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Junos 2017: who will win, and who should win

Editorial Staff

This Sunday will bring us the 2017 Juno Awards, and with them come the ups and downs of fandom. Will Grimes finally be recognized for Art Angels? Will Justin Bieber nab the Fan Choice Award that has him once again facing off with Billboard chartmates Drake, Shawn Mendes and the Weeknd? Will Feist choose something other than "Hallelujah" for her Leonard Cohen tribute? Only time will tell.

That doesn't mean we can't make our bets, though. Below, CBC Music and ICI Musique producers from across the country weigh in on 12 categories to say who will win that Juno — and who should. Note: we stayed away from any categories that included sales as a measure of nomination, which removes ones like album and artist of the year.

Single of the year


“One Dance,” Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla
“Treat You Better,” Shawn Mendes
“Spirits,” the Strumbellas
“Starboy,” the Weeknd feat. Daft Punk
“Wild Things,” Alessia Cara

Should win: Drake
Will win: Shawn Mendes

Drake’s “One Dance” is the first song to reach a billion views on Spotify, adding to one of his many milestones in the digital music era. Logically the award should be given to him, as "One Dance" was the song of the summer and dominated 2017 as the most durable song from his record-breaking Views album. The Weeknd took home five awards last year and might be looked over this year as a result. However, Mendes, like Drake, also has five Juno nominations, and with the Pickering teenager getting the nod to open the ceremonies, it seems like he might get the edge for the prominent award.

— Del Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

Adult alternative album of the year


The Party, Andy Shauf
Good Advice, Basia Bulat
Secret Path, Gord Downie
You Want it Darker, Leonard Cohen
The Great Detachment, Wintersleep

Should win: Wintersleep
Will win: Leonard Cohen

It’s hard to compete with the death of an icon. “Mortality-obsessed and murky, it is a late masterpiece in the vein of Mahler’s ninth (and final) symphony. A gloomy note to go out on,” our own Jesse Kinos-Goodin wrote after Cohen’s passing, and You Want it Darker’s release just weeks before. Up against one of the country’s best songwriters, it’s tough for anyone else to win this category.

While an important record, Secret Path — an album and graphic novel about Chanie Wenjack, on the 50th anniversary of his death while trying to escape residential school — was made in a year that saw A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq release albums that also demanded reconciliation; Gord Downie should not get the statuette. Andy Shauf’s The Party is a beautiful collection of vignettes, and Basia Bulat’s Good Advice is a pop gem — but Cohen aside, the winner should be Wintersleep. The Great Detachment is a powerhouse sixth record from the Nova Scotia band, knocking out its first No. 1 song on the Canadian charts. Songs like “Amerika,” “Santa Fe” and “Spirit” make the case all on their own. The little band that should’ve made it bigger should also win this Juno.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)

Alternative album of the year


Touch, July Talk
Art Angels, Grimes
IV, Black Mountain
Weaves, Weaves
Sore, Dilly Dally

Should win: Grimes
Will win: Grimes

If you look up the names of previous winners in the alternative album of the year category, the list is shockingly good. Artists like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Rufus Wainwright appear multiple times, and every winning album is now pretty much considered a Canadian classic. For that reason, there will probably not be an upset here: Grimes both should and will win. Technically, Art Angels was released in 2015, but just a little too close to the nomination deadline to have made an impact on last year’s Junos. However, after hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Album chart and being named NME’s album of the year, Grimes finds herself back this year with no fewer than three nominations, and a damn good chance at sweeping all of them.

— Andrea Gin (@andreagin)

Indigenous album of the year


Round Dance & Beats (Powwow), Bryden Gwiss Kiwenzie
Fish Out of Water, Crystal Shawanda,
Tiny Hands, Quantum Tangle
Debut, Silla + Rise
Earthly Days, William Prince

Should win: Silla + Rise
Will win: William Prince

Silla + Rise’s album is artful, visceral, experimental and ambitious. Combining electronic beats and contemporary and traditional throat singing, Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut, Nunavut) and Charlotte Qamaniq (Iglulik, Nunavut) have crafted something both deeply rooted to the land and almost otherworldly. It’s a thrilling experience, but it might still be too unconventional for some Junos voters, especially when contrasted with William Prince’s rootsy, folk-noir Earthly Days.

