Songs you need to hear this week, 2020 Juno nominees edition
With songs from Tanya Tagaq, Pup and Tenille Townes, here's a quick guide to some of this year's contenders
We've been analyzing the list of nominees for the 2020 Juno Awards and taking particular note of the most nominated artists, first-time nominees, notable names missing and gender parity within the list.
With that in mind, we're focusing our regular songs you need to hear this week feature on some of this year's Juno nominees: Pup, Rezz, Tanya Tagaq, Valley, Diana Panton, Loud, Tenille Townes, Ron Davis and Justin Bieber. Scroll down to familiarize yourself with their Juno-nominated music — and, in some cases, their latest releases — ahead of the awards gala.
Remember: the 2020 Juno Awards will be broadcast live across Canada on March 15 at 6. p.m. CT (8 p.m. ET) on CBC-TV, CBC Radio One, CBC Music, and CBC Gem, and globally on cbcmusic.ca/junos. If you're in Saskatoon and would like to attend the Juno Awards, you can find ticket information here.
'So What,' Ron Davis's SymphRONica
Nominated for instrumental album of the year, Upfront is the third release from pianist Ron Davis's SymphRONica project, an outlet for the jazz crossover that springs from his fertile imagination. Abetted by a string quartet, Davis covers a wide range of styles, from the genteel neo-baroque of "Drew Bourrée" to the intoxicating tango-meets-klezmer sounds of "Chance." Of the album's 12 tracks, his take on Miles Davis's iconic "So What" stays closest to the jazz idiom, and benefits from some nicely detailed drumming and expressive guitar and electric piano solos. Stay until the end and hear how the pizzicato strings ingeniously escort the song out of the room.
— Robert Rowat
'Morbid Stuff,' Pup
Toronto punk band Pup made our best albums and music videos of the year lists in 2019, and for good reason. Not only have members Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula and Steve Sladkowski sharpened their brand of relentless punk on their latest album, Morbid Stuff, but they've consistently cranked out creative, eye-catching music videos since the beginning. For its latest visual for "Morbid Stuff," the band handed out "19 'affordable' cameras" to random fans at its London, England, concert to capture their live experience from as many angles as possible. The result is a supercut of blurry, grainy footage that shows off the dizzying, chaotic sensation of a Pup show. If their album didn't already convince you to go out and join the riotous mosh pit, then this clip will definitely do the trick.
— Melody Lau
'Toothsayer,' Tanya Tagaq
In March 2019, Tanya Tagaq released her Toothsayer EP, a five-track playlist created for the National Maritime Museum's Polar Winds exhibit in London, England. The album, which is nominated for the instrumental album of the year Juno, titularly links back to Tagaq's 2017 novel, Split Tooth, a mythobiography about a girl growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s.
The cracking and movement of ice floes create percussive elements in "Submerged," but it's on the title track that Tagaq really plays with a mix of field recording and her vocal range. With longtime collaborator and producer Jean Martin, Tagaq's throat singing keeps the sometimes frenetic heartbeat of the song while birds cry out and the melody of Tagaq's voice later intertwines with the radio frequency of an electric guitar. The recording was an improvisation manipulated and edited to its released form, featuring the talents of guitarist Justin Haynes and more than 20 vocal tracks recorded by Tagaq. Together, it makes for a transportive, visceral combination.
