Songs you need to hear this week, 2023 Juno nominees edition
With songs from Harm & Ease, Fortunate Ones and more, here's a quick guide to some of this year's contenders
We've been analyzing the list of nominees for the 2023 Juno Awards and taking particular note of the surprises, snubs and shoo-ins for the various categories.
With that in mind, we're focusing our regular songs you need to hear this week feature on new music from some of this year's Juno nominees:
- Lauren Spencer Smith.
- Fortunate Ones.
- The Weeknd featuring Ariana Grande.
- Lisa LeBlanc.
- Jon Vinyl featuring Kenyon Dixon.
- Harm & Ease.
- Tobi featuring Mavi.
Scroll down to familiarize yourself with their latest releases ahead of the awards gala on March 13.
To hear more about these standout songs, tune in to CBC Music Mornings every Thursday with producer Ryan Chung and host Saroja Coelho, available via CBC Listen.
'Best Friend Breakup,' Lauren Spencer Smith
Most of us associate breakups with romantic relationships, but it can often be just as painful — if not more — when you're experiencing the breakdown of a friendship. Lauren Spencer Smith's latest single perfectly captures the drama and heartbreak between two people who were once close like sisters, but are now more like strangers, as Smith sings, "Ooh, ooh, now you don't know me at all/ you left with no warning." While the verses play it cool with a minimal, acoustic backdrop, Smith's vocals amp up into a surging cry on the chorus, her pain seeping through every syllable as she admits: "Didn't think it'd hurt this much/ when best friends break up." Here, Smith, who's up for two Junos this year (TikTok Juno Fan Choice and artist of the year), has created a different breakup anthem of Adele proportions: a sad jam to belt along to during those difficult splits that don't get talked about enough. — Melody Lau
'Sorry for Loving You,' TheHonestGuy
TheHonestGuy (Mubarak Adeyemi) is up for his first Juno Award this year, nominated for traditional R&B/soul recording of the year for his six-song EP How to Make Love. It's well-deserved, overdue recognition for his music's effortless assimilation of classic R&B styles without being derivative. His latest single, "Sorry for Loving You," is a shining example. Channelling 1950s doo-wop, TheHonestGuy directly addresses his ex: "Though my heart ignored it, your loving wasn't true," he ruefully sings, dropping into a rich low register for that final, poignant word while an organ burbles and backup vocalists harmonize on the off-beat. Then, as though it was the easiest thing in the world, he ascends into a delicate, frosty falsetto to heighten the heartache: "Caught in the rain, trapped on a stormy night/ no pleasure in pain, there's no one to hold me tight." — Robert Rowat
'Heavy Heart,' Fortunate Ones
It can be heartbreakingly hard to tell the difference between your own inner turmoil and larger unrest in a relationship, and Fortunate Ones' "Heavy Heart," from their Juno-nominated 2022 album, That Was You and Me, is an almost unbelievably uplifting look at the end of a relationship — one that might have ended because one feeling was mistaken for another. The lyrics are tangled with emotion, while the melody and harmonies are bright and reassuring: a steady hand during a rocky time. In comparison, the new live video for the track — recorded with original album producer Joshua Van Tassel as well as Mo Kenney, Daniel Ledwell and a few other friends at Joel Plaskett's Dartmouth, N.S., studio — feels like an epilogue. Smiling and at ease, the St. John's wife-husband duo (made up of Catherine Allan and Andrew James O'Brien) are doing a victory lap, as everything settles right where it belongs. — Holly Gordon
'Die for You (Remix),' the Weeknd feat. Ariana Grande
We already know the Weeknd and Ariana Grande are a match made in pop-R&B heaven, so when they teased a new collab just two days before this remix dropped, it's fair to say it sent the internet into a frenzy. The original version of "Die for You" has over one billion streams on Spotify and this updated version became the biggest debut for a remix in the streaming service's history, a title previously held by their last linkup, the remix of "Save Your Tears." Grande's new take on the second verse and her ad libs and harmonies breathe new life into the seven-year-old track. She switched the lyrics to be in response to the Weeknd's dysfunctional plea for love, and instead of "finding ways to manipulate the feelin' you're goin' through," she's "finding ways to stay concentrated on what I gotta do." The emotion is dialled all the way up thanks to her sorrowful, swooning vocals, making the track even more affecting.
