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- Posted on Mar 27th 2011 11:57PM by Joshua Ostroff
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The night's big prize was a re-run of last month's Grammy Awards, with Montreal's indie icons Arcade Fire winning album of the year, as well as best songwriter and group (they also took alternative album at Saturday's non-televised gala dinner and award ceremony).
Toronto rapper Drake, who was also nominated at this year's Grammys, was the high-octane host -- though he came up short in actual award-winning by losing all six of his nominations, including the previous night's best rap recording which unexpectedly went to recent Vancouver-transplant Shad.
The dapper Drizzy filled the cold open with CanCon humour, including an uncomfortably awkward Skype gag with CTV national news anchorman Lloyd Robertson, and a hilariously homoerotic duet of Sarah McLaughlin's 'I Will Remember You' with an absent Justin Bieber videoing in from Rotterdam where he's on tour. Then the former 'Degrassi' star took to the stage with piano man Chilly Gonzales (who had lost best electronic album to Caribou the night before), where he covered Snow's 'Informer' and crooned a faux R&B love ballad to Shania Twain.
Later, while giving her acceptance speech as this year's inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Twain memorably professed her affection for her homeland: "I love our bush!"
Backstage, she ignored reporters double-entendres about her Twitter-friendly choice of works, but did praise her compatriots and her homegrown awards show. "I grew up watching the Junos, watching Anne Murray, rocking to Bryan Adams and Rush. We're so [musically] rich in this country that the percentage of Canadian music I grew up listening to was huge and it influenced me as a songwriter and a singer," Twain said, adding, "I was in awe of our Canadian awards show. When I won my first Juno, it was like I'd made it."
Pop phenom Justin Bieber, who was surprisingly shut out at the Grammys and at last year's Junos despite being the talk of both award shows, accepted his best pop album and Juno fan choice awards ("...and the winner is...cover your ears...Justin Bieber!") via taped message on which he thanked his mom for raising him in Canada, teased his siblings, and tried to bring the hockey fans onside shouting "Go Leafs Go!"
Artist of the Year went to the legendary Neil Young, who was also on hand to accept his humanitarian award, which follows his win for best adult alternative album at Saturday night's festivities. "What year is this?" he cracked as he picked up his artist prize, before turning attention to his fellow nominees. "Arcade Fire, what a great performance, what a great group. And Justin Bieber, what can you say? I mean this guy is sensational, and all the other artists are all wonderful. Oh Canada!"
Young and fellow Canadian music luminaries also got shout-outs in medley form, as Sarah Harmer performed Joni Mitchell's 'Carey,' City and Colour delivered an outstanding and impassioned take on Young's 'Old Man,' Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and Sarah Slean duetted on Gordon Lightfoot's 'If You Could Read My Mind' and then everyone, joined by the Sadies, Justin Rutledge and Serena Ryder, got together for the Band's 'The Shape I'm In.'
On hand to watch the festivities, Robbie Robertson wandered backstage to praise the younger generation of Canadian rockers. "Glad to see Arcade Fire win -- that's not a big surprise, just because they do really special work."
Deadmau5, arguably the world's biggest DJ, won his third consecutive best dance recording Juno -- though he was unable to accept his honour on Saturday on account of playing a set at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami in front of about 60,000 people. "The complex schedule always bums me out," he told Spinner of missing the Juno celebrations the previous night. "Then I had to go play my label party til six in the morning, and then get on a plane to get here."
Still, despite being awake for over 24 hours straight, Deadmau5 made it to his Toronto hometown in time to strut his giant mouse head down the red carpet leading into the Air Canada Centre and, alongside Buck 65, present Arcade Fire with the first award of the night for best group.
K'Naan, one of last year's big winners, clocked one more prize for the Young Artists for Haiti version of his smash single 'Wavin' Flag,' which closed out last year's broadcast. "I think the reason this song won was because all the artists also nominated were also in this song," K'naan said in stereotypically humble Canadian fashion, "it was a way to make it all work for everyone."
Though not taking home any awards, Broken Social Scene, Tokyo Police Club and Chromeo also performed sparkling sets during the telecast.
There were still a few old-school only-known-in-Canada blips, with best new group and best new artist going to the good but somewhat obscure Said the Whale and Meaghan Smith, respectively, and the show giving performance slots over to the bad but somehow not obscure bands Down with Webster and Hedley.
But mostly the best artists in Canada have become among the best artists in the world, and both achievements were reflected in the 2011 Junos, which came to a close in what was one of the most well-selected award shows in recent memory. From Caribou and Deadmau5 to Neil Young and Arcade Fire -- and who could begrudge Bieber nabbing best pop album or fan choice? -- the right people won (though K'naan's best single admittedly arrived one year late).
And, yeah, award shows, especially when it comes to art, don't really mean anything. Except sometimes they do.
As Arcade Fire's Richard Parry said, reflecting on the band's recent prize-winning backstage after their fourth and final Juno win, "it's a gesture that [shows] anything is possible, that you can walk your own road and do things your own way and connect to a lot of people -- and have it mean something to a lot of people."
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