I just finished watching (ie listening to in the background) the 40th Annual Juno Awards. A few days ago I wrote about how Canadian content is going to become irrelevant as more and more people start listening to Canadian music naturally, without the need for enforcement. I think this edition of the awards is a good example of that. Two years ago I wrote a fairly complainy post about how irrelevant the Junos were in the face of all the great stuff happening in Canadian music. This year, I think they did a good job of hitting mass appeal and the more underground stuff, partially because of how much things have changed since last time around. Drake and Justin Bieber have happened, for one thing. If they were over-nominated at the Junos (they were), at least they are legitimately among the biggest artists in the world, and have been overnominated at every awards show. And Shad even beat out host Drake in the rap category, despite very little name recognition, even in Canada.
Other nods to critical success over commercial came with performances from Tokyo Police Club and Chromeo. Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene were there, but I don’t think either are underground anymore. K’Naan got a big award, and everyone was gushing over Neil Young, who is the elder statesman of rock worldwide at this point.
But I actually think the real triumph is in the presence of the Drakes and the Biebers. What was frustrating about the Junos in the past is that even when we had amazing underground artists like the Arcade Fire, the insistence was on recognizing the commercial success of random pop-rock bands that were equally irrelevant to the the criterati and the commercial world at large. A Celine Dion best-of was nominated for album of the year. A few superstars, and then a bunch of unknowns. Then you take this and say “these are the best we have to offer.” If you’re going to present unknowns, you might as well present something interesting. There’s still an emphasis on the commercial acts, but at least now the commercial triumphs are people we’ve already heard of. And there seems to be more room for the underground acts, which is helpful, too.
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