At this time last week I was on my way to the Air Canada Centre. The three musicians I’ve listed in the title were more than enough reason for me to attend the Junos with pride this year. In the past, watching the Juno ceremony could be a painful experience with the so called ‘talent’ being awarded ranging from the likes of Nickelback to Avril Lavigne. But this year (in time for their 40th anniversary) they actually started to wake up, much like the Grammys (maybe they took a hint?) and really highlight the the plethora of incredible music Canada should be known for, instead of the shit we are known for. (Okay so some Bieber was inevitable, but he was not the star of the night taking home only the two awards I predicted he would win).

As for my predictions, of the 22 awards I speculated on, I was right more than half the time. That is pretty good considering I was going more for my personal taste than who I thought would win, and it would have been even more had I not let my love for Broken Social Scene overshadow the obvious roll Arcade Fire has been on at Awards shows this year. The deserving winner list speaks volumes for the improvement those in charge have made. Real music was the focus, and that made for a great night.

Most importantly of course was the fact that Neil Young was attending for the first time in 29 years (and his standing ovation was the only one truly deserved, sorry Shania). I know I chose him as the winner, but I don’t think he even expected to take home Artist of the Year – stating something along the lines of “Bieber, what can I say?” haha. It was an honor to watch him receive his much deserved Humanitarian Award which he gave most credit to his family for, but it was even better to watch him take home the Awards for his work this year on Le Noise. I may not think it’s the best album in his catalog, but it was surely the best Adult Alternative Album of the Year.

As much as I wasn’t looking forward to Drake hosting the ceremony, he surprisingly wasn’t half bad. He didn’t even seem too upset about losing in all his nominated categories, including Rap Album of the Year . There was even a really funny bit he did as well that’s worth checking out if you missed it:

Was I a little bummed that Broken Social Scene only won a Juno for their album artwork when I truly believed they had the best album of the year by a mile? Yes, and I still think they should have at least won Alternative Album of the Year, but I understand why they didn’t when up against the Arcade Fire monster. Amazingly enough, I had the chance to attend the Broken Social Scene/Arts & Crafts after party that night, and no one from the crew seemed at all upset about the loss, as both bands share a mutual respect for each other. Oh and their performance of World Sick was also the best live performance of the night, if you ask me (note the wonderful words ‘Vote Harper Out Now‘ on Andrew’s guitar!):

Another highlight was the tribute to The Band, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell. Again the trend towards promoting our best continued with City and Colour performing Young’s Old Man; Sarah Harmer performing Mitchell’s Carey; Sarah Slean and Jim Cuddy performing an awesome rendition of Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind; Kevin Hearn performing The Band’s The Genetic Method; and Hearn, Derek Miller, Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor, Justin Rutledge, Serena Ryder and The Sadies performing The Band’s The Shape I’m In. What an honor it must have been to sing Neil’s best song while he is in the room watching. And speaking of The Band, Robbie Robertson also introduced a great little retrospective video honoring the Toronto music scene they helped build.

All this praise is not to say it was a perfect night. There was some choices in performers that didn’t quite make sense to me. Hedley? Really? No thanks. But Chromeo closing the show instead of Arcade Fire was really the biggest mistake. They can close the biggest music award ceremony around but not ours, back in their homeland, after taking home a suitcase full of awards that night? Lame.

Most embarrassingly though, were the tweets that came following the ceremony by what I can only assume/hope are 12 year old girls enraged about Justin Bieber’s loss of Artist of the Year, asking “Who is Neil Young!!!?” Even being a 12 year old girl is not a good enough excuse for such words. I – as a 12 year old girl – was obsessed with the Backstreet Boys, but I still knew who Neil Young was. Maybe that’s because I had parents with enough taste to raise me on albums like Harvest, but it’s still shocking to me that any living Canadian could publicly ask that question and not feel incredibly stupid. I realize the same thing happened on a larger scale when Arcade Fire beat Eminem at the Grammys, but somehow it’s more forgivable to not know of an indie band than it is to not know of the greatest musician of all time after Bob Dylan.

When all was said and done, the night made me feel so happy to be in Canada, where the current music scene really is stronger than ever. And it made me realize how lucky I am to be living in Toronto where events like this happen, and where I have been able to see every single band I’ve ever been interested in perform live. I watched Arcade Fire perform at Massey Hall the same year I watched Neil Young perform there.

2011 – The year the Juno Awards became relevant again.

See the full list of winners here.

Lisa