Junos 2023 predictions: who should win and who will win?
We're digging into the nominees for pop, rock, alternative and rap albums of the year, and more
With the 52nd Juno Awards approaching on March 13, we've looked at some of this year's first-time nominees, marvelled at the musicians who, surprisingly, have never won a Juno, and delved into the snubs and surprises at the 2023 awards.
But the real question on everyone's mind is: who's going to win?
To that end, we've chosen six categories that present fascinating showdowns — some of them pitting newcomers against Juno stalwarts; some perpetuating tired stereotypes; others simply overflowing with talent — and gone out on a limb with predictions for who should win and who will with the Juno Award this year.
Scroll down to see whether you agree, and share your predictions with us @CBCMusic.
Pop album of the year
By Kelsey Adams
2023 marks the first time the Weeknd has been nominated for pop album of the year, and he's up against four other artists who have called the category home many times before. Let's see how he measures up. Here are the nominees for pop album of the year:
- In the Meantime, Alessia Cara.
- Love Sux, Avril Lavigne.
- The Loneliest Time, Carly Rae Jepsen.
- I Used to Think I Could Fly, Tate McRae.
- Dawn FM, the Weeknd.
Although the Weeknd has been making pop music for years, the Juno Awards have generally recognized him in the R&B/soul categories. This first-time pop nomination may be a bit of a course correction. With its Giorgio Moroder-esque synths, dark disco moments and Abel Tesfaye's brazen lyrics and flawless vocals, Dawn FM is pop with an edge. Carly Rae Jepsen's The Loneliest Time also leans into disco, but it stays saccharine in production and overall energy. This is Jepsen's second pop album nom — the first one was 10 years ago for her album Kiss. Is this her year to win again? Maybe not with Tate McRae's I Used to Think I Could Fly also on the ballot. This is McRae's second nomination as well, and her sophomore album, full of vulnerable admissions over catchy beats with hooks that stick, has resonated widely with fans who see themselves reflected in her music.
Alessia Cara, who's been nominated in this category twice before, also deals in relaying the uglier side of young adulthood through music. It's been her wheelhouse since 2015's breakout single "Here." In the Meantime lets her honeyed voice shine over subdued production with hints of neo-soul.
And then there's Avril Lavigne, a juggernaut who's had six of her seven albums nominated in this category since 2003. On Love Sux, she takes us back to her pop-punk roots, with irreverent lyricism and brash guitar.
Should win: Dawn FM will likely win album of the year, being arguably the year's best across any genre, so it won't be too big of a blow for the Weeknd to lose out on this one. But, that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to win. He is Canada's biggest pop star at the moment and he delivered a career's best collection of songs — it would be refreshing to see him win in this category, after being pigeonholed in the R&B lane for so many Junos.
- All hail the new king of pop: a 10-year timeline of the Weeknd's rise, from Juno breakthrough artist to global superstar
Will win: This award typically goes to artists making more straightforward pop, and this year is shaping up to be a competition between McRae and Jepsen. With higher streaming numbers and one of the biggest singles of the year with "She's all I Wanna Be," McRae seems poised to push Jepsen out of the top spot (and if she does, it would be one of her first Juno wins ever).
Rock album of the year
By Melody Lau
The nominees are:
- Otherness, Alexisonfire.
- Crisis of Faith, Billy Talent.
- Get Rollin', Nickelback.
- Outta Sight, the Sheepdogs.
- Explosions, Three Days Grace.
Veteran bands dominate this year's rock album of the year category, prompting some to describe this year's nominations as a "blast from the past." All five nominated bands have previously been nominated for rock album of the year (combined, they collectively add up to 23 nominations in this category alone), and four of them have won before (Nickelback, Alexisonfire, Billy Talent, the Sheepdogs). While each of these bands earned its spot, the exclusion of women nominees has been a problem since the category's inception, with only three winners in its history, including JJ Wilde in 2021 and the Beaches in 2022.
Still, this past year marked some big comebacks for acts like Alexisonfire, which released its first album since the group disbanded in 2012, and Billy Talent, who returned with the first album in six years. Three Days Grace, a band that's been active for 26 years now, has maintained a solid fanbase, earning its 16th No. 1 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart with "So Called Life," the lead single off its nominated album, Explosions. Similarly, Nickelback's 10th studio album, Get Rollin' , was a commercial success and has earned more than 40 million streams on Spotify alone. Perhaps the least commercially successful of the bunch is Saskatoon rock band the Sheepdogs, with their seventh album, Outta Sight, but their brand of throwback, '70s rock 'n' roll makes them stand out as the only act that doesn't adhere to a modern, hard-rock sound.
Should win: With its first album in 13 years, St. Catharines screamo/post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire sounds revitalized and matured on Otherness without sacrificing the bite or intensity the band has become known for since it debuted in 2001.
