Calixa Lavallée's greatest hit finally has a Juno nomination, 130 years after it was first performed.
That's right: O Canada is up for best single this year (in a viral video performance by Halifax rapper Classified, restyled as Oh... Canada), alongside Wavin' Flag, a more recent crowd-rousing tune by Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan; and kd lang's performance of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, from the Vancouver Olympics.
Lavallée's late grab for one of Juno's crystal statuettes was one of only a few surprises at yesterday's announcement of the nominees for this year's 40 awards. As usual, nominations for most of the marquee awards - the ones that will dominate CTV's March 27 broadcast from Toronto's Air Canada Centre - are sales-based.
Drake, whose disc Thank Me Later was one of Billboard's Top 10 selling albums of 2010, led the field with six nominations in six categories, including single, album and artist of the year and Juno fan choice, all of which are reserved for the Canadian music industry's strongest-selling product. Drake was also named in the voting-based songwriter and rap-recording divisions, and will host the broadcast show.
Justin Bieber, whose My World 2.0 also hit the Billboard Top 10 album sales list, will face off against Drake for artist and album of the year, and is in the running for the sales-based pop-album award and the jury-voted music DVD category. Both he and Drake are up for Grammy awards later this month, along with Arcade Fire, which has four Juno nominations (album, group, songwriter and alternative album) and is implicated in two others (producer and recording package).
Other contenders with four nominations apiece were Johnny Reid (including album and artist of the year), Broken Social Scene (including group and alternative album) and Hedley (including single, album and Juno fan choice). Sarah McLachlan landed three nominations, for artist, songwriter and pop album.
For the first time, Juno will reserve a statuette for electronic album of the year, seven decades after Canadian researcher Hugh LeCaine invented the first synthesizer. Caribou, Chilly Gonzales, Crystal Castles, Holy Fuck and Poirier all have discs in the running.
Shania Twain, who has won a dozen Junos during her career, will be installed in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Neil Young will be honoured for his humanitarian work, and is contending for artist of the year and adult alternative album. Young has won just five times since 1980, one fewer than pianist Marc-André Hamelin (nominated for solo or chamber classical album) and seven fewer than Nickelback.
Toronto band Down With Webster took three nominations (group, pop album and new group of the year) and will perform on the broadcast - a major opportunity for a band still riding its major-label debut album. Montreal band Karkwa, already given a measure of fame in English Canada by its capture of the Polaris Music Prize last September, was named for alternative and Francophone album.
Other live performers for the 40th annual awards shindig include Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Johnny Reid and Hedley. More performers will be confirmed later, but Bieber won't be among them: He'll be performing in Europe then.
What does it all mean? Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, who with band mate Brendan Canning announced several nominees yesterday, said that the effect of his Juno experiences to date was both more stirring and less dramatic than he expected.
"You don't think it means anything, and then you win," he said. "We got two, and I'd never won anything before. Because there's so many people in this band, and it's such a big effort and there's so many arguments, it's a great feeling to be celebrated by your country and your peers, and to be able to say to your family, 'Look, we won this.' "
"But the last time we performed, I sang out of key," he said, "and nothing really happened to our sales, and that means a lot to the Juno committee. They said, 'If we put you on television, we want to see a spike in your album sales.' But when we play David Letterman and those other talk shows, we come back, and there's no big payoff. It doesn't always work the way you think it works."