50 years of Canadian music is a lot to celebrate, and the 2021 Juno Awards did it in style last night as some of Canada’s global superstars and homegrown talent were honoured with massive wins. Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Jessie Reyez and Shawn Mendes were just some of the winners, reminding us how Canadian music should never be out of the conversation.
The awards, of course, were done a little differently this year, with presenters pre-recording their speeches, or joining live to present, from venues all across the country, like Vancouver’s iconic Commodore Ballroom or Toronto’s legendary Massey Hall.
The Biebs opened the show with a rollicking performance of “Somebody” from his recently released Justice album, replete with twinkling lights, video projections, smooth dance moves and fancy camera work, reminding us of all the energized concerts we have in store once the pandemic is over (get your shot!).
This marked the first time since 2010 that he 27-year-old graced the Junos broadcast; the last time being in 2010 to perform “Baby” when he was 16 years old! And he won big, earning Pop Album of the year.
The Weeknd, although not present, took home a lot of hardware as well, picking up five awards: artist of the year, album of the year, single of the year for "Blinding Lights,” contemporary R&B recording, and songwriter of the year.
Pickering, Ontario native Shawn Mendes won the Fan Choice awards, and Jessie Reyez won Best Music Video for “No One’s In The Room.” She also performed a firey and music-video-like version of "Do You Love Her" and the answer is YES WE DO.
Other notable winners include JP Saxe in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category, and he even provided a performance of his tear-jerking hit with Julia Michaels, “If The World Was Ending.”
JJ Wilde became the first female winner of Best Rock Album in 25 years with her breakout release “Ruthless.” Alanis Morissette was the last woman to win the category in 1995 with Jagged Little Pill. Keeping with the trend, Alanis also won last night, taking home Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Such Pretty Forks in the Road.
Montrealer Kaytranada also made history by becoming the only Black male solo winner for Dance Recording of the Year (for his album Bubba) since the category's creation in 1992.
On top of big winners, there were big presenters, like Michael Bublé, Shania Twain, Geddy Lee of Rush, Will Arnett, and TikTok favourites The Basement Gang!
[video_embed id='2217533']BEFORE YOU GO: Recapping the Juno Awards' eventful, impactful 50th anniversary show [/video_embed]
To celebrate 50 years, many other Canadian superstars joined the festivities just to talk about their favourite Junos moments, like Céline Dion, Alans Morisette, Buffy St. Marie, KD Lang, and Maestro Fresh-Wes.
Jann Arden was honoured as an inductee into Canada’s Music Hall of Fame, and she also performed her classic, “Good Mother."
One of the most powerful moments in the show came at the end when The Tragically Hip were honoured with the Humanitarian Award, and were joined by Feist for a performance of “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.”
They used their time on stage to also talk not just about the late-great Gord Downie, but also the story of Chanie Wenjack (who died trying to escape residential school in 1966) and the need for thorough investigations into the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous children in the residential school system and the lasting generational trauma.
They weren’t the only ones speaking about the residential school system. Breakthrough Group of the Year winners, rock duo Crown Lands, used their acceptance speech time to acknowledge the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were recently found.
Saying every residential school needs to be “thoroughly investigated,” vocalist and drummer Cody Bowles, sitting alongside his bandmate Kevin Comeau, said, “The families of those departed all deserve closure.”
“People are living in abhorrent conditions in this nation and there’s a lot more to talk about here. We’re going to keep fighting to start these conversations and hopefully spark some real change.”
The duo also performed “End of the Road,” a song in tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Leela Gilday who won Indigenous Artist of the Year, gave a tearful acceptance speech alongside her husband, saying, “I’m so proud to stand here shoulder to shoulder with these people who tell our truths — who tell our hard truths, but also celebrate our resilience.”
[video_embed id='2217528']BEFORE YOU GO: Jessie Reyez takes us behind her Junos performance [/video_embed]