It was a night of positivity and resilience at the Juno Awards as the stars of Canadian music focused on celebrating the upsides of life.
Host Michael Buble set the tone early on Sunday night by announcing his wife’s third pregnancy — but other performers were quick to grab the tide of optimism during their own stage moments.
“I just hope that we can all rise above negativity in our lives and just do what we believe in,” said Arcade Fire’s Win Butler as he accepted the band’s album award for “Everything Now.”
“Speak your truth and don’t be afraid to just do whatever the hell you want.”
Gord Downie’s brothers Mike and Patrick echoed an unbounded sense of resolve as they accepted a posthumous award for the singer, who died last October of brain cancer.
“If we’ve learned anything from Gord it was the value of taking care of each other,” said Patrick.
“This is Gord’s award. It’s artist of the year, but he was our man of a lifetime. I’d like to believe we’re all better artists and people because of him. We love you Gord and we’re all taking good care of each other.”
An acoustic tribute to Downie was led by Sarah Harmer and Dallas Green, alongside Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn, who performed “Bobcaygeon” as archival clips of the Tragically Hip frontman played behind them.
It was Buble whose seemingly effortless charm kept the show on an upbeat track.
Without fully addressing why he stepped aside from his Juno hosting duties last year, he acknowledged this was a comeback of sorts. He pulled out of the 2017 Junos after his son was diagnosed with cancer.
Buble told the audience that after being “gone for a while” he wondered if he might have lost “whatever it is” that built his name.
“But honestly after standing here for 40 seconds, I realize that I’m even better than I was before,” he added.
Buble later joined Diana Krall for a charming duet of the Nat King Cole classic “L-O-V-E.”
Daniel Caesar grabbed R&B/soul recording for his album “Freudian” while Jessie Reyez scored breakthrough artist. She offered an emotional acceptance speech reflecting on her sudden rise to fame.
“It means so much to get this love out at home,” she said.
Both performers reappeared later to duet on Reyez’s song “Figures.”
There were a number of pseudo surprises throughout the show.
The rappers behind the Canadian hit “Northern Touch” took it upon themselves to improvise a version of the song they were once denied performing on the Junos telecast 20 years ago.
The Northern Touch All-Stars announced Tory Lanez as the winner of this year’s rap award, but when he wasn’t around to accept it, rapper Kardinal Offishall jumped in to ask the audience a question.
“Don’t you all wish we had some more hip hop in here tonight?” he said.
“I know this is going to mess up the Junos a little bit — but I don’t care. Do you want to do ‘Northern Touch’ right now?
The group — which also includes rappers Red1, Misfit, Checkmate, Thrust and Choclair — then launched into a full version of “Northern Touch,” which appeared on the Rascalz 1998 album “Cash Crop.”
Junos president Allan Reid acknowledged the moment was partly staged. He said the Junos organizers approached the rap group earlier in the afternoon with the idea.
One of the night’s other big surprises wouldn’t have shocked gossip magazine readers.
Recent tabloid speculation that Buble’s wife is pregnant became an official announcement on the show as the singer revealed actress Luisana Lopilato is expecting their third child.
He told the audience it was the second time her pregnancy has been linked to the Junos. Five years ago when he hosted in Regina, she was expecting their first child.
“Oops you did it again!” Buble said as the audience cheered the revelation.
Grimes and Buffy St. Marie introduced pop artist Lights with an impassioned speech for gender equality led by the Indigenous folk singer.
“It’s time for change, it’s time for women to be recognized for our accomplishments and our value to this industry,” St. Marie said with powerful delivery.
“We need to build a foundation upon which we can support an environment that actually encourages success for women… because it’s not here yet.”
Barenaked Ladies and former bandmate Steven Page were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
After singing a brief tune as they accepted their award, the band closed the broadcast by launching into some of their old hits, starting with ”One Week.” It was the first time they’d performed with Page since he went solo nearly a decade ago.
The group wasn’t alone on stage for long, as it evolved into an all-star tribute, with guests who spanned the music genres and fit comfortably with the band’s offbeat sense of humour.
Jann Arden, Jim Cuddy and Nunavut band The Jerry Cans danced alongside members of the Northern Touch All-Stars as they all performed a sing-along to “If I Had $1,000,000,” which finished with balloons and fake million-dollar bills falling from the rafters.
Page then pulled from one of the song’s most famous lines about Kraft Dinner to pose a question that’s lingered for years:
“Come on, 30 years now, Kraft. Isn’t it time for a sponsorship?
David Friend, The Canadian Press