The Juno Awards are Canada's own way of saying thank you to those in the music industry, although they've been criticized as reaching beyond our borders. Most notably, Stompin' Tom Connors returned six Juno Awards in 1978 because he felt the awards didn't focus entirely on Canadian musicians, just those with at least some connection to Canada. Before he died, he even left instructions not to be honoured at the Juno Awards, and his presence was noticeably missing from what one photographer called "The Walk of Death".
To be fair, Connors had a point: the 2014 Juno Awards fêted various artists who don't work or promote themselves entirely in Canada. Juno Fan Choice Award winner Justin Bieber hasn't lived in Canada for almost five years and is signed to a wholly American music label. Multiple Juno Award winners Tegan and Sara split their time between Vancouver/LA and Montreal/New York, respectively. And Country Album of the Year winner Dean Brody has more or less been based in Nashville since 2004.
So, what makes the Juno Awards Canadian, and how was the 2014 version different?
For starters, Commander Chris Hadfield made an extended appearance, introducing one of Canada's most famous bands, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Hadfield is Canada's darling, and despite one report calling his "pitch control apparently not yet adjusted to the pull of gravity", he's shown more chutzpah and Canadian dedication than 90% of this country. His presence definitely uplifted the 2014 Juno Awards into, ahem, another orbit.
BTO performing (in honour of their recent induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame) was a welcome point, too, as their notorious feud was put aside that night and they delivered a rockstar rendition of "Takin' Care of Business".
The whole show, about two hours in length, was incredibly tightly run and featured few hiccups during the night. Some of the highlights include:
-mass booing when Bieber was announced as the Juno Fan Choice Award winner
-the combination of Choir! Choir! Choir! with Tegan and Sara's "Closer"
-Serena Ryder as host, graciously chiding the audience for booing Bieber by saying "I really think that Justin Bieber is an amazing musician and he deserved every bit of that award because he's been working his ass off his entire life and we need to support how awesome he is"
-Serena Ryder forming a new Canadian supergroup with Tegan and Sara, with both acts riffing in cold weather-themed lyrics into their existing songs during a TV clip
-One Republic's performance of "Counting Stars", which was thankfully fairly close in line with the album version
-Sarah McLachlan showing up to perform "Beautiful Girl"
However, the absence of Robin Thicke due to "mandatory vocal rest" showed he'll show up when it's convenient for him, and not because he actually made a commitment to be there. Thousands of Canadians signed a petition for him to stay away, but to back out the night before is unprofessional and reflects poorly on his work ethic.
But overall, these 2014 Juno Awards were a lot of fun, especially if you invested yourself in it. It's easy to criticize the Juno Awards as not being as glitzy as their American counterparts, but that's a wholly unfair argument: the Junos play their Canadian game by Canadian rules, and critics tend to want to see the Canadian game played by American rules.
It was a hugely entertaining show, and the other 51 weeks of the year until next year's Junos in Hamilton can't come soon enough.