To be clear, just because it’s a more conventional record, doesn’t mean it’s not deserving of the prize. Prince’s debut album recalls vintage Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. It’s beautifully written, thoughtfully crafted and his voice is warm but rough, tender and full, like a hot spring rumbling up from the Earth’s crust. It’s powerful, but it’s something we’ve heard before, whereas Silla + Rise’s Debut is one boundary-pushing surprise after another.

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner)


R&B/soul recording of the year


Starboy, the Weeknd
Pilgrim’s Paradise, Daniel Caesar
Sept. 5th, Dvsn
PartyNextDoor 3, PartyNextDoor
Soul Run, Tanika Charles

Should win: the Weeknd
Will win: the Weeknd

There are some great acts in this year's R&B/soul category, but the Weeknd will most likely take the win — and he should. When he released Starboy last year, Abel Tesfaye's album went to No. 1 in more than 80 countries in just 24 hours. He's proven over and over again his ability to stay on top. Not only does he collaborate with other big names to compliment his style — from Daft Punk to Beyoncé — but after three studio albums, he's still able to maintain his fresh, sexy sound. Starboy marks a new era for the Weeknd, as it proves he's got the chops for Billboard mainstay.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

Songwriter of the year


Donovan Woods, "Leaving Nashville"
Tegan and Sara, "Boyfriend"
Gord Downie, "The Stranger"
Leonard Cohen, "You Want It Darker"
Ruth B, "Lost Boy"

Should win: Leonard Cohen
Will win: Leonard Cohen

Similar to other big categories at the Junos, the battle for songwriter of the year pits younger talent against some Canadian veterans. (The one exception here is Tegan and Sara, who are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.) While Tegan and Sara’s infectious “Boyfriend” was one of the best pop singles released last year, it feels like this will come down to two of the country’s most beloved and prolific songwriters: the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie and the late Leonard Cohen. Downie’s Secret Path project was an impassioned statement, telling the story of Chanie Wenjack, but Cohen’s spiritual and morose title track from his latest album is a chill-inducing number that highlights what he did best. It just feels appropriate to award one of our most standout songwriters in the last year of his eligibility.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)

Classical album of the year: solo or chamber ensemble


Schubert: Sonatas and Impromptus, Janina Fialkowska
Overtures to Bach, Matt Haimovitz
Brahms: String Quartets, Op. 51, Nos. 1 & 2, New Orford String Quartet
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71, Stewart Goodyear
Beethoven, Enescu, Chopin (Live), Charles Richard-Hamelin

Should win: Stewart Goodyear
Will win: Charles Richard-Hamelin

Of the four classical categories, this one is the closest race. I practically wore out my copy of Fialkowska’s Schubert, but it was perhaps not as fleet-fingered as some other notable recordings of that repertoire. Cellist Matt Haimovitz’s Overtures to Bach was an ambitious pairing of newly commissioned works with the solo Bach that inspired them. Did the results live up to the goals? Not sure. The New Orford String Quartet can do no wrong, and their Brahms album certainly got high praise, but it’s hard to approach these oft-recorded quartets with fresh ears. The brilliance of Stewart Goodyear’s solo piano arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is surpassed only by his own performance of it — seriously, you’ve got to hear it to believe it. He deserves the Juno, but will likely be edged out by Charles Richard-Hamelin’s gorgeous, eloquent recital disc, recorded live at Quebec City’s Palais Montcalm in the wake of his second prize at the International Chopin Competition.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)

World music album of the year


Nouvelle Journée, Lorraine Klaasen
Dance of the Infidels, Nomadica
Self-titled, Okavango African Orchestra
Subcontinental Drift, Sultans of String
Nazar, Turkwaz

Should win: Okavango African Orchestra
Will win: Sultans of String

It's hard to pick a winner in the world music category this year. While you may have heard enough covers of "Blowing in the Wind," Sultans of String are supremely talented musicians, and may well win it. But Okavango African Orchestra should win for its beautiful pan-African collaboration. Nomadica's Dance of the Infidels is a raucous, infectious, horn-laden album and could also claim the prize. The talented members of Turkwaz are a bit of an underdog, while Lorraine Klaasen won in 2013 and recorded Nouvelle Journée with the same producer — so she can't be ruled out. Next year's winner may be easier to predict, since Roberto Lopez released Criollo Electrik a couple weeks ago. But this year? It's anyone's game.

