s , are just not able to capture the true talent by presenting statues on stage. I think we are all better off just seeing our favourite artists at our favourite venues and enjoy that concert high 🙂 where we will always know they will shine.
    …..Proudly Canadian.

    Like

    • macauleybullock · March 19

      I completely agree! They shine when they’re in their element on stage and belting it, not necessarily receiving an award…. maybe The Junos need to try not to be an awards show at all, but some sort of festival in a forest that is just one big celebration of our music and art 😍

      Like

  4. Sophia Forster · March 19

    I love your take on why the Junos haven’t quite gotten it together yet!! Another interesting fact that you didn’t touch on is that a couple of the biggest names in Canadian music don’t even bother to show up to the Canadian awards show – these names specifically being Justin Bieber and Drake. Although their music might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is no denying that they have made a huge impact in putting Canadian music on the global scale, and it’s unfortunate to see that they likely view the Junos as unimportant, and probably as less of an honour than other awards they may have been nominated for. I think that it would make the Junos so much more of a spectacle if these huge names were present, and maybe even performers at the awards show. It would really help showcase the amazing talent that Canada has to offer 🙂

    Like

    • macauleybullock · March 19

      This is SUCH a good point, and a whole other element of the status of The Junos. The attendance of big international artists like them would make the whole atmosphere different, and also make the awards more reputable? Like as if they are honoured to be receiving it. I do think that receiving a Juno is a honour though because our awards are not a popularity contest. They’ve very much awarded to people based on their talent and not on how many smash hits they have. Especially for people like Justin Bieber and Drake who are very much proud to be Canadian, you would think they would want to help Canada’s reputation and status in the music industry by supporting The Junos.

      Thank you for shining some light on a really interesting issue! 💕

      Like

    • mbriggss · March 20

      I agree! That was a thought I had while reading this, so many Canadian artists once they make it big end up moving to the United States and more or less become American. They tend to steer away from their Canadian roots to the point where people kind of forget this is where they started. For example, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Nelly Furtado. Although Drake does not attend (which I think could really help) he is actually one of the few Canadian musicians who made it global but still used their music to promote his Canadian roots. He created the whole concept of the 6ix which was a huge turning point in Torontonian pride. Many of your points really got my thinking about Canada’s identity as a whole and how we struggle so much with who we are due to our vast differences. Although, when I watched Sarah Mclachlan’s opening speech I did feel this sense of Canadian pride…. It’s in there somewhere!! The Juno’s need to find a way to keep that feeling going throughout the whole show.

      Like

      • macauleybullock · March 29

        You make such amazing points! Drake really exemplifies his Canadian pride and has put Toronto on the map over the last few years. But the lack of attendance of these artists at our music awards honouring them just speaks volumes. Like they love some of Canada but not all…

        Sarah Mclachlan did do a great job of hosting and her performance was incredible. The Canadian pride and talent is evident. I agree, the Juno’s just need some sort of extra umph.

        Like

  5. N · March 26

    I didn’t see the Junos but I love this brave honest post. I lived out of Canada for two decades, although visited regularly. Moving back has been a more interesting cultural experience than I would have thought. Great observations in this post. Maybe next year, the Junos will amp it up and I’ll actually be aware they are on before it’s already over 😆

    Like

  6. macauleybullock · March 29

    You offer such an interesting perspective coming into Canada later, and obviously the Junos are not doing a good enough job of campaigning for themselves if you didn’t even know the show was happening!! There are definitely many audiences they are trying to cater to and are slipping through the cracks with some.

    Like

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