— Holly Gordon
'Aren't You Glad You're You,' Diana Panton
As any parent with "Baby Shark" stuck in their head will tell you, the best children's music is in fact music that appeals to people of all ages, and that's what jazz vocalist Diana Panton has given us with A Cheerful Little Earful, nominated for children's album of the year. Ably accompanied by longtime collaborators Reg Schwager (guitar) and Don Thompson (bass, piano, vibraphone), Panton sings a selection of tunes from the golden age of songwriting by lyricist-composer pairs such as Ira Gershwin and Harry Warren, Burton Lane and Yip Harburg, and in the case of "Aren't You Glad You're You," Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen. Their song brims with delightful lines — "Ev'ry time you're near a rose/ aren't you glad you've got a nose?" — which Panton intones with wide-eyed purity of tone. What better way to introduce your youngster (and yourself) to the pleasures of jazz? — RR
'Falling,' Rezz feat. Underoath
Canadian EDM star Rezz has always attacked her music with a type of aggression that reflects the heavy rock acts she grew up listening to: Marilyn Manson, Bring me the Horizon and Underoath. In 2018, Rezz teased a potential collaboration with Underoath singer Aaron Gillespie on Twitter when she posted, "I want to work with the singer from Underoath, we just contacted them" followed up two days later with a screengrab of an email response from Gillespie himself. The finished product, "Falling," didn't surface until the following year but it was well worth the wait. Featured on her 2020 electronic album of the year Juno-nominated EP, Beyond the Senses, "Falling," is the perfect meeting of the minds (and genres) for Rezz and Underoath: a larger-than-life anthem that maximizes both their talents. — ML
'Fallait y aller,' Loud
Loud followed up his 2019 Juno win for francophone album of the year with Tout ça pour ça, releasing his now critically acclaimed sophomore album to the tune of two sold-out shows at Montreal's Bell Centre. Loud's rise has felt fast and furious, but the rap queb star's roots trace back to underground Bandcamp releases in 2012 with his band Loud Lary Ajust, which means Simon Cliche Trudeau, a.k.a. Loud, has been perfecting his franglais hip-hop/pop formula for nearly a decade. Tout ça pour ça nabbed Loud his second Juno nomination, again for francophone album of the year, and the track "Fallait y aller" is a perfect example of the rapper's appeal. As Jean-Étienne Sheehy wrote when choosing Tout ça pour ça as one of the best francophone albums of 2019, "Fallait y aller" "demonstrates how [Loud] cemented his hit-making recipe: a catchy guitar riff (courtesy of producers Banx & Ranx), English expressions translated to French and a sing-along chorus." — HG
In 1967, American band the Association released a cheerful pop song called "Windy" that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and lodged itself in ears the world over. Its eponymous heroine was a walking contradiction who smiled at everyone she saw and handed out rainbows, while flashing her stormy eyes at the sound of lies.
With the release of "Bailey," breakout group of the year nominee Valley introduced us to Windy's present-day incarnation, whose selfie obsession belies her empty life. "She's barely holding on, but she's dancing on tables," sings Rob Laska over an impossibly catchy beat before launching into the chorus: "Oh God, Bailey/ you spend your Daddy's credit card/ then complain that money's hard" — yet another instance of Valley's knack for embedding incisive social commentary within its uplifting brand of pop. — RR
'Holding out for the One,' Tenille Townes
The 2020 Juno Awards mark Tenille Townes' first Juno nomination, but the country singer from Grand Prairie, Alta., is no stranger to the awards cycle at large. Eight years ago, at the age of 17, Townes garnered her first Canadian Country Music Awards Association award, for female artist of the year (losing to Terri Clark), and continued to gain nominations over the next few years. A move to Nashville and a cultivation of her craft resulted in four silent release years from Townes, but in 2018 she re-emerged with a big announcement: a recording contract with Columbia Nashville followed by a label debut EP of intimate, stripped-down acoustic songs, titled Living Room Worktapes.
Following her 2020 Juno nomination for breakthrough artist of the year, Townes released another EP, Road to the Lemonade Stand, featuring mainly previously heard tracks, but with a notable addition: brand new single "Holding out for the One," an upbeat, hand-clappable, catchy-as-hell song about not settling. We're just starting to see how Townes' songwriting can tackle anything from dark-horse love songs ("White Horse") to homelessness in America ("Somebody's Daughter") to a tragic death ("Jersey on the Wall (I'm Just Asking)"), holding her subject matter with empathy and care. With this new addition to her roster of singles, we're looking forward to the full-album effect.
'Intentions,' Justin Bieber feat. Quavo
Juno fan choice nominee Justin Bieber has been busy hyping his new album, Changes, expected on Feb. 14. Advance tracks have been carefully chosen to show variety, from buoyant ("Yummy") to moody ("Get Me" feat. Kehlani) to downright sentimental: "Intentions" tears a page from '80s techno pop with its pointillistic synthesizer underscoring such lines as, "Shout-out to your mom and dad for makin' you/ standin' ovation, they did a great job raisin' you." Maudlin? Sure, but also tuneful and catchy enough to be a staple of 2020's impending wedding season.
The song's video was shot at Alexandria House, a shelter in Los Angeles that aims to find permanent housing for the city's homeless and that now has an "Intentions" fund to which Bieber's fans can donate. — RR