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Alessia Cara: a 3-song Junos primer

Andrea Warner

Now with 11 acts and artists confirmed to perform so far (Feist was most recently announced for a tribute to Leonard Cohen), this year’s Junos broadcast on Sunday, April 2, promises to be one of the biggest in the award ceremony’s history.

From emerging artists like Ruth B to established acts like Sarah McLachlan and Billy Talent, there’s something for every music fan, and there are also a lot of great opportunities to discover exciting, new-to-you artists for your earbuds — to punch up your playlists or add to your record collection, or scope out for when their tours come to your hometown.

Think of the live Junos broadcast as an opportunity to survey just a little bit more of the country’s music scene, its depth and breadth, and then keep checking back daily as CBC Music posts its handy three-song primers for each artist and band, as well as a few quotes to help deepen your appreciation of all these great musicians.

Alessia Cara

Cara was just 13 years old when she made her own YouTube channel to upload her acoustic covers to the streaming service. At 18, she was suddenly a viral sensation thanks to her first original song, “Here,” a too-real R&B-pop smash that made her a household name. It became the first single off her debut release, 2015’s Know-It-All, a record that, so far, has sparked three massive hits. In 2016, Cara won a Juno for breakthrough artist, and Disney came calling, recruiting her to sing the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned Moana anthem, “How Far I’ll Go.”

It seems almost impossible given all her success the last 20 months, but 2017 might be Cara’s biggest year yet. On Feb. 4 she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and on Feb. 23, she released “Stay,” with Zedd, which racked up 40 million YouTube views in its first three weeks. It’s now close to 60 million. And Cara’s nominated in four categories at this year’s Juno Awards, including single, artist and pop album of the year.

Below are three essential songs that provide a bit of shape and context to the band’s evolving sound, as well as some quotes and interview excerpts to help you get to know the real Alessia Cara.

Song: “Here”
Album: Know-It-All (2015)

An excerpt from Cara’s interview with Taylor Swift, talking about the “lame” party that inspired "Here:"

"It’s funny because now I hear that it gets played at parties. If you think about it, it’s such a miserable song for a single. But it worked, right?"

Song: “Scars to Your Beautiful”
Album: Know-It-All (2015)

On self-esteem and body image (Teen Vogue, 2016): 

Teen Vogue: What inspired "Scars To Your Beautiful?"

Alessia Cara: I was finding it really hard to be a girl in this world today. With all these expectations being thrown at us, I wanted to make women forget, and remind everyone that you don’t have to conform to these standards or molds that we’re expected to fit into. There are so many different kinds of beautiful, and it’s about time that we start embracing all of them.

TV: Did you expect the reaction the song got?

AC: I really didn’t. I made it for young women like myself, because I think the media's beauty standards affect us the most. But it wasn’t until I released the song that I realized how many other people were affected and connected to it, whether it was older men or women. But that's the beauty of it. It proves that so many people, regardless of if we think so or not, are affected by that kind of message.

TV: You made the pact to not wear makeup when you perform the song? Why is that?

AC: I'm not anti-makeup or anything, it’s because the song is about embracing yourself and your natural qualities, and loving yourself for who you are. I could never preach that when I have a whole face of makeup on, my hair all done up, and clothes that aren't even mine. I just made it a point, every time I sing it, to be natural, to show people you don't need to be all done up. People think that to be a pop star you have to look a certain way. I want to show people that there’s an alternative.

TV: What do you hope people who listen to the song realize about their own inner beauty?

AC: It’s the world that's messed up, and it’s the world’s twisted view of what beauty should be. They need to change, it’s never you.

Teen Vogue

Song: “How Far I'll Go”
Album: Moana soundtrack (2016)

On identifying with Moana herself (, 2016):

"It's one of the first Disney films to feature the main girl without a love interest. She's a very independent person, stubborn and wants to explore outside of the world she owns and that's very much me. I very much resonated with her in a lot of ways."

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

More to explore: 

Sarah McLachlan: a 3-song Junos primer

Arkells: a 3-song Junos primer

July Talk: a 3-song Junos primer

A Tribe Called Red: a 3-song Junos primer