Simu Liu, Shawn Mendes light up Juno awards in celebration of music, diversity


Charlotte Cardin must know what Cinderella feels like.

After winning a trio of awards at Saturday’s Gala Industry dinner, the Montreal singer and songwriter cemented her status as the Juno Awards’ Belle of the Ball as she made it four out of six with her album “Phoenix” being named Album of the Year at Sunday’s ceremony the first to be held in front of a live crowd since before the pandemic.

“I’m completely shocked,” said Cardin, who also performed “Meaningless” earlier in the program.

The other big Juno winners over the weekend were The Weeknd — who didn’t attend, with Songwriter and Contemporary R&B/Soul Recording of the year — and Shawn Mendes, who did, named TikTok Juno Fan Choice Award winner along with the International Achievement Award.

“Fans are everything,” he said upon accepting the Fan Choice Award. “I get to do my favourite thing for a living and it’s all because of you guys.”

Charlotte Cardin performs during the Juno Awards in Toronto where she won Album of the Year for "Phoenix," among other honours.

Overall, it was a powerful two-hours of musical highlights, hosted by Simu Liu — of “Kim’s Convenience” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi” fame — who proved both entertaining and charismatic.

Liu opened the show with a salute to all things Canadian, channelling the infamous “I am a Canadian” ad campaign, “Canada is a place where the government is also our drug dealer … where women always have the right to choose,” he said. “In Canada, you can truly have anything except for affordable housing. That’s a tough one.”

Of course, the night was about the music — and stirring performances by A-list music stars Arcade Fire, Arkells, Mustafa, performing in a bulletproof vest marked “Poet,” and Avril Lavigne, who performed a medley of hits that included “Complicated” and “Sk8ter Boi.”

The stars were out for the Juno Awards on Sunday, where many discussed being inspired by beloved Ontario pop-punk singer Avril Lavigne, who performed during the show. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

One of the evening’s most glamorous highlights was Deborah Cox’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. After being introduced by former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh, Cox was feted by international stars Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, esteemed record executive Clive Davis — who signed her to her first record deal — and homegrown stars Russell Peters, Melanie Fiona and Glenn Lewis, Cox took to the stage to express her gratitude.

“So many have embarked on a musical career, but only few have landed here,” said Cox. “Growing up as a young Black girl in Toronto, Canada, this vision seemed impossible. It wasn’t easy to leave my home, but it was necessary. Otherwise, I’m not sure that I’d be standing here this evening.

“Those rejections became my redirection and only added fuel to my fire.”

Later, she blew away the estimated 8,000 in attendance with a medley of songs including “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here,” “Who Do You Love,” and “Beautiful U R.”

Another highlight was Shawn Mendes winning the International Achievement Award.

“I really thought if I could just write one big hit, some people would like me, and then I would be enough,” said Mendes. “We’re taught to believe that what we achieve is the same thing as what we are worth. But something I know to be true now is that I was enough before anybody knew my name.”

“I’m just here to tell you that while you are chasing your dreams, don’t forget to enjoy the process. And remember, you’re already enough.”

Toronto’s Haviah Mighty won Rap Album/EP of the Year for her “Stock Exchange” mixtape — the first woman to win the award.

Haviah Mighty became the first woman to win the Juno Award for best rap album/EP of the year, sparking a discussion on what’s next when it comes to recognition for Canadian women in the genre. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“This is for all the women in hip-hop,” Mighty said as she accepted her award.

B.C. pop singer Jessia was named Breakthrough Artist and Darren Hamilton from David Suzuki Secondary School in Brampton was named MusiCounts Teacher of the Year. Arkells accepted Group of the Year honours, although Max Kerman admitted backstage that they were a little nervous speaking to some of their musical heroes during rehearsals.

“Just talked to Win Butler of Arcade Fire — he’s a hero,” Kerman admitted. “I’ve had conversations with Mustafa and Charlotte Cardin to pick their brains about songwriting.”

Hamilton rock act The Arkells won for group of the year at the Junos.

While the night was about awards, it was the performances that were the highlight.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids and DJ Shub blew the roof off with a medley of “War Club,” “Rebirth” and “Uncle Rico,” filled with a colourful assortment of hoop dancers and other Indigenous artists. And $bbno led an army of Smurf-capped musicians for memorable renditions of “Lalala” and “edamame.”

Arcade Fire capped off a glorious evening with a smoking version of “Unconditional 1 (Lookout Kid),” accompanied by students from Sistema Toronto a charity that provides free music education to young people in underserved communities.

