It's a tough time for mainstream music award shows.
There's no longer the kind of musical monoculture that once gave these events larger resonance across the culture. The Grammys seemed to respond to that dilemma this year by acting as grown up as they could, which was not only boring, but also showed how out of touch the institution has become. Like it or not, popular music since the 50s has largely been about the tastes of teenagers, and it's a mistake for organizations like the Junos and the Grammys to ignore that in a misguided bid for credibility.
However, it's becoming increasingly hard to even get a handle on what's popular with the kids. Most teens don't even bother downloading MP3s anymore, and instead just stream music on YouTube. However, as Billboard found out this week, when you try to factor that into the pop charts, you end up with things like a novelty dance hit that happens to be the soundtrack to this week's most popular internet meme topping the charts, despite almost no radio play. Too be fair, Baauer's Harlem Shake is definitely a catchy song, but it's obvious that it's mostly a hit because of the fad of user-created videos, which have mostly bewildered and annoyed actual Harlem residents with their bastardizations of a dance that was popular there over a decade ago.
Judging from the 2013 Juno Award nominations announced earlier this week, it looks like they may end up doing a better job at repping actual pop music this year than their more famous American cousins. Call Me Maybe singer Carly Rae Jepsen is in the lead this year, despite being snubbed at the Grammys. Sure, she specializes in bubble gum fluff, but we think she's damn good at it, and Maybe was one of the few singles that genuinely transcended cultural lines last year. She's even ahead of Justin Bieber in the number of nominations.
The Bieber himself was not only snubbed at the Grammys, but then later found out that the Black Keys' drummer Patrick Carney thinks that Justin's tunes don't even qualify as music. Biebs responded with his own clumsy joke on Twitter, which inspired his fans to go after Carney online. Carney apparently forgot that he's a 32 year old man and that Bieber's fans are mainly children and teenagers, so he's been fighting with them and mocking them ever since. Sure, it was funny for a day, but it's pretty sad that Carney is now going to be known as not only the alt rocker who thinks "the Grammys are about music", but also as being the adult man who fights with kids on the internet. Not a great look.
Speaking of snubs, what are the odds that Drake is going to go home empty handed again this year at the Junos? Sure, last year he won the untelevised Rap award, but he lost the coveted Album trophy to a Christmas album, which was embarrassing not only for him, but for the rest of Canada too. What is it with the Junos and holiday albums? How the hell did Rod Stewart's holiday album end up in the International Album category? The sad thing it, it's probably better than half the other discs nominated for that slot.
The smaller niche categories at the Junos are probably more interesting to the typical NOW reader, and there are actually quite a few of our favourites up for awards. The Weeknd will likely take Breakthrough Artist, but if Grimes or Cold Specks walked away with that we'd be happy too. Breakthrough Group is a tougher call, but if we were gambling, we'd put our money on Yukon Blonde. Songwriter Of The Year has some great candidates, but if Leonard Cohen doesn't win it there could be rioting in the streets.
In the genre-specific categories, we're hoping Bahamas picks up Adult Alternative although all the other nominees are strong too. Metric will probably win the Alternative award, but it would be nice to see the lone independent act Japandroids picking up that one. We're not trying to put Universal Music down, but it's just creepy to see their name attached to so many nominees. There's no way a major label monopoly can be good for music culture.
Is the Rock category considered a specialty award now? It should go to Rush, not only because they're Rush, but also because Clockwork Angels was a genuinely good album that deserves some recognition. Skipping down to the Rap Recording award, we'd bet on Rich Kidd/SonReal winning that one. But when it comes to the Junos and hip-hop, who knows what will happen.
It's puzzling that Deadmau5 isn't nominated in either the Dance Recording category nor for Electronic Album (maybe he forgot to apply?), but at least he's up for Artist Of The Year (which he has no chance of winning). The Weeknd should win R&B/Soul Recording easily, but if he comes home with too many trophies it might damage his "outsider" brand. Maybe he'll pull an Ann Murray and skip the ceremony.
Both Roots categories have such strong contenders that we're not even going to attempt a prediction, although we are hoping that Rose Cousins wins the award for solo recording. Similarly, all of the nominees for Electronic Album are potential and worthy winners. In the Metal/Hard Music category, we'd put money on Cancer Bats getting the trophy, but all the niche awards can be unpredictable.
Overall, it's just nice to see the Junos not trying to pretend that they're not about pop music. Now if only we could get them to deal with their strange Christmas fetish.
Let the Polaris Prize worry about serious music; the Junos should be about pop music.