The 2012 Juno Awards nominees were announced yesterday. The Junos honour the best in Canadian popular music, across 40 different categories. If you scan the list of nominees, you’ll probably see a few artists that you know and love, a bunch of artists that are kind of ‘meh’, a rogue’s gallery of musicians you’ve never heard of, and maybe a few that you wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. Par for the course anytime you have so many categories spread across so many genres. It’s impossible to follow every trend in an industry this big.
The most disturbing trend to me is the weakness of the Album of the Year category. In a perfect world, this category should be a reliable bellwether for the health of the Canadian music industry. Whenever you get critically acclaimed bands with enough commercial clout to get nominated for Album of the Year, the industry as a whole is likely doing just fine. Last year, Arcade Fire managed to win the big prize with The Suburbs.
But here is the 2012 short-list:
Avril Lavigne – Goodbye Lullabye
Drake – Take Care
Justin Bieber – Under the Mistletoe
Michael Bublé – Christmas
Nickelback – Here And Now
Can we be honest for a moment here? I don’t mean for this to sound like holier-than-thou anonymous hipster blogger belly-aching. But in all seriousness, that list is f&cking embarrassing.
Sure, the 2012 nominees sold a shedload of records last year, and most had a relatively high profile in the all-important American market. But if we are going to pretend that these are the five most important records released in Canada last year, then that’s just sad.
Nickelback continue to rewrite the same watered-down Metallica song again and again, complete with misogynistic lyrics and all the charm of a used condom. Bieber and Bublé were nominated for Christmas records, perhaps the tackiest of all dialling-it-in, easy-money schemes. I wasn’t even aware that Avril Lavigne was still alive, never mind making records. Apparently she crawled out from under the Rock of Obscurity just long enough to caterwaul a dozen or so new Generation Y ditties about boys and problems and boy problems into her bedazzled iPhone.
If there’s any justice, Drake should run away with this category (if not run away from this category). I’m not a particularly big fan of his music, but at least he did something this year to push along the state of modern Canadian popular music.
In fairness, a quick scan of the Album of the Year nominees for the past several years also reveals a depressing amount of dreck. Unless you happen to think that Justin Bieber, Billy Talent, Hedley, and Simple Plan make the best records in Canuckistan, in which case you might also think that the best show on TV is CSI and your favourite colour is beige.
Perhaps we’ll just have to concede that Album of the Year is more or less reserved for the most commercially successful Canadian album, artistic impression being a secondary (but unnecessary) trait. In a future blog, let’s examine the Adult Alternative Album of the Year category and see if we can find something a little more substantial (and a little less embarrassing) happening on the margins of the mainstream.