Tegan and Sara were hearted, Robin Thicke was a no-show, Serena Ryder worked overtime, Justin Bieber was booed in absentia and Bachman-Turner Overdrive got to work by nine.
Juno returned to Winnipeg for the first time since 2005, noticeably lacking in star power but compensating Sunday evening with a perky, briskly-paced telecast that celebrated the talents of the twin Quins (Tegan and Sara) and Ryder, the charismatic singer-songwriter who displayed much more presence and pizzazz than fellow co-hosts Johnny Reid and the Nova Scotia rapper Classified (a.k.a. Luke Boyd).
Most of the 41 awards were presented on Saturday at a gala dinner, where Ryder won the artist of the year statuette, while Montreal rockers Arcade Fire won in the adult alternative category for its Reflektor album and the Calgary-reared Tegan and Sara took pop-LP honours for its sleek Heartthrob.
On Sunday the duo added group of year and top single (for the insistent, catchy hit Closer). Arcade Fire and Ryder also earned further applause on Sunday, with wins in categories of top album and songwriting, respectively.
(The only other multiple winner was Manitoba’s James Ehnes, who rubbed his violin and Juno voters the right way with his 2013 albums Prokofiev: Complete Works for Violin and Britten & Shostakovich.)
Sunday’s telecast ended in a salute to BTO. In the spirit of that great Winnipeg-born band, here’s a roundup of who took care of business Sunday night and those who did not.
For a telecast-opening live mash-up of Serena Ryder’s What I Wouldn’t Do and Classified’s Three Feet Tall, it made sense to use a t-shirted choir of pint-sized voices. And three-foot tall or not, those pipsqueaks sure had some swagger to them. Later, for a spirited performance with Tegan and Sara, members of Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir! added exclamation to Closer.
Loser: Robin Thicke
The American-born singer was a last-minute no-show when he backed out of his commitment to perform, citing a doctor-ordered “mandatory vocal rest.” It’s doubtful anyone missed the blue-eyed R&B singer, particularly the nearly 2,000 signees of an online petition in favour of banning Thicke from Juno consideration and participation because of the misogynistic lyrics to his blockbuster hit Blurred Lines. The foreigner Thicke was nominated for three awards; he won zero.
Winner: Tegan and Sara
In addition to their Juno-leading three trophies, the sparky identical twins collaborated with co-host Ryder on a cute pre-recorded skit involving song spoofs on Winnipeg’s chilly weather. Speaking of co-hosts, one could do worse than employing these two pepper-pot popsters for a future Juno gala.
Loser: Former astronauts
The ubiquitous former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, who received more screen time while in orbit than Gravity ‘s Sandra Bullock, showed up in Winnipeg to introduce Bachman-Turner Overdrive as new members of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The over-exposed spaceman songster sang a few bars of Takin’ Care of Business ineptly – his pitch control apparently not yet adjusted to the pull of gravity.
Winner: Bachman-Turner Overdrive
After a rendition of Let it Ride by the shaggy Saskatoon rockers the Sheepdogs (and Matt Mays and the Sadies’ Travis Good), the iconic post-Guess Who troupe (who may or may not have taken the 8:15 into the city for the occasion) joined for a show-closing Takin’ Care of Business. It was pure Canadiana, for a broadcast that was mostly (and satisfyingly) American-free.
Halifax rocker Matt Mays wore too much eyeliner and the surprisingly underwhelming co-host Johnny Reid appeared all washed out due to excessive pancake powder. He looked liked actor Jonah Hill’s corpse.
Winner: Serena Ryder
One wonders what kind of quirk in the rules allows Ryder’s Harmony to win a 2013 Juno for adult alternative album and then get nominated again in 2014 for album of the year. (It lost out to Arcade Fire’s Reflektor). That being said, the big-voiced singer performed twice, including a classy-like-Shirley-Bassey black-and-white moment on the torch tune For You. She cried when accepting her songwriting prize – “this has been a dream of mine my entire life” – and admonished the audience members who booed an absent rascal. “I really think that Justin Bieber is an amazing musician and he deserved every bit of that [fan’s choice] award because he’s been working his ass off his entire life and we need to support how awesome he is.”
Loser: Stompin’ Tom Connors
The legendary folk artist may have been honoured by Brett Kissel’s wearing of a black cowboy hat, but Connors (who publicly feuded with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) for recognizing U.S.-based talent), might have been rolling over in his grave when the Alberta-born Nashville resident Kissel won the statuette for year’s breakthrough artist. And let’s not even mention the three nominations for California’s Thicke.
Winner: Juno voters
With the exception of Ryder’s songwriting win – her singles Stompa and What I Wouldn’t Do were co-writes released in 2012 – the CARAS voters mostly made sound decisions.