The biggest question on your mind through these fevered, Juno-drenched weeks—not, “How did they get Coldplay?” not, “Why is Coldplay here?” not, “Will Gwyneth come?”—has doubtless been, “How the fuck did Diana Krall’s Christmas album get five nominations?”
Well see, it’s like this. The nominees in the biggest categories, the ones you will see on television Sunday night, are determined by one thing: sales. This includes International, Artist, Album, Group, Instrumental Album, Pop Album and Rock Album of the Year. (The winners, save the Juno Fan Choice—voted on by you, the Doritos eater!—are chosen by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, AKA CARAS.) New Artist and Group of the Year nominees are decided via a combo of sales stats and panel voting.
This is not atypical. The Billboard Awards, for instance, are dictated purely by sales. The winners know who they are as soon as they’re invited to the show. Compiling the nominees like this is a way of ensuring that the millions of people who bought the most popular records of the year will turn into millions of people watching the Juno Awards show on April 2—if that doesn’t work, there’s always the biggest British band in the world headlining Canada’s musical Oscars to draw in the Nickelback haters.
Make no mistake: the show is the only reason we’re here. JunoFest, Juno FanFare, the free show in Grand Parade—all means to the spectacular, CTV-sponsored end. Why are there so many Canadian Idol-affiliated nominees (that would be 2004 Idol winner Kalan Porter and runner-up Theresa Sokyrka, 2005 runner-up Rex Goudie and also-ran Jacob Hoggard’s band Hedley. If we were actual 2005 Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neill, who also put out a record last year, we’d be fucking pissed), you wonder? Because it’s CTV’s flagship show. Witness the endless commercials months before the audition spots and dates have even been nailed down, endless promos for the albums of CI alum during high-traffic shows like Degrassi and Canada AM, Ben Mulroney’s endless departure from eTalk as he accompanies the juggernaut across the country. You don’t put all that money in without expecting a return on your investment, and so we find ourselves making disheartening tallies like Kalan Porter 3, Sarah Harmer 0.
This isn’t all CTV’s fault. If the top 10 or so awards are dictated by sales, that means Porter, Goudie and Mrs. Costello’s holiday album sold more records than any of last year’s lauded Canadian breakthroughs Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Metric and The Arcade Fire. More than beloved stalwarts like Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Young and Matthew Good. More than even critically hailed upstarts K’Naan, Massari, Bedouin Soundclash and Elliott Brood. Every single one of those artists has at least one nomination somewhere else, in the plethora of categories—many untelevised—whose nominees are dictated by panel, not sales. That’s why it gets more interesting as it gets more focused, and we know that interest doesn’t necessarily translate to popularity.
But back to our original point—it means that in the rush of your last-minute holiday shopping you could’ve pulled the cool Mom or mentor brother and bought someone Live it Out but then you looked to the right and thought how nice Diana Krall would sound in the background while you were At Home On Sunday, and well, here we fucking are.
It means you spent money voting for Canadian Idol and buying All the Right Reasons because you couldn’t get enough of the delicate imagery of “Animals” instead of going to see Bedouin Soundclash at the Marquee or locking yourself in a room with Sarah Harmer’s I’m a Mountain, the best album to come out of this country in 2005, one week before the November 15 Juno nomination deadline, by the way.
We don’t understand exactly how this particular event has become Bizarro Junos—love or hate them, Coldplay (waning love) and Black Eyed Peas (hate hate hate) are two of the biggest bands in the world, and Pamela Anderson, who we’re sure has a CTV affiliation in her past, is one of the most famous women in the world and certainly one of our best-known exports. We
But the Bublé? The Nickelback? The Idols? That we’re not so keen on. We’ve heard lots of grumbling about that, but when you break it down it really comes down to us. Yes, dear reader, much of this is your fault (and ours, because you know we love our Kelly Clarkson). Don’t like how this whole clusterfuck has turned out? Stop watching Idol. Stop letting top 40 radio dictate your record collection. If you really need Diana Krall singing “Winter Wonderland” at your next holiday event, freaking spend a buck and buy it from iTunes so you don’t contribute to the record’s sales.
When this thing was announced last year we were hesitant, waiting to see how the year in music would go because we knew it would make all the difference. And dudes, it was stellar. We don’t need to remind you. But it was stellar in the wrong way—in the way that Weeds is stellar, that Me and You and Everyone We Know is stellar, that Zuppa Circus is stellar. The whole world should know, but for whatever reason—marketing, taste, competition, brain cell count—it just doesn’t. The music that we celebrate and the music that made our year just doesn’t jive when it’s tossed up against Chad Kroeger and the reincarnation of Sinatra. It doesn’t make us cooler or (hopefully) snobbier or even right, it just means that the mainstream will always win.
You want a Juno show you can be proud of? Change the mainstream. Buy your Nickelback records if you must, but wait until they’re on the 2 for $25 rack and pair them with Martha Wainwright. Don’t save your leisure money just for the Sarah McLachlan show—pay $8 to see lesser-known Canadian artists when they drive here from Burlington to play the Pavilion followed by The Attic in the same night. Expand your mind, expand your record collection. If we truly are on the cusp of something big in this country—we take our cues from America, and indie music has broken big time there—then we need to take responsibility for it and push it over the edge oursevles.
If the Junos are about playing hard, we need to get in the fucking game.