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The Junos - Canada's Bastion of Musical Indulgence Leaps Overboard

Geoff Dennis

tORONTO— On a blistering Sunday evening in March, Canada's elite musical talent gathered together to celebrate our nation's best in the recording industry. The stage was set for what looked like one hell of a party—thousands assembled in the SkyDome to watch The Moffats host our beloved Juno Awards. Wait a minute… Toronto's greatest eyesore was the venue and a motley crew of pubescent squirts who can't even shave yet were the hosts. Does that sound right to you? The Juno statue was redesigned to look more hip (instead it resembles a modified Oscar) for this! Kids handing out awards to Celine Dion? Shame on us.

Today, the Junos are nothing more than a chic soirée infested with industry fat cats scratching each other's backs and filling each other's pockets. Think about it. The point is to recognize excellence in Canadian music, but did Danko Jones even get nominated? How about Trick Woo? Or even Ivana Santilli. Not a chance. The reason, unfortunately, is simple: these acts changed the rules. And that doesn't bode well for the units-sold-based Junos. Those artists make innovative music, but they don't sell millions of albums like Chantal Kreviazuk—so the industry casts them aside.

Danko Jones made the cover of Chart Magazine; Tricky Woo is all over college radio; and Ivana Santilli just blew away an enchanted crowd of thousands at Canadian Music Week. Sounds like they're making an impact—just not financially. Instead, acts like Danko Jones still have to toil in the club scene and wait, hoping for someone to notice him. It just doesn't make sense; the truly Canadian musical acts constantly get the shaft just out of sheer ignorance.

Shouldn't the Junos try to honour all our nation's brightest stars? Shouldn't they try to foster some real pride in Canada's music industry? Besides, if Brian Adams gets another award, it will be high time to start calling in the bomb threats because he no longer exemplifies what Canada is all about. Neither does Tom Cochrane, or Sarah McLachlan. If they did represent Canada's livelihood, then life would be a highway, but my heart would go on as long as you know that everything I do, I do it for you. Canada is not about marginalization and contemporary thinking—rather, we are proud to be different; proud to be risk-takers and definitely proud to be humble.

There is one other problem: our highly influential, Southern neighbors. America likes everything to be larger than life—especially their rock stars and sex symbols (generally the two are synonymous with each other). That's perfectly fine, in fact most of us get a kick out of it. But, musically Canada's become a league of copy-cats of the one country most of us hope we never duplicate. The Moffats are nothing more than those 'Mmm Bop" crooning teens; Our Lady Peace is nothing more than a hodge-podge of American grunge/alternative bands; and all our acclaimed divas are simply Whitney Houston and Janis Joplin incarnate. Mind you, these acts make a killing in sales and are rewarded accordingly.

Canada dropped its musical pioneering spirit for monetary consideration. Case in point. But it can and should change. There are plenty of scenes from coast to coast that never garner any recognition or national exposure. There's Acid Jazz in the West. Fusion-folk in the centre. And wildly entertaining fiddle funk in the East. Not to mention an exploding electronic and DJ scene anywhere there's a turntable and punk is having another resurgence as well. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The point here is that we should do something to incite a musical revolution—otherwise all the Brian Adams of the nation will always vanquish the Danko Joneses. We can't let that happen, it's just not fair to our pride, let alone the artists.

So here's what we can do, at least for starters:

  1. Stop buying Backstreet Boys records—those adorable whiners sold more units in Canada than any other act this year, domestic or international. Enough said.
  2. Tell the industry our opinions—boycott the Junos, write letters and tell them what they are missing.
  3. Inform the radio—they truly are the gatekeepers. And the rest of the media.
  4. Introduce your friends to bands like Tricky Woo or anyone of that calibre, they'll probably dig and just maybe they'll want to find out more.
  5. Support your local musicians—if they're good, but opinion is up to the individual.
  6. Look for interesting Canadian bands and buy their CDs. Here's a couple of suggestions: King Cobb Steelie, One Step Beyond, Tory Cassis, The Fat Cats, Kid Koala or Juke Joint. (If you want to know more about these acts, send your queries to the feedback section) Diversify, if your idea of Canadian pride is purchasing the latest Tragically Hip CD, you've got another thing coming.

So, the Junos need a facelift. That's fine. All we have to do is act—learn what's out there and band together—and soon enough we'll have an award to be proud of. It will take some time, but if we just sit on our heels, the status quo will simply worsen.

Don't forget, we are the consumers. Ultimately, we hold all the power because if the industry sees a significant shift to something different, everything will change from there. Just don't get comfortable; keep your eyes—more to the point, you ears—open, and communicate.

If there are any acts you folks believe to be on the fringe of creating exciting, engaging music, canadian content wants to hear them. The music section needs, in fact craves, newfangled artists. So keep us informed and we'll do the same.

Geoff Dennis is cancon's music editor.

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