Junos

From Shawn Mendes to Bülow: the stories behind this year's Juno-nominated singles of the year

Learn how these artists wrote and recorded these hit songs.

Learn how the artists wrote and recorded these hit songs

The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar's Black Panther soundtrack cut, 'Pray For This,' is nominated for single of the year at the 2019 Juno Awards. (Getty Images)

The single of the year category at the Juno Awards represents the songs that we couldn't stop listening to this past year. Their ubiquity helped plant their hooks into your brain over the months and made you sing, dance or maybe even cry along.

Ahead of this year's Juno Awards, which take place on March 17, we want to take a deeper dive into this year's single of the year nominees. You may know the songs, but do you know the stories behind these catchy earworms?

Below, we've broken down the writing and recording process, as well as the meaning behind tracks by Alessia Cara, Bülow, Loud Luxury, Shawn Mendes and the Weeknd. Which song do you think will take home the win this year?


'Growing Pains,' Alessia Cara

Cara rose to fame when she was just 18 years old with her hit song "Here." In the years that followed, Cara had to deal with a lot while in the limelight, and on the single "Growing Pains," from her 2018 sophomore album The Pains of Growing Up, the Brampton, Ont., native addresses those stresses.

"I wrote it during a time where I felt sort of lost in everything I was doing," she explained to Harper's Bazaar. "Lost in my job and in my responsibility. It was really confusing. Not only am I a 21-year-old woman, which is hard enough, but I'm also part of a circumstance and a lifestyle that is very unusual and very different, and that can be kind of scary."

But, as she assures herself on the song: "I guess the bad can get better," which is to say that while things may be disorienting in the moment, feelings and phases pass and confronting her loneliness or fears will help her grow in the long run.

The track is co-written by Andrew "Pop" Wansel, who worked on Ariana Grande's latest album, Thank U, Next, and writer, producer and engineer Oak, who worked with Cara previously on the Moana hit, "How Far I'll Go."

​'Not a Love Song,' Bülow 

Bülow writes and records a lot of her music with Canadian songwriters and producers, and that was definitely the case with "Not a Love Song" from her first EP, Damaged Vol. 1. The track is produced by Michael Wise (Ralph, Allie X, Walk Off the Earth) and co-written by Lowell, Alyssa Reid, Nathan Ferraro and Jamie Appleby.

In a statement to Noisey Canada, Bülow explained the inspiration behind the song was "the excitement of meeting someone for the first time."

"Initially it felt so new and overwhelmingly good, but I think I just wasn't ready for that commitment yet," she continued. "Or at least that's what I told myself."

On the song, Bülow admits that she's physically attracted to her subject but she's not looking for anything more. "You're a sentimental guy, one of a kind/ really, boy, that's hard to find/ but that's not my type, you should find your other side," she sings, urging him to look elsewhere if he wants to find true love because, to her, fairy tales are "a waste of time."

It's a forthright take from the teenage artist, who assures others that "being honest doesn't mean you are weak."  

'Body,' Loud Luxury 

After meeting in university and committing to a career in music, Loud Luxury's Andrew Fedyk and Joe Depace moved to Los Angeles to try and connect with like-minded artists. The two would contact musicians on SoundCloud hoping to collaborate and one night, they were invited out to see one of the acts they got in touch with.

But instead, they became interested in the night's opening act, Brando. "We were so blown away by his voice and performance that we totally forgot to say hi to the artist we actually intended to go see," the duo told Billboard.

"Body" was one of the songs Brando brought to Loud Luxury, except it was a slowed-down "hip-hop-type, strip-club anthem" that Fedyk and Depace likened to DJ Mustard, Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla Sign. They liked it, but they asked to play around with the track a bit by speeding up the tempo and transforming it into a dance number.

Even though the track makes reference to Toronto ("If you wanna ride in the 6/ You wanna dine in the 6"), Loud Luxury maintains that it was a complete coincidence as Brando wrote the lyrics and he is American.

'In My Blood,' Shawn Mendes 

When pop star Shawn Mendes entered the studio to write and record his third full-length album, Shawn Mendes, he wanted to be "more honest." That and, as he told Beats 1 host Zane Lowe, "I want to make a Kings of Leon record. I want to go more rock, like stadium-type of feel." The result at the end of his first day of writing was "In My Blood."

"In My Blood" is Mendes' rock anthem ode to battling anxiety and feelings of insecurity, as he describes the overwhelming sensation of it all on the song: "Help me, it's like the walls are caving in/ sometimes I feel like giving up/ no medicine is strong enough." Growing up, Mendes didn't experience anxiety but he admits that he began feeling anxious in the year leading up to those writing sessions for his self-titled release. "That song is just complete truth," he explained to Lowe. He later told fans on Twitter that "this song is the closest song to my heart that I've ever written."

In his cover story interview with Rolling Stone, he added that the positive reception from his fans reaffirmed his decision to open up more with his songwriting. "I broke down in my hotel room," he remembered, of scrolling through the comments after the song's release. "I started crying, and I was just like, 'This is why you talk about shit that actually is real.' I was like, 'God, don't ever f--king question the feelings of writing the truth again."

'Pray for Me,' the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar

"Pray for Me" is one of the many successful songs that came out of last year's Black Panther soundtrack. (Another standout, Kendrick Lamar and SZA's "All the Stars," is currently nominated for a best original song Oscar.) "Pray for Me" features rapper Lamar with an infectious hook by Toronto R&B star the Weeknd, and was co-produced by Doc McKinney and another Juno nominee, Frank Dukes, who is up for songwriter of the year for his other works with the Weeknd, Post Malone and Cardi B.

Thematically, this song adheres to a lot of the same motifs present in the Marvel blockbuster: loyalty, redemption and sacrifice. It's featured in the film during protagonist T'Challa, Nakia and Okoye's trip to South Korea to capture the villain Ulysses Klaue. Both artists take on the mindset of T'Challa in the song, especially when the Weeknd dives into the burdens of being the lone superhero in the chorus: "If I'm gon' die for you/ if I'm gon' kill for you/ then I spilled this blood for you."

Wherever you are on March 17, you can watch the Juno Awards live from Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., at cbcmusic.ca/junos.

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