Canada’s Juno Awards broadcast didn’t need the Weeknd in the house for a little excitement at Edmonton’s Rogers Place Monday night. Albertans were already pumped with pride for the induction of their hometown rock stars, Nickelback, later in the show and a night-capping medley by the band, which hails from the tiny town of Hanna.
But the 12,000 people in attendance got an unexpected eyeful when a topless protestor managed to get on the stage as Avril Lavigne was introducing top-selling Punjabi performer AP Dhillon. The camera operators did pull back to a wide shot for those watching at home, but there was no time to bleep when Lavigne let off a couple of F-bombs to get the woman off the stage.
Then it was back to the polished, planned, polite celebration of Canadian music, the 52nd annual, hosted for the second consecutive year by Canadian-born actor Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Barbie”), with the winners making sure to praise their fellow nominees.
Even Nickelback’s acceptance speech, which did go off-script a bit, was expletive-free, if you don’t count the word “badass”; the 50th anniversary of hip-hop segment, showing Canada’s contribution to the artform, featured a medley requiring no bleeped lyrics; and Jessie Reyez turned a “sh” to “shoot.”
The majority of the awards had been given out at Juno Opening Night awards, a private gala dinner on March 11, at the Edmonton Convention Centre.
Only seven honors were awarded Monday — fan choice, album of the year, rap album/EP, breakthrough artist, contemporary R&B recording, plus MusiCounts Teacher of the Year and the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame — in between performances from Nickelback, Alexisonfire, Banx & Ranx with Preston Pablo and Rêve, AP Dhillon, Aysanabee, Jessie Reyez, Tate McRae, Tenille Townes, and a “north stars” cast — as Drake would say — of Canadian hip-hop acts.
The Weeknd was already the top winner the other night. The top nominee (with six) swept the opening night awards, but the big deal was his additional win on the broadcast for album of the year (“Dawn FM”). While the Toronto native’s no-show did elicit some boos of disappointment, what artist and presenter Tyler Shaw had to say next turned the response to claps.
“I know, I know,” presenter Tyler Shaw empathized. “Listen, this is a fun fact. With this win tonight, the Weeknd is in second place for the most Juno wins ever.” The record 25 is held by Anne Murray, who is now retired. The Weeknd now has 22.
The Juno Awards later provided a statement from the Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye: “I am so honored to be recognized like this from my home country that I love so much. I’m so humbled by all this and could never thank fans enough.”
Jessie Reyez — who performed a killer version of her song “Mutual Friend — nabbed the Juno for contemporary R&B recording for her album “Yessie.” “Thank you very much for the recognition. It’s an honor to be recognized at home. All the nominees are amazing musical talents,” shouting out Dylan Sinclair, “my sister” Savannah Ré, Adria Kain “who graduated with me from the Remix Project,” and the duo Dvsn, whose Danial Daley was one of her mentors at the after-school program for youth from under-served communities.
Breakthrough artist went to Preston Pablo, the 21-year-old whose career launched with the ubiquitous hit “Flowers Need Rain” with Juno-winning production duo Banx & Ranx. Backstage, he told Variety, “I definitely looked at the nominees and I quickly realized that there was just a long list of amazing artists, and to be recognized even alongside those artists, was already a win for me. So the fact that I was able to take home the award is an even bigger win.”
He said his parents were in the audience, but he hadn’t seen them yet. “I’m waiting for that moment where we all just hug and celebrate together. I was able to FaceTime them from the green room with the Juno.” They have his first platinum plaque but “mom and dad, sorry, but I’m gonna keep this Juno for myself.”
Tobi, who won rap album/EP for “Shall I Continue?” was presented the award just after the compact and impressively written Canadian hip-hop history lesson segment.
Canada’s hip-hop ambassador Kardinal Offishall (a.k.a. Kardi) wrote the piece with Jemeni, and then co-hosted with Haviah Mighty, the first female to ever win the rap album/EP category (2022). Each significant player in Canada’s almost 40-year history of the Bronx, U.S.-created genre performed: “the Godfather of Canadian Hip-Hop” Maestro Fresh Wes, Choclair, pioneers Dream Warriors, “Canada’s First Lady of Hip-Hop” Michie Mee, Maestro’s sister and DJ Mel Boogie and TOBi.
“I wasn’t to give a big shout out to all the legends on the stage. As an artist, coming from Lagos, Nigeria to Canada, it means so much to be on this stage and hip-hop is what I live and what I breath, and I made this album, working on something that is the greatest thing that I’ve ever worked on and It’s coming out next year and I can’t wait for you to see it.”
Lavigne, who came into the media Q&A room after the awards, told reporters: “It’s amazing to be back, to be in Canada, to see the snow, to see some of my family and to be at the Junos. This is an awards show that I watched growing up so just coming back here, back to my roots, it’s really reflective for me to look back at the last 20 years. I’ve been coming to the Junos for the last 20 years and I’m so grateful to still be here, making music and performing, being on tour and being at the Junos. It means a lot.”
This fan choice award — a 10-artist category voted on by the fans — marks her 10th Juno win. “I have a lot of Junos in my basement. I really treasure the Juno Award. I’ve been winning Junos for 20 years; they’ve actually changed along the way. They look different now,” she laughed. “They used to be glass, then silver and now they’re gold.”