The big tagline among Canadian music journos is how unadventurous the Juno nominations are this year. That’s not surprising, considering Nickelback are the unstoppable juggernauts of Top-40 radio in 2006.
Nickelback have six Juno nominations and are up against Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Rex Goudie and Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter for Album of the Year (nominations are based on sales and the award goes to most units shifted, in case you were wondering). Nickelback’s single “Photograph” cannot be escaped – I’m sure that song is even making its way to solitary-confinement tanks, for heaven’s sake. Even if the other four nominees for Album of the Year don’t win the big prize, they still have a chance at Artist of the Year. If Nickelback don’t win the big prize, they’re up for Group of the Year against Theory of a Deadman, Our Lady Peace, Barenaked Ladies and Blue Rodeo. Even if they lose, they have a chance to win. The Junos aren’t all that different from A Hole in One… or Two, in this regard.
Yes, I’m comparing the Junos to The Price Is Right. It’s an apt comparison.
At least the marquee awards are judged blatantly by sales criteria. As noted by The Globe and Mail‘s Guy Dixon, the specialist awards are nominated and judged by seperate panels. Critics focus a lot of attention on Alternative Album of the Year (a moniker that needs to be changed as “alternative” doesn’t actually mean anything). In a way, Broken Social Scene are about as unadventurous a choice for nomination as Nickelback are. Bands like BSS, Hot Hot Heat, Tegan & Sara, Metric and the New Pornographers are talked about consistently in alternative publications, mainstream newspapers, and on CBC Radio. All are unabashedly indie favourites. Broken Social Scene were the focus of a huge Toronto Star article last year that amounted to somewhat fanboyish “gosh, they’re great” pandering. Do writers pick up on this? No. It’s easier just to bash Hedley and national versions of the Pop Idol format. After all, Canadian Idol is Satan!
My tastes have never matched those of the Junos, but even by looking at this year’s nominations, it’s plain to see that they’re singularly unimpressive. Familiar faces like Blue Rodeo, Neil Young and Jann Arden have nominations. As much as Hedley are hated by the anti-Canadian Idol crowd due to frontman Jacob Hoggard being runner-up in the 2004 competition, they had the marketing dollars behind them. Rap Recording of the Year is free from established “big name”nominations (as much as The Rascalz, k-os and Choclair are “big names,” anyway), but stalwart Kardinal Offishall gets another nod. It’s pretty obvious that Arcade Fire should get at least one win from all the press they’re receiving, even though they’re nominated for ephemera like Video of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Frankly, anyone who follows the Canadian music scene will recognize quite a few names on the list. When a band like Bedouin Soundclash – themselves hardly hurting for press or recognition – looks like a dark horse in its category of New Group of the Year, it’s not much of a year for Juno nominations.
Is there anything wrong with the nominations, though? Not really. They’re typical for the Junos. People expecting wildly obscure nominations and questionable novelty act nods (Prozzäk, Rhyme Syndicate, Snow) are deluding themselves. All the Junos need to do this year is look more legitimate than the Grammys. When U2 wins a major award like Album of the Year the year after they should have been eligible for it, looking better than the Grammys should be easier than eating food. At least, unlike Canadian awards shows like the Genies or the Geminis, people tend to care about the Junos these days.
Nominees list (Toronto Star)
Ben Rayner laments the lack of indie cred given the Junos. He doesn’t like Hedley. (Toronto Star)
Canadian Press/Toronto Star. For some reason, the article includes a Wolf Parade mention.
David Schmeichel talks about Manitoba’s Juno showing. In his eyes, it isn’t that great. (Winnipeg Sun)