Re-releasing a song that was already a bonafide hit is icing on the cake for the Weeknd, who's been at the top of his game since 2016's Starboy. He continues to break records and push boundaries in pop, and he's been heavily rewarded for that experimentation at this year's Juno Awards. He's the most-nominated artist, with six noms, including artist of the year, single of the year and album of the year for Dawn FM. — Kelsey Adams
'Quoi-ce tu fais ça pour?,' Lisa LeBlanc
If you're still riding high on the riffs of Lisa LeBlanc's Juno-nominated and Polaris-shortlisted 2022 album, Chiac Disco, you're in for another treat: "Quoi-ce tu fais ça pour?," the Acadian singer's first single since that release, was recorded during the same sessions — and all the funk is still intact. In LeBlanc's chiac dialect, "Quoi-ce" often replaces "Qu'est-ce," meaning the song title (and chorus) are both joking and accusatory, asking why rude people do what they do. It's cheeky and irresistible, as the keys, bassline and featured horn section immediately pull you in, and will slide easily into LeBlanc's catalogue alongside the rest of Chiac Disco's tracklist. Paired with a video using the artwork from LeBlanc's 2022 Polaris poster, illustrated by Mathieu Dionne and animated by Gabriel Masella, it leaves us wondering: is there a Chiac Disco II out there somewhere? — HG
'Pressure', Jon Vinyl feat. Kenyon Dixon
Jon Vinyl originally welcomed listeners into his psyche with "Pressure" when it was released on last year's Palisade. Now, the EP is nominated for the Juno Award for traditional R&B/soul recording of the year. The song has been given a glossy new life thanks to an echoing remix. Vinyl's rich vocals stand out against moody melodies for a crisp impact. A faster tempo adds a new layer of urgency as Vinyl sings, "Slow down these days are getting out of control now/ It almost feels like I'm bout to fold now." Kenyon Dixon gives a velvety assist as he and Vinyl yearn to alleviate their woes. — Natalie Harmsen
'Meet me at the Riot,' Harm & Ease
In mid-February, breakthrough group of the year nominees Harm & Ease dropped their first single since 2022's outstanding Camino Loco, the six-song EP that spawned bangers "Cut me Loose" and "Underground." On "Meet me at the Riot," the four members of the Toronto-via-Buenos Aires outfit stay true to their signature hard-rock, guitar-driven sound, although a lighter touch during the verses helps focus attention on the richly uxorious lyrics. "She's like a clock, ticking every second as she walks," begins lead vocalist Ryan Whalen, "moving to the rhythm of the room, soon, body like a bomb that's going boom." Choruses deliver the power, though, hammering home the love-as-anarchy metaphor with a soaring melody and grounding bassline. — RR
'Flowers,' Tobi feat. Mavi
Tobi — who's up for rap album/EP of the year and songwriter of the year at this year's Junos — fearlessly unpacks his personal shortcomings on a new remix of "Flowers," his candid dive into his experiences with therapy, privilege and more. Rapper Mavi takes the reins on the first verse with an effortless flow, as he details his hopes for the future. "Bridging a new route to my youth, a better one than I burned," he raps, with fiery resilience. The song is dripping in introspection, as Tobi comes to terms with having to empathize with others: "Goddamn, I walk at night, don't think twice 'bout the feelin' at all," he points out, realizing that the women in his life aren't able to be as carefree. With each lyric, Tobi pushes for personal growth with a touching sense of self-awareness. His message is refined to the tune of Lady Wray's "Through it all," a sample that sounds just as glorious as it did when "Flowers" first dropped last autumn. — NH
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, CBC Music and CBC Listen, and stream globally on cbcmusic.ca/junos.