The big guns of the Canadian music industry were conspicuously absent from last night's Juno Awards, but nobody seemed to miss them. The Junos party simply went on without them.
Viewers didn't get to see Justin Bieber, Celine Dion or Leonard Cohen (except for a pretaped segment) at last night's annual homegrown music-industry fête, held this year in Regina, but we did get Carly Rae Jepsen, Anne Murray, k.d. lang and the Sheepdogs. And a whole lot of Michael Bublé.
As a television event, the Junos normally fall somewhere between the glitz of the Grammys and the aw-shucks jeans-and-suit-jacket appeal of a post-season hockey banquet.
In keeping with Junos past, some moments were clunky, some were genuinely moving and more than a few were cringingly Canadian. Over the two-hour broadcast, this year's Junos at least covered off the requisite elements of every good awards show.
THE SMARMY BUT COMPETENT HOST
Bublé was a vast improvement over last year's host, William Shatner, and did his best to keep the energy level going throughout the show.
Bublé pandered shamelessly to the crowd in his opening, with glowing comments about the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team; he made the crowd coo with his talk of becoming a new daddy; and then he made the crowd laugh with a joke about Justin Bieber. And Bublé effectively played the awestruck fan during his conversation with One Direction, appearing via satellite from Britain.
And was it coincidence or kismet that promos for Bublé's new album – in stores tomorrow! – ran during the commercial breaks? Dude's got a good management team.
THE RUTHLESS AWARD-SHOW FORMAT
All told, the Junos broadcast only forked over seven awards to artists; the rest were handed out in a non-televised gala ceremony on Saturday night. As such, there were several segments with the voiceover: "Juno were previously awarded in the following categories…"
It's probably a given most viewers don't care who won Children's Album of the Year or Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year, but the perception remains that some of the Juno winners were given short shrift on the broadcast. Further case in point: Veteran music journalist Larry LeBlanc, this year's winner of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, whose time on the show was limited to a quick shot of him in the audience.
THE ICKY MOMENT
Host Bublé will likely catch some flack for his comment about Carly Rae Jepsen immediately following her performance. To wit: "Did you see those shorts? They look good on her, but they'd look better crumpled up on my bedroom floor, you know what I mean?" After which he did a sheepish throw to his wife in the crowd.
Jepsen is 27, but still.
THE BREAKOUT KIDS
At this year's Junos, all eyes were on Serena Ryder and Carly Rae Jepsen.
Besides collecting the Juno trophy for Adult Alternative Album of the Year, Ryder opened the show with her rousing song Stompa and then performed again with punk-pop band Billy Talent. She's that rare performer who actually seems to get energized when performing onstage.
Jepsen, meanwhile, was the big winner of the night, collecting Single of the Year for the freakishly infectious Call Me Maybe, and also winning Album of the Year and Pop Album of The Year. And she only thanked her semi-mentor Justin Bieber once, which was appreciated.
THE CANADA ROCKS MOMENT
This year, it was the live performance by the Sheepdogs – "all the way from Saskatoon" – who very much resemble a band that might have played Woodstock back in 1969. On this occasion, the Sheepdogs were, for reasons unknown, shown on TV for the entirety of their performance through a sepia filter. A nod to Instagram maybe?
THE CORNY CANADIAN MOMENT
The induction of k.d. lang into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame began with an introduction by songbird Anne Murray, wearing the weird combo of a blue leather jacket and skirt.
A pretaped tribute had such luminaries as Tony Bennett, Leonard Cohen and Jian Ghomeshi gushing about lang's contributions to the music world. When lang finally bounded onstage, she flirted with Murray ("I had the hugest crush on her … still do!") and told viewers to be themselves. Classily, she also threw in shout-outs to the recently deceased Rita MacNeil and Stompin' Tom Connors.
And when lang came back out later to sing Sing It Loud, was she really barefoot? That's our girl.
LITTLE LOVE FOR RITA
As many anticipated, the Junos paid scant reverence to MacNeil, who passed away last week at 68. lang gave a quick shout-out, and so did Bublé at the show's close, but that was it.
There was, however, an extended tribute to the late Nova Scotian songbird shown at Saturday's non-televised Juno festivities. Could they not have made do with a little less Marianas Trench (or corporate sponsorship plugs) to show the tribute on the TV broadcast? Just sayin'.