The host has yet to be announced.
Is it just me or is this the most titillating tidbit that has come out of these 2014 Juno Award nominations? Not knocking the nods, which were announced this morning at Toronto's Design Exchange amid artists, publicists, media and all-around Canadian music industry types. Just seriously curious. Because to me, it means they're working on someone big. Bigger than Drake in 2011? One can dream.
The Junos have a tough job. They've got to lure big talent to smallish, potentially unsexy locations (this year's ceremony takes place in the creative-hotbed but not-super-high-profile city of Winnipeg), yet they've also got a duty to acknowledge the best and brightest Canadian talent (exemplified in nods this year for Shad, A Tribe Called Red, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Daniel Romano and Ryan Hemsworth). Plus, it seems like they cling to the idea that there is a certain tier of Canadian music celebrity that they must acknowledge, year after year, regardless of the artist's recent release.
To solve the first and third problems, they've come up with clever catch-all categories that don't necessarily mean all that much. How exactly does one become an "artist of the year?" I'm not totally sure, but it allows people like qualifies-as-Canadian Robin Thicke to be nominated with questionable critical merit. (Granted, he had "the song of the summer.")
Same goes for fan choice. The same names pop up year after year - Justin Bieber, Drake, Céline Dion - but at least this one has some populist appeal. People want to watch people that they know about and whose music they can hear on the radio, and that is completely valid.
One quibble about that category, though. It seems to me, that in a year when her album was critically panned (and legitimately bad), Avril Lavigne should not get to be nominated. But I suppose the awards are counting on the reigning king and queen of Canadian music -shove over, Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk - to make an appearance, and here's one sure-fire way.
But enough about Chavril and their ilk. Awards ceremonies are easy targets for criticism.
And there was plenty to celebrate this morning. Montreal's Arcade Fire led the pack with a total of six nominations for their latest - the lush, lengthy and multi-influence-culling Reflektor - including album of the year, single of the year and songwriter of the year. Drake, whose Nothing Was The Same album penetrated popular culture more than any other record this year, received four nods, which tied him with Dion, Hedley and Tegan & Sara (yay!) who also had four apiece.
A few very deserving outfits were announced for breakthrough group of the year: February 2013 NOW cover stars A Tribe Called Red; Luke Lalonde's Toronto-based indie-rock four-piece Born Ruffians; and the Toronto duo with the electric live show, July Talk, among them.
Another praiseworthy artist, Basia Bulat, was nominated for adult alternative album of the year for her gorgeous, personal, mod-folk release, Tall Tall Shadow.
It's a shame that Yamantaka // Sonic Titan's crashing Uzu wasn't nominated for album of the year - a category which seems to be reserved for artists whose names are recognized south of the border. Same for Shad. Flying Colours should have received so much more than a single nomination - at the very least, Fam Jam should have been nominated for single of the year. For that matter, since when are rappers not songwriters? In such a strong hip-hop category this year (Shad, Drake, Rich Kidd), not one of them merits a mention?
But it was a relief to see a solid group of emcees this time around after a couple of question marks last year (and that big Grammy question mark last month). I wasn't sure mixtapes could be nominated in this category, but am relieved that they can be. Rich Kidd's In My Opinion, with its reality-based Toronto stories and copious amounts of cocky, witty wordplay, is completely deserving.
Overall, it's great to see the Bulats and Kidds and YTSTs nominated on a national scale, surely gaining exposure they wouldn't otherwise get. (Apparently the Junos rake in viewers by the millions. Phew!)
Aside from who will actually win the awards, only one question remains:
Is there room for both Michael Bublé and Robin Thicke (five and three nods, respectively) in one Winnipeg stadium? I suppose on March 30th we'll find out.
A complete list of nominations can be found at www.junoawards.ca.