Juno Awards 2022: Live music and Simu Liu guide ceremony to safe landing
The 51st Juno Awards brought the music back to a live audience on Sunday and marked a triumphant return for the beleaguered ceremony celebrating Canadian talent.
Organizers put on a tight and impressive entertainment showcase in Toronto from the start, and managed to not only keep everything running, but also to keep it interesting — no mean feat for a production years removed from its last live version.
In it, Montreal's Charlotte Cardin capped a stellar showing as this year's top winner, Ontario's Arkells nabbed best group for a historic fifth time in the span of a decade, and live music reigned once again.
With high-energy performances by everyone from Avril Lavigne to Arkells, it was a definitive return for live music at the annual event. Held virtually the last two years (after 2020's event in Saskatoon was cancelled) due to COVID-19, this year's ceremony marked the first in-person show since 2019.
It was also the first-ever Junos show held outdoors, a strategy organizers hoped would allow the night to go ahead no matter what, if any, pandemic restrictions were introduced.
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That plan ended up yielding an incredible number of performances from some of the biggest names in Canadian music. Pop-punk legend Lavigne performed a medley of songs from her first album Let Go, singing hits Complicated, Girlfriend, Sk8er Boi and I'm With You, 20 years after the album debuted and 19 years after her first Juno nomination.
From there, the night switched back and forth between awards, and almost too many performances to count. That included the previous night's winner for alternative album of the year, Mustafa, delivering a choir-backed version of his stripped-down, acoustic song Stay Alive, Haviah Mighty belting a mashup of her tracks So So and Protest, Arcade Fire performing their new song Unconditional I (Lookout Kid), and Alberta's Tesher even managing to rope Junos host Simu Liu into dancing along to his TikTok smash Jalebi Baby.
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But Liu's involvement was no afterthought. The Shang-Chi superhero brought back live hosting to the Junos in a big way — leading what Junos president and CEO Allan Reid called one of the best shows they've ever put on.
Liu started the night with a sketch alongside his old Kim's Convenience co-star Andrew Phung, before moving to jokes about Canadianisms ("It is pronounced bubble tea, OK, not boba, bubble tea Goddammit!"), the pandemic ("Some crazy energy Toronto — it's almost as if you've been cooped up for two years straight") and even Will Smith's recent moment at the Oscars.
After welcoming audiences to Toronto's Budweiser Stage, Liu noted the show was being broadcast live, "So if anyone has ever wanted to go viral … now's your chance," he challenged, mockingly tapping his cheek. "Come on."Charlotte Cardin leads Juno winners
But instead of angry actors, audiences were treated to grateful musicians.
Charlotte Cardin cemented her frontrunner status by taking home album of the year for Phoenix. After winning single of the year, pop album of the year (also for Phoenix) and artist of the year at a Gala event on Saturday, Sunday's win left the singer-songwriter with four total trophies — the most of any artist.
And not only did they win it this year, Arkells had already taken home the award for group of the year in 2021, 2019, 2015 and 2012 — all after winning best new group in 2010. At the same time, British Columbia's Jessia rode a wave of popularity that began on TikTok to win the 2022 breakthrough artist of the year (beating out other TikTok come-ups 347aidan and Tesher) while Shawn Mendes won fan choice — his fourth time doing so.
Haviah Mightywon best rap album/EP, an honour created this year after the rap recording award was split into two categories. After Toronto's Charmaine took home rap single on Saturday for her track Bold, the two became the first women to win in the category previously dominated by men.
"For those who haven't heard of Haviah Mighty, I'm going to be back on the stage to show you why," she said after her rap album win, and only shortly before returning for her performance. "This one is for women in hip hop."
There was more to the night than the main awards, though.
Toronto-born Deborah Cox was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame early in the evening, an achievement she described as bittersweet in a red carpet interview with CBC, as it required her to first travel outside Canada to find fame and recognition.
Even still, she said getting the honour — and becoming the first Black woman in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame — was an important step forward.
"I'm really inspired that this moment is just going to springboard and inspire more people," she said. "Little girls like me that didn't have representation to just get into this industry, and have the same opportunity as anyone else,"
Mendes also took home a recognition — the Junos' International Achievement Award.
Despite being a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated singer, he delivered an emotional acceptance speech about learning to believe in himself.
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"When I was younger, I used to think — I really, really thought — If I could just write one big, hit song, people would like me, and then I would be enough," he said.
"Something that I know to be true now is that I was enough before anybody knew my name. I am not standing here to tell you to give up on your dreams, I'm just here to tell you that while you are chasing them, don't forget to enjoy the process. And remember, you're already enough."Snubs, surprises
Sunday's event did see some surprising shutouts.
Alongside the other TikTok stars, Mother Mother failed to win for group of the year despite being catapulted back into the spotlight by the app, almost 20 years following the release of its first album.
Toronto rapper Pressa — one of the leading nominees, up for four categories — failed to take home an award from the two categories for which he was eligible Sunday: rap album or fan choice.
Meanwhile, international star Justin Bieber was shut out both nights. He was in the running for five awards — in the exact same categories as 2021. He missed out for fan choice — a category he has won five times in the past — and his album Justice lost to Cardin's Phoenix.