Songs you need to hear this week, 2021 Juno nominees edition
With songs from JP Saxe and Half Moon Run, here's a quick guide to some of this year's contenders
We've been analyzing the list of nominees for the 2021 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:
- JP Saxe.
- So Sus.
- Half Moon Run.
- JJ Wilde.
- U.S. Girls.
- Basia Bulat.
Scroll down to familiarize yourself with their Juno-nominated music — and, in some cases, their latest releases — ahead of the awards gala.
Hit play on our brand new Songs You Need to Hear stream, filled with songs that CBC Music's producers have chosen for their playlists, and tune into CBC Music Mornings every Thursday to hear CBC Music's Jess Huddleston and Saroja Coelho reveal which of these tracks is the standout new Canadian song.
'Like That,' JP Saxe
Singer-songwriter JP Saxe is making his debut at the 2021 Junos Awards in emphatic fashion with five nominations: single, songwriter, breakthrough artist and pop album of the year, plus he's up for the fan choice award — all without a debut album to his credit. (His pop album of the year nomination is for his 20-minute, six-song EP Hold it Together.)
But that debut album (Dangerous Levels of Introspection) is coming on June 25, and its lead single, released earlier this month, reaffirms the artistry that has hurtled Saxe into the spotlight. "Like That" is an emotional build, from its fragile voice-and-guitar opening verse to the passionate, anthemic chorus that depicts loved ones rallying to help the narrator through a crisis. "Mama cryin' 'cause your love is the kind/ She always wished I would find," Saxe sings, with typically understated eloquence. He describes the song as a sequel to his mega-popular duet with Julia Michaels, "If the World was Ending," saying, "That song is about who you would want to be with if everything went to shit. This song is about who was with you when everything did go to shit." — Robert Rowat
'Cold Waters,' So Sus
So Sus has been an integral part of the Vancouver bass scene for the past five years, both as a musician and as the head of the musical collective Crystals. His 2019 EP Voices, which is nominated for dance recording of the year at this year's Junos, finds So Sus tapping vocalists for every track in order to focus more on melodies and emotion in a genre that has otherwise been criticized for being too cold and digitized at times. On "Cold Waters," singer Bouhi brings a warmth to the chilling beats as she repeats the refrain, "You're the love of my life/ love of my life." With an arsenal of technical skills, and an ear for elevating elements like beat drops, it's no wonder So Sus has caught the attention of top-tier acts like Skrillex, the Chainsmokers and Alison Wonderland. — Melody Lau
'How Come my Body,' Half Moon Run
"How Come my Body" is a breath of a song, lasting only two minutes and 19 seconds, but it holds a whole (paused) world in its two verses. The song, a more recent single from Montreal's Half Moon Run, is an appreciation, its tender video showing intimate behind-the-scenes footage between band members spliced with triumphant, packed-house shots of shows that we can taste but not feel. The juxtaposition of loud, raucous footage with Devon Portielje's subdued vocals and the gentle rhythm of "How Come my Body" is almost too much to bear, the nostalgia building up with no outlet in sight. Half Moon Run can nimbly transition from galloping anthems to gentle, introspective songs, and it's no surprise that the band that won the 2020 Juno Award for album of the year (for A Blemish in the Great Light) is in the running for 2021 group of the year. "How Come my Body" and companion single "On & On" are early teases for the band's upcoming June 18 EP, Inwards & Onwards, which I am very much hoping to see performed in person. — Holly Gordon
'Bushweed,' JJ Wilde
Last month, rock musician JJ Wilde told CBC Music that she wrote her hit single "The Rush" while hungover and late for work, so it's maybe not that surprising to find her and a bunch of friends hanging out and smoking pot in the video for "Bushweed," track 1 from her new EP, Wilde. The Kitchener-Waterloo native, whose Ruthless is up for rock album of the year, sports a tie-dyed T-shirt and a big grin while singing this rollicking, prog-rock-leaning anthem. "Lately I've been blowing trees, caught up in the bushweed/ I ain't coming down," she proclaims in the chorus with joyful abandon. Throughout the song, Wilde goes toe-to-toe with a sprawling electric guitar and by verse 2 it's clear who's in charge: "I'm making a name, get out of my way/ I'm precious with time, no standing in line/ I never behave, don't want to be saved." As Wilde builds her catalogue with empowering songs like this, the juggernaut of her ascent seems unstoppable. — RR
'4 American Dollars,' US Girls (Buffetlibre remix)
Summer has sprung — we seem to have glossed right over spring — and Barcelona DJs Buffetlibre have added even more disco heat to an already soulful song. U.S. Girls' "4 American Dollars," off the Juno-nominated album Heavy Light, was always laced with '70s groove, making it one of the album's most accessible singles. By tossing in an uplifting horn section and snappy percussion, Buffetlibre have spun the song into further pop magic, sounding somewhere between a feel-good Air anthem and that triumphant moment in an allergy medicine commercial, where the remedy (and music) kicks in, and those who were suffering come back to life. — Jess Huddleston
'Between the Groove,' Iamtheliving and Teon Gibbs
While Rian Peters, a.k.a. Iamtheliving, is most comfortable delivering tender R&B melodies, the Vancouver-based artist is also a big proponent of collaboration, which sometimes takes him out of his comfort zone. Case in point, his upcoming EP with rapper Teon Gibbs titled JNGL (out June 1). What started off as a pandemic project that "would make people want to dance," according to a statement, has since grown into a string of solid singles, including standout "Between the Groove," which combines Kaytranada-inspired bass-bumping soundscapes with Peters and Gibbs' smooth hooks. It's a real match made in heaven, and a sound that we hope both artists continue exploring, together or separately. — ML
'Love is at the end of the World,' Basia Bulat
"We filmed this video in February before the world changed a thousand times over!" Basia Bulat tweeted when she released the visual treatment for "Love is at the end of the World," the closing track on her 2020 album, Are you in Love?. It's partially why the video, featuring dancers Hanako Hoshimi-Caines and Eryn Tempest, feels so joyous, unencumbered by any person-to-person restrictions. Keys fall in step with a light drumbeat to create a lofty dancefloor for Bulat's all-in declaration to choose love over fear, everything building to a cathartic, almost psychedelic release. Nominated for adult alternative album of the year at the 2021 Junos, Are you in Love? may not have prompted enough dance parties when it was released at the onset of the pandemic, but now's a good chance to give it that spin. — HG
K-Anthony is the stage name of Kevin Anthony Fowler, a Jamaican-born singer-songwriter who now calls Regina, Sask., home. His debut release, The Cure, is nominated for contemporary Christian/gospel album of the year — a first in that category for a Jamaica native — and it's no wonder: Fowler has a beautiful, soft-grained voice (it recalls Nico Sereba's of Nico & Vinz) that lends genuine sincerity to his uplifting, R&B-leaning sacred songs. Since releasing The Cure, K-Anthony has shared a new single, "Free," his most popular song to date. With Psalm 121 ("I lift my eyes to the hills") as his point of departure, he uses a gently swaying compound meter to help convey his message of freedom: "I'd still be in chains, were it not for grace/ So I will sing of how you set me free." While "Free" has the simplicity of a folksong, Fowler's vocal flourishes and soaring falsetto lines will leave you in awe. — RR
Tune in to the 50th annual Juno Awards live on June 6 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBC TV, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One, CBC Music, CBC Listen, globally on cbcmusic.ca/junos and live streamed on CBC Music's TikTok, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages.