Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This is what is wrong with the Junos.

Celine Dion. After that, what? Here's the main problem. The Junos are mired in self-congratulation, honouring the only people and groups they've heard of, which is several steps behind the rest of the world. Here is a short list:

Celine Dion: 6 nominations.
Michael Buble: 5 nominations.
Avril Lavigne: 5 nominations.
Finger Eleven: 3 nominations.
Bon Jovi, Fergie, Timbaland, Josh Groban, and Rihanna: 1 nomination each.

Michael Buble is a faux-Sinatra, singing standards and old-school classics in a Sinatra style, with slightly better production. This is a man who is breaking new ground all over the place! Or, at the very least, breaking old ground, again, several years later. Avril Lavigne is a woman who sings pre-fab pop songs with no hard edge, but she provides the hard edge by flipping the finger to paparazzi and getting drunk sometimes. Also breaking new ground! She's like Courtney Love singing Anne Murray songs! So relevant. Finger Eleven (formerly known as the Rainbow Butt Monkeys) are a group of friends who record some of the most run-of-the-mill pop-rock songs that get their edge with tattoos and silly hair. Slightly better than Nickelback. Slightly. And Bon Jovi, Fergie, Timbaland, Josh Groban and Rihanna? Not Canadian. They are nominated for Best International Artist in a year where even the lousy Grammys are recognizing the excellence of Bruce Springsteen's new album and The Foo Fighters new album and John Fogerty's album and Wilco's album. Yet we Canadians choose five of the worst artists working today for our "who's not Canadian and might get people to watch the Junos" award.

So who are the Canadian artists who whould be honoured? Those who broke new ground and became huge in the world this year? Well, Feist. Now, to be fair, she did get five award nominations. Artist, single, album, songwriter and pop album of the year. This is great. Maybe the Junos are headed in the right direction. But this "pop album" category gives me pause. I assume that this means "album of the year" is actually "good album of the year" category, and "pop album" actually means "irrelevant album" of the year. So, the nominees for album of the year should be good, and the pop nominees should be...pop, right? Here are the nominees for album of the year: Michael Buble. Celine Dion. Avril Lavigne. Celine Dion again. And Feist. Ummm...could that get any more pop? Where is the number one Canadian act of the year here? Arcade Fire's Neon Bible has been chosen as one of the top five albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Spin, Blender, and dozens of other respected music publications. Arcade Fire are without a doubt the single most musically relevant musicians from Canada this year, and possibly in the entire world. Let's examine their nominations.

Arcade Fire: Alternative Album of the Year. (On the Junos website, theirs is the only nomination that comes without explanation or bio. to see their non-entry.) They are up against Holy F*ck, Wintersleep, and Patrick Watson...all of whom are names decidedly unfamiliar to me. Nomination number two: Group of the year. Up against Blue Rodeo, Finger Eleven, Hedley and something called Kain. Still no bio. And that's it. Two nominations for the band universally recognized as the best Canada has to offer, and bonus - a band that music fans in Canada may have actually heard of! But no. There is another bonus - Neil Young released the excellent Chrome Dreams II album this year! People have heard of Neil Young, and he (remarkably) remains musically relevant! Nominate him for something? Sure - he is up for one award. Best Adult Contemporary recording, for Chrome Dreams II. Maybe the definition of Adult Contemporary has changed in the last few years, and I have been completely out of the loop.

Last year, the Junos lost the ratings battle to everything else that was on TV at the time. More people watched Jim Cramer's Mad Money than watched the Junos. They even lost to another Canadian TV program - a Miss Marple mystery on CBC! It's not like they were up against hockey or anything. If you are celebrating all that is Canadian on your program, you better at least be the highest rated show on Canadian TV. Otherwise, you are doing something dreadfully wrong. And this is what is dreadfully wrong about the Junos. They honour only those artists and people they know. Nobody actually listens to any Canadian music to determine who deserves a nomination, they just read the charts and pick the top five. That's why even when the Tragically Hip release the worst album of their lives (and by that I mean Music At Work), they still get seventeen nominations. Celine Dion's album this year was bad, even by her standards. And six nominations? The acts that should be chosen are not, and what ends up happening is that you watch a category come up, and you have heard of ONE of the five nominees, and of course that one you've heard of wins, but you don't care at all because that one is Michael Buble.

So that's what the Junos is. Acts you haven't ever heard of versus acts you HAVE heard of but don't care about. All of that surrounded by a ceremony that looks as though it was staged by Miss Fitzhenry's third-grade drama class, with Canadian presenters who generally think they are much funnier than they are, hosts who seem chosen at random by asking eleven-year-old boys who they'd like to see - Pamela Anderson! Nelly Furtado! Shania Twain! Who cares if they can barely string together two words, they'll wear stuff and be hot! At least now they're going with comedians, but they choose the Just For Laughs Canadian guys instead of the big guys. It's better than Pamela Anderson. Then they stick Ben Mulroney on their "red carpet", and he interviews such luminaries as Shawn Majumder for interminable lengths of time before the Junos begin. The only people who watch this farce are either bedridden without a remote, or those Canadians who feel as though it is their duty to watch the Junos because they are supporting Canada. Well, if any of those people are reading this, I hereby absolve you of that obligation. Watching the Junos is not necessary, and in point of fact, watching the show actually HURTS Canada. If this year the Weather Channel gets better ratings than the Junos, they might actually fix it. It's your involvement that gives them license to suck. Just like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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