Sunday, March 18, 2012


Listening to the annual Juno Awards compilation is always a frustrating experience.  It usually involves hearing a bunch of pop songs I've become tired with over the past year, or hated from the first listen, and expressing disbelief that these are the best tracks Canada has to offer for those months.  There's the same old acts that seem to get nominated, no matter the merits, and a complete lack of the most inventive, challenging and original music that deserves at least some acknowledgement.  And yes, that's pretty much what's here this year. 

Looking at the 20 tracks that did make the album, apparently all Canada recorded in 2011 was commercial pop, or alt-rock, with the tiniest hint of hip-hop (Drake, arguably pop anyway) and country (Johnny Reid, arguably pop anyway).  The pop stuff stinks across the board, but at least the rock side holds up well.  There's no need to pile on Bieber ("children are crying, soldiers are dying, some people don't have a home"), but Avril Lavigne and Hedley are yesterday's news, and this stuff certainly doesn't match their earlier efforts.  And Nickelback?  When We Stand Together doesn't match Rockstar, even if you like the band.  Buble needs to take a holiday too, at least from awards shows.  The debate over the merits of Lights and Deadmau5 are for another time, but both deserve to be here.

Rock makes a comeback with old hands (Matthew Good, Sam Roberts Band), and new heroes (Arkells, The Sheepdogs).  Sloan, Good, and Roberts have all made better music, however, and it seems they came through on their names as well.  However, the rise of City And Colour continues with good reason, and Dan Mangan is perhaps the breakthrough artist here, from the hipster side of the tracks.  Feist's polarizing new album gets a nod with its tamest track, How Come You Never Go There, but its good to see her get nominated for five-star reviews rather than hit singles.

I guess what feels so wrong about this set is that there are no great single songs here, nothing that stands out as song of the year, album of the year, artist of the year.  That's not really the Junos' problem though.  It has a lot more to do with the dire state of pop music, and the fact that most of the excellent Canadian music is made by people who aren't part of the pop culture machinery.

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