The Juno awards, sometimes referred to as the Canadian Grammys, are supposed to celebrate excellence in Canadian music. Looking at this year’s list of underwhelming nominees, one has to wonder if awards that celebrate mediocrity should be given out in the first place.
While the content of our radio stations has to be at least 35 per cent Canadian, as required by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, most stations probably reach that quota by playing two tracks by Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Michael BublÃ©, Drake or Justin Bieber every hour. Those artists are great to brag to your American friends about, and FM stations will generally aim to please the masses, but the CRTC’s regulation misses the mark with what is supposed to accomplish, i.e. to promote Canadian art to Canadians. Everyone knows Dion and Twain, yet “Because You Loved Me” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much” still count towards a station’s Canadian content requirement.
This is where the Juno awards should step in and pick up the slack. This year’s nominees are no strangers to the airwaves. Obviously, if popular songs by Canadian artists are also the best Canadian songs of the year, the issue is moot, but nominating kd lang’s Vancouver Olympics’ rendition of Leonard Cohen’s 27-year-old song “Hallelujah” seems uninspired and suggests voters were scrambling to fill the required five spots on the ballot.
This year’s Juno awards, celebrating its 40th anniversary, are supposed to celebrate the diversity in Canadian music and the Canadian people. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the people behind these awards, even give one out for aboriginal Album of the Year and honours the best in Canadian blues and folk music. These are artists that many Canadians have never heard of and that need all the exposure they can get.
Unfortunately, because of the amount of award categories, the ones “people don’t really want to see,” like the aforementioned, will probably be given out in an untelevised event just before the live Junos telecast. Promoting all Canadian artists wholeheartedly should be a priority at the Junos, not just the ones who sell a lot of records or who top the iTunes charts.