Although the broadcast isn’t until tomorrow night, the first crop of Juno Awards will be handed out at this evening’s Gala Dinner. For what it’s worth, here are my picks:
Album of the Year:
My Pick: Beauty Beyond the Madness – The Weeknd
Alternately claustrophobic and alluring, the Weeknd’s latest album distinguishes itself with diverse instrumentation and lush, layered production that doesn’t overwhelm the song-craft.
Single of the Year
My Pick: “Here” – Alessia Cara
Despite the very strong line-up of nominees in this category, there is no doubt in my mind Alessia Cara’s feeling-uncomfortable-at-a-party epic deserves the prize. The sparse arrangement recalls Lorde, but the staccato rhythm and too-close-to-home lyrics swap detachment for claustrophobic immediacy.
Group of the Year:
My Pick: Metric
I’m divided on this one, as two of my favourite bands made the list.
I’ve often described Marianas Trench as a pop-punk version of STYX for their ability to put out intricately-arranged concept albums filled with poppy stand-alone singles. Their latest album, which adds some Jackson Five-style funk to their repertoire, is probably the year’s strongest pop album.
While Marianas Trench updated their sound somewhat with Astoria, Metric went a step further in their musical evolution, juxtaposing robotic instrumentals with melancholic lyrics. The result was an unnerving and very catchy alt-pop record about disconnection, with a chilly sound to match.
Breakthrough artist of the Year:
My Pick: Alessia Cara
Since I’ve already discussed her merits as an artist, I’ll just add that this 19-year-old Brampton resident’s first single was named one of the best songs of 2015 by Rolling Stone (#21, to be exact). Of all the artists nominated, she certainly made the biggest splash.
Rock Album of the Year:
My Pick: Nickelback – No Fixed Address; Bryan Adams – Get Up; Sheepdogs – Future Nostalgia
That’s right, I’m rooting for three out of five nominees. In my defense, there was a very strong line-up for this one. I’m an unapologetic lover of Nickelback, and No Fixed Address was a leap forward in their sound, mixing their trademark post-grunge (“Get ‘Em Up”) with pop hooks (“She Keeps Me Up”). Bryan Adams new record is stripped-down and catchy as heck; if there’s any justice in the world, “You Belong to Me” will become an instant Canadian classic. And of course, I adore the Sheepdogs’ throwback southern rock.
Heavy Metal Album of the Year:
My Pick: Never Gonna Die – Diemonds
Diemonds’ first major-label release is the perfect mix of old-school heavy riffs and hair metal hooks. The guitars are scorching and frontwoman Priya Panda supplies soaring, versatile vocals in the tradition of Rob Halford. A very fun record.