Alanis Morissette, Kiesza, The Weeknd and Host Jacob Hoggard Dominate 2015 Juno Awards
The unspoken theme for Canada's 2015 Juno Awards broadcast Sunday night was "you can do anything" -- from 80-year-old Leonard Cohen winning album of the year for Personal Problems to 40-year-old Alanis Morissette getting inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame 20 years after the release of Jagged Little Pill; Michael Bublé beating out the legendary, the hip acts and the teen dreams in an online voting category for fan choice; and two artists, Kiesza and Magic!, whose names weren't on the radar at last year Junos but performed this year and won three trophies each in total.
Kiesza landed breakthrough artist, adding to her video and dance recording wins at the Saturday gala dinner which doled out 35 of the 41 trophies; and Magic! got single of the year for their global smash "Rude," adding to breakthrough group and a producer award frontman Nasri Atweh shares with "fifth member" Adam Messinger.
And then there's the host of Canada's biggest music awards show, previously helmed by Morissette, Shania Twain, Bublé, Drake, comedian Russell Peters and William Shatner. His name is Jacob Hoggard, and he once wore a nothing-left-to-the-imagination blue jumpsuit to sing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" in the final rounds of 2004's Canadian Idol. Hoggard didn't win, but he did go on to front the rock band Hedley, which now headlines arenas in Canada. And now he's hosting Canada's biggest music awards show. Hoggard had the guts to don another one-piece, this time made of gold lamé for a prerecorded video skit with Kiesza. "I remember that now," Kiesza, 26, told Billboard of his infamous blue jumpsuit on Idol.
Broadcast live from FirstOntario Place arena in Hamilton, Ontario and attended by 11,700 people (it holds 12,000). With just six awards left to be distributed, plus Morissette's induction, the night leaned heavily on performances, including The Weeknd, Deadmau5 with Colleen D'Agostino, The Arkells, Bobby Bazini, Shawn Mendes, Lights with Sam Roberts Band, and Morrissette.
The rock album award -- a category Morissette won in 1996 for Jagged Little Pill -- was given to Arkells' High Noon (adding to their group of the year win the previous night) immediately following an opening which featured a cameo by Prime Minister Steven Harper and members of Hoggard's band, Hedley.
"This is an embarrassment of riches," Arkells singer Max Kerman said. "So lucky to be in this category with some of our favourite bands. I covered a Sam Roberts song when I was in Grade 12 and to be in his company is always an honour. Our first show was about 10 minutes away from here at McMaster University. The second show was at the Casbah about two blocks away."
Hoggard then set the tone: "Millions of people are tuning in and they're all thinking the same thing, Russell Peters looks sick -- and white" or noting that Hedley has only won two Junos out of 29 nominations. "It kind of makes us the Toronto Maple Leafs of bands, only we'll still be playing in the spring."
Kiesza, known for her one-take dance video for "Hideaway" which has more than 200 million YouTube views, had jaws dropping when she sat at a white grand piano and played an unadorned version of her album's title track, "A Sound of a Woman" -- before jumping up to join a dance troupe for "Hideaway."
"'Sound of a Woman' is just such a beautiful song on the piano. It just fits it so perfectly," she told Billboard backstage. "I knew for a night like tonight, people would of course want to see me singing and dancing, but it's also a great opportunity to show people another side of who I am as an artist. It was a really challenging medley to put together because 'Sound of a Woman' and 'Hideaway' are on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum. I think we pulled it off."
Shawn Mendes, the youngest nominee this year at 16 and is gearing up for the April release of his debut album, Handwritten, performed his Billboard Hot 100 hit "Life of the Party" on acoustic guitar, reminiscent of his mentor Ed Sheeran. The raw performance showed people out of their teen years what all the fuss is about -- and why his new one-take music video recently premiered with over 1 million Twitter mentions. Bobby Bazini, whose sales are largely Quebec-based (and who had the only Canadian album to go platinum domestically in 2014), also went it alone, singing "Bubble Gum (I Can't Stop This Feeling)" on acoustic guitar.
Morissette's induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame was the obvious highlight, recognizing a professional career that began in her teens with two dance-pop records (she won a Juno in 1992 for most promising female vocalist) and exploded with her indie-rock confessional Jagged Little Pill 20 years ago, which eventually sold 33 million copies.
Glen Ballard flew in to do the honours. He co-wrote and produced the life-changing album, first meeting her in March 1994 when she was 19. "It was obvious to me that she was brilliant, curious and full of passion to express something that's inchoate but important," he said. "I remain astonished that there were no barriers between her voice and her intention. Her voice rang like a bell of truth and the emotional honesty in the room when we created it is something that we managed to capture for all the time. What remains is the record Jagged Little Pill."
"I am deeply appreciative of this country," said Morrissette. "In particular, based on the fact that I'm clearly from here, supported in an emotional, dialogical, stream-of-consciousness storytelling way. A lot of people around the planet ask me what it is about you Canadians that make you so expressed and so compelling and I say 'There's definitely something in the water other than fluoride...'"
"I moved to Los Angeles and I waited six months for someone to ask me a question -- so I listened," she continued. "And then I realized: I had to adopt a whole other approach to life, because Canadians are very engaging, very curious, very self-deprecating, very funny. So I took advantage of the cloth from which I was cut and continued to tell stories and feel so touched by how people interpret my songs. As an artist, I write for myself in a very self-indulgent way; I think it's our mandatory prerequisite that we indulge and then once I share it with you the song is all yours to interpret."
The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) took Artist of the Year (he kept his thank-you short, and was brought into the press room by his label and management just to read a sentence-long statement to the Junos and fans for voting for him, though it is members of the music industry who vote on the awards). Oh, and to plug his new album "coming out real soon."
Magic! returned to the stage to honour the MusiCounts program, the Juno Awards-affiliated charity which donates musical instruments to needy schools and communities. Magic! made a $100,000 donation at Christmas, including sponsoring the 2015 teacher of the year award which went to BC's Steve Sainas of Rock School and Recording Arts at Terry Fox Secondary School in BC. "Standing on stage tonight would not have been possible if we hadn't had a chance to discover our love for music while in school," Atweh said.
The night ended with Morissette performing a medley of "Univited," "You Oughta Know" and "Thank You." Then, Hoggard stepped in, doing his own version of "Thank You" which included the lines "still no goddam Juno for Hedley."
Maybe not, but he's got Juno Host for the win.