— Reuben Maan (@rjmaan)

Jazz album of the year


One Way Up, Dave Young Quintet
Twenty, Metalwood
Real Enemies, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
Flux, Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux
Sweet Canadiana, Order of Canada Band

Should win: Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux
Will win: Order of Canada Band

Typical of the genre, this year’s nominees cover all sides of the jazz spectrum. On one end, bassist Dave Young presented a deeply swinging quintet record that features expat Renee Rosnes on piano and has a distinct 1960s vibe. In contrast, beloved electric jazz group Metalwood reappeared with its first release in 14 years, and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society put out another album showing Argue’s unique take on large ensemble writing.

While these are all strong records, two offerings stand out. Saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff shows an ear for innovation with his bass-less quartet album Flux, which features his forward-thinking compositions and alto saxophone monster David Binney. However, it might be topped by the Order of Canada Band’s Sweet Canadiana — how do you compete with a big band rendition of Oscar Peterson’s Canadiana Suite played by a team of soloists from the Order of Canada?

— Chris Maskell (@maskellch)

Francophone album of the year


Trente, Karim Ouellet
Le fantastique des astres, Yann Perreau
Ultramarr, Fred Fortin
Love Suprême, Koriass
XO, Laurence Nerbonne

Should win: Laurence Nerbonne
Will win: Fred Fortin

This category contains a remarkable pool of talent. Although he put out one of the sexiest dance-pop albums in 2016, Yann Perreau’s effort may not make the cut for this Juno Award — it just wasn't as jaw-dropping as his previous records. Similarly, Karim Ouellet’s Trente is too safe an album. Koriass’s Love Suprême, however, is a pretty strong contender, as it won for best hip-hop album at the previous Gala de l’ADISQ. That said, Laurence Nerbonne’s irresistible Swedish pop sound and Fred Fortin’s solid songwriting both have the potential of winning this year’s award. But Fortin has one advantage : Ultramarr is actually one of the best French folk-rolk albums of the decade.

— Claudia Beaumont (@ClaudiaBeaumont)

Rap recording of the year


Another Day in Paradise, Belly
Views, Drake
Hotel Paranoia, Jazz Cartier
Subcontinental Drift, Tasha the Amazon
I Told You, Tory Lanez

Should win: Drake
Will win: Drake

No disrespect to the other nominees in this category, but this should be a cakewalk for Drake. That’s not to say the others are lightweights in this category: Jazz Cartier and Tasha the Amazon are delivering on their early promise, while Belly proved his durability and adaptability and Tory Lanez had some bona fide hit singles, generating genuine traction south of the border. However, none of these artists came close to achieving the record-breaking global and digital dominance Drake achieved with Views, and it looks like he will be rewarded for that. — DC

Country album of the year


The Score, Aaron Pritchett
Hearts on Fire, Chad Brownlee
Side Effects, Dallas Smith
Tin Roof, Gord Bamford
Kiss Me Quiet, Jess Moskaluke

Should win: Jess Moskaluke
Will win: Dallas Smith

Johnny Reid and Dean Brody have been the frontrunners in this category the last six years, and as Dallas Smith is the only previously nominated artist in this year’s list, it will go one of two ways: the Junos could pick a new steady favourite (Smith) or crown a brand new winner. Jess Moskaluke was named female artist of the year at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards for the third consecutive time in 2016, and her album Kiss Me Quiet is the brand of new country Canada’s been hanging its hat on — though former Default frontman Smith is in that lane, too. Gord Bamford and Chad Brownlee rep the older-school sound with their albums — not country twangers, but more Garth Brooks story-songs. We think the Junos are going to hand this one to Smith, as he’s been racking up the hits — but we’d like to see Moskaluke take home the statuette. — HG

More to explore:

Girls to the front: an all-women playlist for Junos 2017

An oral history of the night Nelly Furtado was discovered, 20 years ago

Ruth B: a 3-song Junos primer

Dallas Smith: a 3-song Junos primer