Meanwhile, at the Toronto Convention Centre on Saturday evening, the majority of awards were handed out: 40 trophies and three special honours in all.

There were a host of firsts at Saturday night’s pre-telecast Juno Awards in Toronto. The list includes 13-year-old Kairo McLean, the youngest performer to win for reggae recording of the year; Hill Kourkoutis, the first woman to win for recording engineer of the year; and comedy album of the year award winner Andrea Jin, the first Asian Canadian woman to win in her category. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

With 1,400 members of the music industry and guests in attendance, the three-and-a-half hour program focused on the diversity and gender parity that the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has made their mission over the last few years.

A new category was introduced — Underground Single of the Year — while two were expanded: Rap is now represented by Single of the Year and Album/EP of the Year, and Indigenous music now boasts Contemporary and Traditional Artist of the Year categories.

There were also a number of firsts: Toronto’s Hill Kourkoutis, the first woman nominated for Recording Engineer of the Year category, also became the first to win it; and Regent Park’s Mustafa Ahmed was the first Black Muslim to win a Juno for Alternative Album of the Year for “When Smoke Rises.”

Mustafa performs during the Juno Awards in Toronto on Sunday.

Ahmed used his moment on the podium to deliver a sobering message.

“I wrote a record on loss — on the loss of friends in Regent Park. And I had to do it because as they were breaking down my community, I realized in that moment that, the only people that were going to be able to document the memories of my friends, were the people that knew them. I watched Canadian publications announce the deaths of my friends using mug shots, descriptors being dated criminal records, and I knew then that I had to rewrite their memories.

“I’m not going to speak to how I’m the first Black Muslim to get this award. I think that being the first of anything should now be critiqued more than celebrated.”

A lighthearted Juno moment occurred when Caity Gyorgy (pronounced Caity George) won her first award in the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year category for “Now Pronouncing: Caity Gyorgy.”

After expressing her gratitude to a host of supporters, Gyorgy said winning a Juno was sort of in the cards.

“In 2016, I graduated high school and I was voted ‘Most Likely To Win A Juno’ in my high school yearbook,” gushed Gyorgy, who divides her time between Toronto and Montreal.

“I’m so happy it happened!”

Avril Lavigne performed a medley of hits at the Juno awards, including "Complicated," "Damn Cold Night" and "Sk8er Boi."

An intriguing moment also occurred when Kairo McLean, 13, won the Reggae Recording of the Year category for “Easy Now” and gave a shout-out to late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Other local winners include Avataar (Jazz Album of the Year for “Worldview;”) Emily D’Angelo (Classical Album of the Year — Solo Artist for “enargeia”); Ebony “WondaGurl” Oshunrinde for Producer of the Year, her second win in a row; Monowhales for Breakthrough Group of the Year; Savannah Ré (Traditional R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for “24 Hours;”) The Beaches (Rock Album of the Year for “Sisters Not Twins (The Professional Lovers Album)”;) Serena Ryder, her seventh Juno, for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year (“The Art Of Falling Apart;”) Charmaine for “BOLD” — Rap Single of the Year and HNTR for Underground Dance Single of the Year for “Shadows In the Dark ft. Elliot Moss.”

A trio of special achievement awards were also presented, as Dallas Green received the MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Awards for donating to the MusiCounts program — which equips schools with musical instruments across Canada.

Three-time Juno winner Susan Aglukark, raised in Arviat, Nunavut, received the Humanitarian Award for her Arctic Rose Foundation, which promotes arts-based, after-school programs in three Nunavut communities and helps Northern Inuit, First Nations and Métis youth express their culture through art and other projects.

Late Brampton-based impresario Denise Jones received the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, named after the founder of music trade weekly RPM and the Juno Awards themselves, for championing Black Caribbean culture in Canada, particularly reggae music.

Jones, who among many things, promoted the Afro-Caribbean culture through Jones and Jones Productions, was represented by her sons Jesse and Jerimi.

“Her devotion to championing our beloved Afro-Caribbean culture and the many examples of artistic and business excellence that exist within our community resulted in the creation of well-known achievements, like the creation of the Junos Reggae category; the founding of Jambana/One World Festival; the second largest Afro-centric cultural event in Canada — and the building of frameworks and infrastructures that many in our industry have continued to benefit from,” Jesse said.

The 52nd Junos are scheduled to be held in Edmonton on March 12, 2023.

Joshua Chong is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach Joshua via email: [email protected]


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