every year at this time we tear into our Juno Awards information package hoping to be pleasantly surprised -- slightly surprised, maybe? -- by the nominees. But no. Bands with major-label muscle get the nods despite producing work that's often inferior to independent artists. Seriously, is there anything released by the dreaded Templar or b4-4 that rivals the stunning songwriting of Danny Michel or Luke Doucet? Er, no, but guess who's up for the best new group award at this year's ceremony, slated for Hamilton's Copps Coliseum March 4?
Dreamworks/Universal's hard-sell marketing of Nelly Furtado has worked well, with the left coast singer nominated in several categories including best new solo artist, best songwriter and best pop album. Her engineer and producers also received nominations.
Other categories are plain weird. Country singer Terri Clark is nominated along with Michelle Wright, Tara Lyn Hart, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and -- surprise -- Shania Twain, in best country female artist.
Clark is also nominated with her pop sisters such as Jann Arden and Lara Fabian in best female artist. Which is it? Why not elevate bona fide up-and-comer Blaise Pascal to best female artist rather than ghettoizing her in the best songwriter category, which will undoubtedly be among the awards presented pre-show?
You've got to know that Kardinall Offishall will be one pissed-off dude if he fails to collect best rap recording, given that he's nominated twice, once for his own stuff, and again for a collaboration with Jully Black and Sean Paul.
Ditto Dan Gibson, Ron Allen and Dr. Lee Bartel, who are similarly nominated twice in the instrumental category for their albums Natural Massage Therapy and Natural Relaxation. No, really.
On the upside, incisive comic Rick Mercer is hosting, and tickets are once again available to the public ($35-$45 via 416-870-8000).
Also a plus, the immensely talented Sarah Harmer will go head-to-head against Furtado in both best new solo artist and best pop album, although in the latter category, Harmer faces Juno bullies Barenaked Ladies, Snow and the Moffatts -- all huge priorities for their respective labels (Warner for BNL and EMI for Moffatts and Snow).
Speaking of the breathtakingly retooled Moffatts -- who last year hosted the awards, confirming their adeptness at reading scripts -- they will return as performers along with fellow teeny-bopper faves soulDecision, the ubiquitous Furtado, treble charger and the Guess Who, who, if they're performing with anywhere near the level of energy they exhibited last December at the El Mocambo, will blow a hole straight through the venue.
Also performing in what's billed as a celebration of "the 15th anniversary of the urban music categories," are Baby Blue Sound Crew, Kardinall Offishall, Jully Black and Sean Paul, jacksoul, Maestro, Dream Warriors, Michie Mee, Ghetto Concept and Rascalz. Better late than never.
Note to CARAS -- just because you nominate Neil Young doesn't mean he'll show up, even if he has a chance at trouncing fellow best male artist nominee Snow.