Will win: With six previous nominations and two wins in rock album of the year already, 2023 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees Nickelback seem primed to win again with the band's 10th album, Get Rollin'. It was released late last year to mixed reviews but, just like past Nickelback albums, has earned millions of streams thanks to a devoted fanbase, helping the band chart in the top 10 in Canada, the U.S., Australia and Germany.
Alternative album of the year
By Holly Gordon
In a category that feels like the closest representation of our list of best albums of 2022, the 2023 Juno nominees for alternative album of the year are:
- Blue Rev, Alvvays.
- Duality, Luna Li.
- Sewn Back Together, Ombiigizi.
- The Unraveling of PupTheBand, Pup.
- Tongues, Tanya Tagaq.
This category is a bit of a catch-all, meant for albums that "have qualities and elements that set the music outside and/or ahead of mainstream pop/rock and other mainstream music styles," according to the Junos site. But to its credit, it has awarded some of our favourite albums, including last year's winner, When Smoke Rises from Mustafa.
And this year, we're pretty smitten with the majority of the nominated albums: Luna Li's debut release, Duality, nabbed Hannah Bussiere Kim her first Juno nomination, and her indie-rock record balanced by orchestral touches is a real contender. Ombiigizi's Sewn Back Together, also a debut record for the duo of Adam Sturgeon and Kent Monkman, is cohesive, compelling and Polaris shortlisted. And 2020 category winners, Pup, have released yet another raucous record with The Unraveling of PupTheBand, though this time it's both cathartic and complicated.
But truly, the award sits between last year's biggest artists: Alvvays and Tanya Tagaq.
Should win: Tanya Tagaq's Tongues is devastating, agitating and beautiful, and it really hasn't gotten enough attention for being the groundbreaking album that it is. Many of the lyrics were adapted from the singer's award-winning novel, Split Tooth, and the album oscillates between wrathful indictment and tenderness, Tagaq's voice "an ever-present and all-consuming conductor through every track, volcanic and menacing at its most explosively outraged and fur-and-petal gentle at its softest and most hopeful," as CBC Music's Andrea Warner wrote. What Tagaq stated and explored on Tongues remains unmatched, and the three-time nominee and two-time Juno Award winner deserves another statuette. We think, however, that Alvvays' third album, Blue Rev, has had such a big mainstream year that it's the more likely candidate.
Will win: Alvvays has hit more than one million streams on every single Blue Rev song on Spotify alone (save for one, and it's at more than 950,000), and the album got a coveted review in the high 8s on Pitchfork. Blue Rev was on nearly every best-of list in 2022, often in the top five. The people have spoken, and they say it's an Alvvays year. Plus, it would nicely follow their 2018 win in this category for Antisocialites.
Rap album or EP of the year
By Natalie Harmsen
In 2022, the Junos split the rap category into rap single of the year and rap album/EP of the year. Here are the nominees for rap album/EP of the year:
- Gonzo, Boslen.
- Retrospected (Acoustic), Classified.
- The Fleur Print Vol. 2, Jazz Cartier.
- Demons Protected by Angels, Nav.
- Shall I Continue?, Tobi.
Gonzo, the album from first-time nominee Boslen, expands on the innovative mix of sounds used on his debut release — standout tracks such as "Gone" and "Heist" are an intriguing mosaic of genres. But Boslen's not the only one toying with different sounds: experimentation is also the name of the game on Jazz Cartier's The Fleur Print Vol. 2 (the deluxe version of The Fleur Print), which is Cartier's most exploratory output since ditching his label and becoming an independent artist. His playfulness shines, especially on earworms such as "Need Love."
Classified, Cartier and Tobi — all previous Juno winners — each released drastically different projects: Classified's acoustic album embraces stripped-back simplicity, while Nav's Demons Protected by Angels is all about polished production and all-star collaborations (think: Lil Uzi Vert, Future, Travis Scott and more). Tobi, who took home the Juno for best rap recording in 2021, leans into R&B on Shall I Continue?, as he raps and sings over '90s-inspired melodies.
Should win: Boslen's Gonzo is an ambitious and colourful mix of trap, pop-punk, rock and more. Bursting with freshness, it's the most experimental and unconventional release of the bunch. However, it might be too experimental for the jury's tastes. Additionally, Boslen is a first-timer who's going up against more established musicians who have already won Junos.
Will win: Tobi is one of the strongest contenders as he's the most recent winner in this category. Plus, he's the only nominee who's also up for the Juno for songwriter of the year. His confident and clever lyricism will likely secure this win for Shall I Continue?.
Traditional R&B/soul recording of the year
By Robert Rowat
In 2021, the Junos split the award for best R&B/soul recording in two, creating categories for contemporary and traditional R&B/soul recordings. Singles and complete albums/EPs are eligible. Here are the nominees in the traditional category:
- "Please do not Lean," Daniel Caesar featuring BadBadNotGood.
