Junos

From Arcade Fire to the Weeknd: the stories behind this year's Juno-nominated singles of the year

How much do you know about how these artists wrote their hit songs?

How much do you know about how these artists wrote their hit songs?

The artists nominated for the 2018 Juno single of the year, from left: The Weeknd, Arkells, Alessia Cara, Arcade Fire and Shawn Mendes. (All Getty Images)

The single of the year category at this year's Juno Awards is jam packed with big hit songs. From soundtrack success to a big sports anthem, any of these artists can take home the prize on March 25. 

While these singles are ubiquitous in their own ways, how much do you know about the story behind the song? How did the artist come up with it, and how did they turn that idea into an undeniable earworm? 

Below, we've broken down each of this year's single of the year nominees: Alessia Cara, Arkells, the Weeknd, Arcade Fire and Shawn Mendes. Take a look below and discover how these hits came to be.  


Alessia Cara, 'How Far I'll Go'

"How Far I'll Go" may not be an Alessia Cara original, but it is one of the Brampton, Ont., artist's biggest hits. The track, which Cara recorded for the soundtrack of the 2016 Disney hit Moana, was written by Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda and has been recorded by several other artists in different languages. Moana star Auli'i Cravalho performed the song herself in the film, but Cara's version is heard at the end, during the credits.

Miranda has revealed in interviews that he felt a certain amount of pressure to write a good "I Want" song for Moana, a style of song typically used in musicals that clearly states a character's desires. Knowing that Disney has produced some very famous songs of that kind, such as The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World" and most recently, Frozen's "Let It Go," Miranda tried to focus on the movie at hand and wrote a first draft of "How Far I'll Go" originally called "More."

Unsatisfied with the simplicity of the song's message, though, Miranda went "method" with his approach and re-wrote the song in his parents' house. "I like, locked myself up in my bedroom and it was like, 'All right, you're 16 years old, and the distance between you and what you want is impossible!'" he told The Dinner Party Download.  


Arkells, 'Knocking at the Door'

This Arkells single has taken on a life of its own. Even before the track was completed, a demo was submitted to Budweiser and the Toronto Blue Jays, who then expressed interest in using it in their ads. From there, the Hamilton natives polished up "Knocking at the Door" in the studio and released it within three weeks.

As Arkells told CBC News recently, the song wasn't meant to be a sports anthem. In fact, its original inspiration came from the Women's Marches that took place last year, after U.S. president Donald Trump's inauguration. Frontman Max Kerman said the song is really about "standing up for good, decent human qualities."

Of course, since its release, the song has also doubled as a pump-up jam for athletes, spreading beyond Major League Baseball. Earlier this month, the song made an appearance during one of the biggest sporting events in North America: the Super Bowl.


The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, 'I Feel it Coming'

This Weeknd hit was written by a number of talented French and Canadian artists: the Weeknd's Abel Tesfaye, Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, Daft Punk's label co-founder Eric Chedeville, and Canadian producer/songwriters Doc McKinney and Cirkut.

Daft Punk laid the groundwork for Tesfaye in the studio, creating the music for the track first, then playing it for the R&B singer so he could freestyle on top of it. "Guy-Manuel and Thomas were kind of directing me on how to make it," Tesfaye told Zane Lowe. Tesfaye also told the Wall Street Journal that the writing and recording experience with the electronic duo was "very cinematic."

"It's like they're reading a page out of a novel: 'We want to make sure that at the end, it feels like the sun's coming up, and maybe there's a car chase,'" he continued. There may be no car chase involved in this track, but there is a beauty to it that is akin to watching a sunrise, as Tesfaye romantically promises his love to "let me try to give you what you want."


Arcade Fire, 'Everything Now' 

Much like the Weeknd, Aracade Fire's single of the year contender, "Everything Now," enlists the help of a Daft Punk member. In this case, Thomas Bangalter didn't co-write the track, but he did co-produce it and played synths on the ABBA-inspired song.

In an interview with BBC Radio 1, Win Butler discussed the term "Everything Now," which was also the title of the band's fifth studio album. "There's sort of an everything-nowness to life," he explained. "I feel like almost every event and everything that happens surrounds you on all sides. Some of it is fake and some of it is real and some of it is trying to sell you something and some of it is profound." Unlike previous songs of theirs, this Arcade Fire track tackled the theme of technology in a more optimistic way, both lyrically and sonically.


Shawn Mendes, 'There's Nothing Holding Me Back'

On "There's Nothing Holding Me Back," pop star Shawn Mendes reunited with some of his most frequent songwriting collaborators: Teddy Geiger, Geoff Warburton and Scott Harris. This was one of the first songs he wrote for his 2016 album, Illuminate, and it finds the acoustic guitar-slinging singer embracing a more dance-pop sound that's been a staple in a lot of mainstream pop hits in recent years. "I wanted to make something that could play in the clubs," he told Entertainment Weekly.

The song touches on a wild romance, but according to Mendes, it's all fictional. The girl in the song is actually inspired by a script Mendes read for a film he was potentially going to star in. "I really liked the character," he said, of the girl his character falls in love with. "I wrote the song about her, so it's not a real girl."

"Wherever you are in the world, you can watch the 2018 Juno Awards broadcast live from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver on March 25 at cbcmusic.ca/junos.

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