Even without a red carpet, the Juno Awards found ways to march generations of Canadian stars through their 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday night.
From Shania Twain and Michael Buble to Kaytranada and Justin Bieber, many of the country’s most successful acts paid tribute to Canada’s biggest celebration of music remotely from locations across the world.
One of the glaring absences early in the proceedings also happened to be a big winner.
The Weeknd picked up artist and album of the year, but the Toronto singer didn’t turn up to accept either of his awards.
Others did, however, including pop balladeer JP Saxe who was named breakthrough artist of the year.
“I’ve never given a speech like this before,” said the stunned newcomer as he bumbled through an opening line before getting his bearings and thanking his father, and his girlfriend and co-writer Julia Michaels.
The Toronto-raised singer became a radio favourite last year for the duet “If the World Was Ending,” which he co-wrote and performs with Michaels.
Other winners included Savannah Re for traditional R&B/Soul recording for “Solid.”
Anne Murray ushered Jann Arden into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a belated induction that was originally supposed to happen last year.
Speaking from her East Coast home, Murray reflected on the “Insensitive” singer’s compassionate personality.
“Not only is she funny and a fine singer-songwriter, she’s also a fine human being,” Murray said.
“Any time I’ve called upon her she’s been there for me. She is warm, witty, kind, compassionate and wears her heart on her sleeve.”
Arden, who started by joking she was “too young” for the honour, paid tribute to her late mother Joan Richards who died in 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and performed the song “Good Mother.”
Buffy Sainte-Marie opened the show on a sombre note by addressing the recent discovery of what’s believed to be the remains of 215 children buried at a former Kamloops residential school.
She said while the news may be “shocking to some people and a revelation” it is not surprising to Indigenous people.
“The genocide basic to this country’s birth is ongoing and we need to face it together,” she added.
“And I ask for your compassion.”
Kardinal Offishall led viewers through a journey of Canadian hip hop history to mark the 30th anniversary of the rap recording category.
Maestro Fresh Wes made an appearance with “Let Your Backbone Slide” before Michie Mee, Jully Black, Nav and Haviah Mighty and rounded out the generations of artists who’ve often gone underrecognized at the awards show.
And Justin Bieber performed “Somebody” from Los Angeles against a kaleidoscopic backdrop.
The Junos originally hoped to mark their 50th anniversary with an event at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, but Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions put an end to that goal. Instead, organizers announced they’ll return to Toronto for next year’s show.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2021.