- Palisade, Jon Vinyl.
- "All I Need," Safe.
- How to Make Love, TheHonestGuy.
- "Last One," Savannah Ré featuring Dylan Sinclair.
Savannah Ré won this award in 2021 and 2022, and yet again she's the one to beat for "Last One," her gorgeous duet with Dylan Sinclair, who (prophetically?) sings, "She's a song, she's a queen, she deserves it all." Not so fast, says five-time Juno nominee Daniel Caesar. His classic rock-inflected collaboration with BadBadNotGood, "Please do not Lean," fuses eloquent poetry and sophisticated production to heartbreaking effect. Staking his claim, first-time nominee Safe enlists a soulful electric guitar for his slowly waltzing single "All I Need," whose sultry atmosphere recalls the Weeknd's "Earned It."
As for the nominated EPs, TheHonestGuy's How to Make Love embraces the true spirit of this category, honouring traditions of the past while deftly updating them, from the steamy, Mariah Carey-esque "My Pleasure" to the mid-tempo vintage disco of "Fight the Feeling." With Palisade, Jon Vinyl returns after being nominated in this category last year for Lost in You. On Latin-leaning "Entice Me," he asserts himself as the front-runner in terms of vocal ability, while "Slowly" is a reminder that Vinyl can command a room with minimal, primarily acoustic production.
Should win: The two nominated EPs represent the category's bigger accomplishments, and we give the edge to dark horse and first-time nominee TheHonestGuy for his irresistible vocals, flawless audio production, devotion to the genre's fundamentals, and effortless assimilation of classic disco on How to Make Love. But will the jury be deterred by his music's unabashed sensuality?
Will win: Since Ré and Sinclair are also nominated (individually) in the contemporary R&B category, where they face stiff competition from Jessie Reyez's Yessie, the jury will make sure they don't go home empty-handed. They'll bestow a trad R&B three-peat on Ré for her undeniable chemistry and hair-raising harmonizing with Sinclair on slow jam "Last One."
Music video of the year
By Andrea Warner
Here are this year's nominees:
- "Fraud," Emma Higgins, Jessie Reyez.
- "Unholy," Floria Sigismondi, Sam Smith and Kim Petras.
- "Have Mercy," Karena Evans, Chlöe Parkwood.
- "Different Than Before," Mayumi Yoshida, Amanda Sum.
- "Remember me for Me," Sterling Larose, SonReal and Lily Moore.
It's not always one indie against the world, but that's exactly what's happening in this category. "Different Than Before," from Vancouver-based musician Amanda Sum and director Mayumi Yoshida, is the sole independent nomination for the Juno Award for music video of the year. It's no surprise that the video — which depicts the patriarch of a family fantasizing he's onstage knocking it out of the park at karaoke in a Chinese restaurant and then confronting a table full of white racists — has made the rounds as a short film.
Floria Sigismondi's daring and lush music video for Sam Smith's "Unholy" featuring Kem Petras is an opulent kink fest for the eyes and a love letter to many bodies, especially non-binary, transgender, gender nonconforming and fat bodies. Karena Evans' "Have Mercy" music video takes its inspiration from the pleasure-centric sensuality of Chlöe's song. Evans wisely films the stunning singer-songwriter from every conceivable angle, reinforcing the song's glorious conceit: Chlöe will have mercy on you — to get what she needs.
Sterling Larose's music video manages to match the bright darkness of SonReal's "Remember me for Me" featuring Lily Moore. Larose focuses on a landscape of vivid colours and evokes tension by manipulating the musicians into a topsy-turvy world in which nothing is quite as it seems. Nothing as it seems is also the thematic universe of Jessie Reyez's blistering "Fraud," in which director Emma Higgins and Reyez dig deep into myth, fairytale, biblical and S&M references to upend an abusive man and, ultimately, the patriarchy.
Should win: Sum and Yoshida's "Different Than Before." Yoshida is a deft storyteller, the performances are brilliant and affecting, and the video is a perfect complement to Sum's bittersweet and slightly off-kilter, low-key sparkly pop. But can an indie, in every sense of the word, really win versus a chart-topping song and a viral music video? Probably not.
Will win: "Unholy" is a massive hit and its pop-culture impact has been huge — calls to ban the music video echoed in far-right panic circles as the attention only drove more eyes and ears to it on every platform. Also, Smith and Petras are blockbuster pop stars and Sigismondi's music video is appropriately iconic..
Simu Liu is back to host the 2023 Juno Awards on Monday, March 13, at 8 p.m. ET. Tune in on CBC, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One and CBC Listen, and stream globally on cbcmusic.ca/junos.