The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences handed out their annual awards on Sunday night. The Junos — essentially Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys — have been awarding achievements in Canadian music since 1970, often with a noticeably prejudiced eye towards record sales and international success. The awards have been no stranger to controversy in its nearly 40 year history, most notably when country singer Stompin’ Tom Conners returned his six Junos in protest over the Academy’s tendency towards awarding Canadian artists who lived and worked outside of the country.
Even more of a thorn in the side of those of us who take great pride in our country’s rich diversity of music, though, is how often each year’s list of winners (in the major, non-specialized categories, at least) reads like an inventory of Canadian musical mediocrities. For as much as they can be commended for occasionally awarding Canadian legends like Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, giving local favorites like Jann Arden the attention they’re never able to grab internationally or, more recently, for having the good sense to catch a breakout artist like Feist (2008’s Artist of the Year) at the right time, more often than not the Junos awards roster confirms the moldiest stereotypes about Canadian music: Anne Murray (whose Greatest Hits was Album of the Year, 1981!), Bryan Adams, Celine Dion. More recent winners like Avril Lavigne, Michael Buble and Billy Talent, popular as they may be, are at best highly dubious as representatives of Canada’s best and brightest.
And just who dominated the major categories at this year’s ceremony? Who else could it be but…Nickelback! Once upon a time, the lumbering and dreadfully humorless post-grunge band were Canada’s answer to Creed, but having far outlived Scott Stapp and comany’s assault on rock and roll, these days they are more like our Dave Matthews Band: that one group that inexplicably sells millions of records, packs arenas, has an undeniably devout following and that nobody you know actually likes. Taking home Group of the Year, Album of the Year for their 2008 release Dark Horse and the admittedly-not-the-academy’s-fault Juno Fan Choice Award, Nickelback’s triumph this year is just one more nail in the coffin of the Juno’s already shaky relevance. With so much untapped talent producing exciting music year after year in Canada, we deserve better.
My fellow countrymen, they’re all laughing at you.