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40th Annual Juno Awards: Arcade Fire, Justin Bieber, Drake and Neil Young

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Montreal band Arcade Fire cleaned up at last night's 2011 Juno Awards taking home four prizes including Album of the Year and Group of the Year. And if winning four Junos wasn’t enough, Neil Young gave the indie group a shout out while accepting his award for Artist of the Year. This was a theme that ran throughout last night’s show at the Air Canada Center in Toronto; honoring the old guard while remaining youthful and relevant.

The gala was hosted by Canada’s newest rap star and former Degrassi alum, Drake. He opened the show with a faux Skype chat with Justin Beiber in which they managed to mention Degrassi, Tim Horton’s and sing a duet of Sarah McLaughlin’s “I Will Remember You” all in about 2 minutes. It was funny and oh-so Canadian with out resorting to the cheese factor that we are so use to seeing when it comes to Canadian awards shows. Overall, Drake was a funny and charming host, one of the best Juno hosts in recent memory. Sadly for the talented rapper/actor/host, he did not take home any hardware despite being nominated in six categories. In fact, the Best Rap Album prize was probably the only Juno upset, which rapper Shad took home over Drake. As expected Justin Bieber took home the Fan Choice award as well as Pop Album of the Year. Like it or not, Bieber deserved these prizes – you cannot deny that his fan base is wide and fiercely loyal and his album My World 2.0 has been breaking sales records for almost two years now.

Youthfulness continued to reign in the night’s performances with many performers being musicians your parents mostly definitely would not recognize. Toronto rap/pop band Down with Webster opened the show and Montreal’s electrofunk band Chromeo closed. In between we saw performances by Tokyo Police Club, Broken Social Scene, and Hedley. Showcasing new talent and trying to attract a younger audience seemed to be a priority of this year’s gala.

It’s time to Neil down: Honoring our legends

While new artists hosted and performed, our Canadian icons were not forgotten. Shania Twain was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by Bryan Adams. The country star from modest beginnings seemed truly humbled to receive such an honor and in her acceptance speech, could not contain her love for Canada.

A 10-minute all star tribute called “Love Letter to Toronto” paid homage to four of Canada’s most respected artist and the city that gave them their first breaks - Toronto. Artists such as Dallas Green, Sarah Harmer and Jim Cuddy paid a musical tribute to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and The Band. Jim Cuddy, who acted as musical director for the performance summed it up perfectly, “The opportunity to sing the songs of some of the greatest artists Canada has produced, and sing them with some of my best musical friends was too good to be true”

The Air Canada Center was brought to their feet as Neil Young delivered a touching speech while accepting the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. In his first appearance at the Juno’s in 29 years, Young spoke poignantly about philanthropy and family. Young co-founded Farm Aid as well as the Bridge School which educates children with severe speech and physical impairments. Young’s two sons have cerebral palsy. Backstage, Young elaborated on his work with Bridge School, “These kids are quite often brilliant, but they're just bottled up in these bodies that don't work like ours, and these heads that don't work like ours, but they still have so much to say and so much to think, so we just try to make it happen for them”.

Young also picked up the Juno for Alternative Artist of the Year and Album of the Year for “Le Noise”. Genuinely surprised by his win for Artist of The Year, Young had this to say when he reached to podium:

“What year is this? I am totally surprised. Arcade Fire: what a great performance, what a great band. And Justin Bieber, what can you say? It’s totally incomprehensible that I’m here,” he said in tribute to others nominated for the prize.”

Let's hope Justim Bieber grasps what it means to get a shout out by Neil Young!

For a full list of last night's winners click here.

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