Juno Awards 2014: Serena Ryder, Arcade Fire, Drake, Tegan and Sara Win Early Awards

Tegan and Sara win Pop Album of the Year for Heartthrob at the Juno Awards Gala on March 29, 2014 in Winnipeg, Canada.

(Photo by Jag Gundu/Getty Images)

Serena Ryder won Artist of the Year at the first night of the 43rd annual Juno Awards honoring Canadian music, Saturday night in Winnipeg, beating out category-mates Drake, Michael Bublé, Robin Thicke and Céline Dion. The majority of the 41 awards — 35 in all — were given out at the private gala dinner the night before the televised awards show.

Taking the stage at the RBC Convention Centre, Ryder — who had a big crossover hit with “Stompa” — exclaimed “Holy shit…Look at all the amazing artists that I was with,” before beginning her thank you speech. “You know when your lips get all weird and tight when you’re nervous and you don’t feel like you can talk? Well, that’s what’s happening right now.” She managed to get the names out.

Junos also went to Arcade Fire for "Album of the Year for "Reflektor," Drake for Rap Album for "Nothing Was The Same" and Bruno Mars for International Album for "Unorthodox Jukebox" -- all three were no shows.

Tegan and Sara, who said they hadn’t won an award since 1996, excitedly accepted Pop Album of the Year for "Heartthrob," for which they were up against Robin Thicke’s "Blurred Lines," Michael Bublé’s "To Be Loved" and Canadian arena headliners Hedley for "Wildlife" and crafty video makers Walk Off The Earth for their album "R.E.V.O."

“I just want to say,” concluded Sara Quin, “this is an important one for us because we’ve been all kinds of bands; we were, well according to the press, we still are folk, but this is a pop record; we wanted to make a pop record and thank you so much for honouring that, the Junos, CARAS.”

About 1,300 Canadian artists, industry executives, sponsors and local dignitaries attended the private ceremony, presented by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS), which puts on the Juno Awards. CARAS president Melanie Berry welcomed everyone and congratulated the 177 nominees, 80 of which were first-time nominees whom she asked to stand up and be acknowledged.

“We’re all here tonight to celebrate Canadian music…” Berry said. “We’re the 35th largest country in the world by population but we have the 7th largest music market. Winnipeg is home to 12 percent of Canada’s musicians with only 2.5 percent of the population, so this is the perfect place to honour our musicians from coast to coast to coast.”

The three-hour gala included a range of genre categories such as pop, alternative, jazz, classical, rap, rock, dance, country, blues, reggae, roots & traditional, blues, Christian/gospel, R&B/soul, world, electronic, metal/hard rock, adult alternative, and adult contemporary. Other categories covered Francophone, children’s, Aboriginal, instrumental, international album, artist of the year, breakthrough group, video, producer, recording package, and recording engineer.

There were also two 20-minute presentations for special achievement awards: Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida and wife, singer-pianist Chantal Kreviazuk received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award for all the great humanitarian work they do, particularly with War Child Canada; and 50-year music industry executive Frank Davies got the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award. He began his career as a correspondent for Billboard and went on to become president of ATV Music Canada and helm his own music publishing company, The Music Publisher (TMP), for 14 years, along the way helping the careers of Serena Ryder, Tom Cochrane, Crowbar, Murray McLauchlan and many more.

In between the doling out of awards — hosted by CBC radio’s Jian Ghomeshi with help from artist presenters such as Hayden, Shad, Fred Penner and Justin Rutledge — there were performances by a handful of 2014 Juno nominees, A Tribe Called Red; The Devin Cuddy Band; Erin Propp with Larry Roy and Mike Downes; JRDN ft. Kardinal Offishall; and July Talk.

Other winners included Johnny Reid who scored Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for A Christmas Gift To You. He brought his producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper) up on stage with him, saying he’s “a gentleman who got me to sing in a way that I’ve never sang.” Ezrin took his turn at the mic, calling Reid the “best natural voice of anyone I’ve ever worked with in my life,” and thanked Universal Music Canada president Randy Lennox for introducing them.

Dance Recording went to Armin van Buuren & Trevor Guthrie for “This Is What It Feels Like.” Guthrie, a former member of boy band soulDecision, said he wrote the lyric for his friend who had an inoperable brain tumour and van Buuren “thought it would make a good dance hit. He put a very good beat to it and made it a happy song. It made a lot of people sing around the world; it made my friend smile. Unfortunately Robert Prem, my good friend, he passed away this year but I know this would’ve made him very proud.”

Ron Sexsmith was awarded Adult Alternative Album his album Forever Endeavour. “The last time I won one of the these was Winnipeg, 2005,” he noted, adding that he was proud of the album he made with producer Mitchell Froom, even though “it didn’t do very well,” he laughed. “It’s just great to be invited to the ball.”

Matt Mays picked up Rock Album for Coyote, but wasn’t in the room when his name was called. He finally got onstage, apologized, saying he was “talking with a buddy of mine out there about surfing. I did not expect to win.” He then dedicated the award to his Late guitarist Jay Smith who died last year, saying it’s been a “tough year” and thanking his bandmates.

JRDN ft. Kardinal Offishall collected R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for their collaboration “Can’t Choose;” Dean Brody for Country Album for Crop Circles; and David Buchbinder & Odessa/Havana for World Music Album for Walk To The Sea. Newcomer Brett Kissel landed Breakthrough Artist of the Year, mentioning his parents “took a bit of time off calving season back home on the farm” to attend the Junos. Ryan Hemsworth snagged Electronic Album of the Year for Guilt Trips, calling the honor “really weird and awesome.” Eric Ratz won Recording Engineer of the Year for Monster Truck’s Furiosity, and asked CARAS to consider recognizing for assistant engineers and mastering engineers at future awards. The Jack Richardson Producer of the Year award went to Henry “Cirkut” Walter (co-producer Luke Gottwald) for his work on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and Robin Thicke’s “Give It 2 U.”

Tim Neufeld (of Starfield) won Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album for Trees; Protest The Hero for Metal/Hard Music Album for Volition; and Sheepdogs for Best Video — directed by Matt Barnes — for “Feeling Good.” Strumbellas walked away with Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group for We Still Move On Dance Floors; and the Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo went to Justin Rutledge for Valleyheart.

There were no double or multiple winners during this first night’s presentations.Sunday evening’s telecast from the MTS Centre will highlight the final awards — Juno Fan Choice, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Breakthrough Group of the Year and Songwriter of the Year — plus the Hall of Fame induction of Winnipeg rock legends Bachman-Turner Overdrive.