Ah, award shows. The glamour of the red carpet; the delight of seeing your favourite actor or actress handed a shining golden trophy; the sharp ear you suddenly possess trying to decipher whether the musical act is singing live or lip-syncing to a track—it’s all so exciting.
Obviously, I’m a huge fan of award spectacles. And this weekend, I’m gonna be watching the biggest night in Canadian music: the JUNO Awards. This year is sure to be a great time as it’s the 50th anniversary of the awards show.
And yet, there’s been zero talk about it. No buzz at all to be found. Maybe there’s been talk about it on television (which I wouldn’t know as, like all of my other millennial friends, I’m surviving off of Netflix), but I’ve heard nothing on the radio or any of my social media platforms—which let’s face it, is how we’re all getting our news now.
There’s been no trace of Juno coverage that I’ve seen, and yet when the Grammys were happening, I couldn’t escape it. The Grammys, the top banana of music awards shows, though, is American. It brought in 19.9 million viewers worldwide back in 2019.
Here’s how many viewers the Junos brought in that year: 1.2 million.
All the other U.S. music shows also completely beat us out: the Country Music Awards raked in a worldwide audience of 11.3 million, the Billboard Music Awards brought in eight million, and the American Music Awards scraped together 6.7 million that same year.
So…why is no one watching the Junos?
It’s not like Canada is lacking in musical talent. Some of the biggest stars in the world right now reign from the Great White North: The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes, Drake, Lennon Stella, Justin Bieber….
Oh, yes. Bieber. Maybe no one better exemplifies the blasé attitude toward the Junos better than the Biebs himself. The 27-time Juno-nominated singer has a history of not showing up to Canada’s biggest celebration of music—including years he’s won awards.
In 2014, upon winning Fan Choice artist of the year, the Canadian women’s curling team accepted the trophy on his behalf (how very Canadian, eh?) and unfortunately took on the brunt of a booing crowd. In 2016 when he won Fan Choice again and pop album of the year for hit record Purpose, he sent in a 10-second acceptance speech video in lieu of showing up: “Thank you to all my fans, for all the support, you guys are awesome. Love you.” That’s it. That was his whole speech.
But Bieber repeatedly not showing up to the Junos begs the question: are the Junos even relevant?
I think Justin Bieber recognizes that Canadian pop culture just isn’t as fashionable as American pop culture. And based on the audience numbers alone, I gotta say the world agrees with him.
Here’s the thing about Canadian pop culture: until America approves of it, it isn’t really taken seriously. Canadian movies, television, and music are not seen as real contenders for prizes and accolades unless the States says they are.
Take Schitt’s Creek, for example: a relatively popular show in Canada that, once America began to catch on how great it was, quickly grew into a mega-phenomenon, cleaning up at award show after award show. Now that America likes it, the show is legitimately cool, and not “just” Canadian television programming.
Why do we need to have the Junos if all the American music award shows have come and gone, and it’s already been decided what’s cool and popular?
Well, Canadian pop culture is still important to celebrate—even if it is (way) less popular.
Just because the U.S. has already decided what music they think is worth celebrating, doesn’t mean we can’t also have our say. It’s crucial to celebrate the huge amount of diverse talent we’ve got going for us from sea to sea. Even if it never gets recognized by the States. Especially if it never gets recognized by the States.
As fate would have it, Bieber (at this point, an adopted American) will be headlining the Junos this weekend, performing for the first time at the Canadian music awards show in 10 years. We can assume he either took the gig because he’s in second place for the most nominations (tied with Jessie Reyez and JP Saxe) or because he has Canadian tour dates next year and wants to get back in our good graces before then.
Regardless, I’ll definitely be tuning into the Junos this year. I’m excited to watch the pre-show when Alanis Morissette recounts her full-nude bodysuit censorship stint at the 2004 JUNO Awards; I’m looking forward to seeing who takes home what awards; and yeah, I have to admit, I’m even eager to watch the Biebs perform.
After all, knowing his history, this could be the last time he’s at a Canadian awards show.