Perennial art-rock favourite Arcade Fire, a trio of rising star singer-songwriters – Jessie Reyez, Ruth B and Daniel Caesar – as well as the late Gord Downie are among the top nominees for Canada's Juno Awards.
Organizers unveiled the latest batch of contenders in the running for the Canadian music prize in Toronto on Tuesday morning. The awards will be handed out in Vancouver in March.
Quebec's Arcade Fire led with nominations for group of the year, album of the year and alternative album of the year for Everything Now. The group will vie in the single of the year category for the title track, while the artwork for the funky, synth-poppy album is also up for a Juno.
The past year marked a breakthrough for Toronto singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez, who will vie in multiple Junos categories: fan choice, breakthrough artist and best R&B/soul recording for her debut Kiddo. Her music video for the powerful song Gatekeeper is also nominated for video of the year. Based on a real-life experience, Reyez's blistering track – recounting how she was pressured to compromise herself to get ahead in her career – also inspired a short film.
Tragically Hip frontman Downie, who died in October, earned three posthumous Juno nominations: artist of the year, songwriter of the year (shared with Kevin Drew) and best adult alternative album for his final solo release, Introduce Yerself. Also earning a trio of nominations were Edmonton singer-songwriter Ruth B., Hamilton, Ont. rockers Arkells and Vancouver-based pop-rock troupe Hedley.
It was also a significant year for R&B star Daniel Caesar (born Ashton Simmonds), who now counts Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Shawn Mendes and Mary J. Blige among his highest-profile fans. Along with artist of the year, the Oshawa, Ont.-raised singer-songwriter's Freudian is up for best R&B/soul recording. The album's artwork, his producers and his recording engineer also snagged Juno nominations for their work on the independently released Freudian.
A host of other notable Canadian artists picked up a pair of Juno nominations for this year's ceremony: from Alessia Cara, Diana Krall, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Charlotte Cardin to The Weeknd, Alvvays, Johnny Reid and gala host Michael Bublé.
Reyez, Caesar and Hedley are also set to perform at the awards show, organizers announced.
Nominees in key categories:
Juno Fan Choice: Alessia Cara; Arkells; Hedley; Jessie Reyez; Justin Bieber; Shawn Hook; Shawn Mendes; The Weeknd; Theory; Walk Off The Earth.
Artist of the year: Daniel Caesar; Gord Downie; Lights; Ruth B; Shania Twain.
Album of the year: Everything Now, Arcade Fire; Revival, Johnny Reid; Nobody But Me, Michael Bublé; Safe Haven, Ruth B; Now, Shania Twain.
Single: How Far I'll Go, Alessia Cara; Everything Now, Arcade Fire; Knocking at the Door, Arkells; I Feel It Coming, The Weeknd; There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back, Shawn Mendes.
Group: A Tribe Called Red; Alvvays; Arcade Fire; Broken Social Scene; Hedley.
Breakthrough artist: Allan Rayman; Charlotte Cardin; Jessie Reyez; NAV; Virginia to Vegas.
Breakthrough group: James Barker Band; The Beaches; The Dead South; The Franklin Electric; The Jerry Cans.
Songwriter: Amelia Curran; Charlotte Cardin; Gord Downie & Kevin Drew; Rose Cousins; Scott Helman.
Gender balance in the spotlight
The nominations arrive at a time when the wider music industry's lack of female representation has taken the spotlight, including at the recent Grammy Awards.
'It is critical that we work collectively as an industry to support a larger representation of women in music.' - Allan Reid, CARAS
The Canadian academy has also been grappling with the lack of female representation at the Juno Awards for several years now. The awards garnered criticism for a lack of female nominees, with the hashtag #JunosSoMale emerging online and sparking further discussion about the need to improve gender balance across the board in the music industry.
"There are very important conversations happening in our world right now around gender equality and sexual harassment," academy president Allan Reid said during Tuesday's announcement.
"It is critical that we work collectively as an industry to support a larger representation of women in music and encourage a culture that nurtures their participation and success."
Reid noted several academy initiatives in the works, including a working group to look into gender equality and inclusion, greater support for women studying music tech and engineering, as well as an upcoming panel led by special award recipient Denise Donlon about leadership and success in the music industry.
The 2018 Juno Awards festivities get underway in Vancouver on March 19, with a week of events leading up to the awards show broadcast. Special honourees will include:
- Barenaked Ladies, who will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
- Denise Donlon, this year's recipient of the Walt Grealis Award for her contributions to the Canadian music industry over her career.
- Veteran radio industry executive Gary Slaight, set to receive the Junos Humanitarian Award.
The Juno Awards broadcast gala airs live from the Rogers Arena on March 25 on CBC-TV, CBC Radio and CBCMusic.ca.
Burnaby, B.C.-born singer Michael Bublé will return for a fresh stint as Juno Awards host, this time on his home turf. The crooner, whose Nobody But Me is nominated for album of the year as well as best adult contemporary album, previously served as the broadcast gala's emcee in 2013 – and picked up a Canadian Screen Award for his efforts.
This year's awards also mark the first time the Junos will air on CBC in 16 years.