London, ON: It was Corey's night.
The two-hour 48th Annual Juno Awards ceremony, broadcast live for the second year in a row - and for the first time in London's Budweiser Gardens, rightfully prided itself for showcasing new artists, many of whom received their first national CBC TV exposure: Alt-pop siren bülow, country duo The Reklaws and rappers Loud and NAV among them.
But the evening belonged to an old sentimental favourite, Montréal heart-throb Corey Hart, nearly 20 years removed from the public eye and on the verge of staging a welcome comeback. For all the accomplishments that landed him in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame - hits like "Sunglasses at Night," "Never Surrender," and selling a million copies in Canada of his sophomore album, Boy In the Box - the thunderous ovation that greeted him when host Sarah McLachlan called him to the stage clearly overwhelmed him, reinforcing the realization that despite his time away, Hart has not been forgotten.
Tears of joy filled his eyes as he accepted the Juno, but his first expressed thoughts were not so much about the success or popularity he accomplished, but something much more grounding and closer to his heart.
"I believe that music and love are the most enduring and powerful forces of good in the world," Hart said after regaining his composure. "Without music - or the Junos - I never would have never met my precious Julie. And without love, I would have never experienced the miracle of cradling in my arms, my four precious babies - India, Dante, Rain and River - who are all here tonight, all grown up. I want to speak - Daddy's very proud of all you guys. As a songwriter, I can honestly say that those are the greatest songs that I'll ever write."
And with that sentiment, the 7,000 hearts in attendance at Budweiser Gardens melted.
But he wasn't done. He then outstretched his arms - verbally speaking - to his second family, and one that Hart has embraced from Day One: his fans.
"Without you, my songs would have no home," he continued. "They would leave me unrequited and empty, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Needless to say, nothing else really emotionally topped the Hart segment, although Jessie Reyez - the winner of the R&B/Soul Recording of the Year for Being Human In Public - shed a few tears after accepting her prize from Sting - the night's big surprise guest and whose standing ovation was second that evening only to Corey Hart - and Humanitarian Award winner and producer superstar David Foster.
But even her acceptance speech took its cue from Hart's.
"To quote Mr. Hart, without y'all, there's no home for my songs," Reyez stated. "And it's such a beautiful line, because it's true. None of it's possible without your support, thank you very much. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I am you and you are me; if there's one thing that you're taking and you're willing to work hard for it - do it - you can do whatever you want."
As far as the awards went, Shawn Mendes almost completed the sweep, winning his fifth Juno of the weekend, in the category of Album of the Year, for Shawn Mendes, but stymied in the seventh hour by a surprise Juno Fan Choice Award victory by the absent Avril Lavigne. Yeah, Mendes wasn't in the London that matters; but at least there was a consolation performance of "In My Blood" by pop's current heartthrob, pre-taped and beamed by satellite from Europe where he is on tour.
The only other multiple winners were Hamilton's Arkells, who added Group of the Year hardware to their previous Rock Album of the Year win for Rally Cry. Singer Max Kerman remembered the first time his band played the locale in his acceptance speech: “The first time we played London as a band, we had to take the Greyhound here, and we put our gear underneath the bus," he mused.
Other Juno Award winners included Breakthrough Artist of the Year bülow and Brett Kissel's We Were That Song - an album that Kissel noted included contributions from both Megadeth's Dave Mustaine and country legend Charley Pride - for Country Album of the Year.
Highlights of the show itself included the big, local bang of London's own Loud Luxury, featuring Brando, performing their massive hit "Body" with the Western Mustangs Marching Band and Cheerleaders and a sea of white and purple pom-poms. The explosive and colourful performance featuring numerous women being flipped like pancakes into the air and landing with impressive feats of athleticism was visually stunning. It was the most dramatic number of the night.
Tyler Shaw also acquitted himself admirably with a standout solo guitar performance of "With You;" Jeremy Dutcher's operatic rendition of "Sakomawit" may have been the most daring number of the night; Sarah McLachlan teaming up with her old cohorts, Whitehorse, and a trio of students from her own Sarah McLachlan School of Music for "Beautiful Girl" and "In Your Shoes" was pleasant enough and the triumphant show-closing medley of "Never Surrender" and "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey with wife Julie Masse singing back-up was its own show-stopper.
A strictly visual highlight: Hubert Lenoir, in strange yellow pancake make-up, reddened cheeks and twisted dreads, introducing a performance by Coeur du Pirate and Loud. Bizarre.
If this edition of the Juno Awards left any other impression, it was one that was surprisingly political. From Sarah McLachlan's veiled slap against POTUS, to a statement to honour reconciliation and respect Canada's indigenous population from Toronto Star journalist, author and presenter Tanya Talaga; to David Foster pleading for an increase in Canadian organ donors; to the endorsement of MusiCounts and its mission to supply new musical instruments to schools across the nation. There is a notion that music and the musical community needs to lead the way for social and political change, so we all can enjoy a better life. It may be a lofty goal, but the Junos seem up to the challenge.
Anyhow, now that the 48th Juno Awards ceremony is in the books, Saskatoon is up for edition 49. But fair warning Junos: London wants you back.
You can watch more performances from Sunday night's show on the Juno Awards' YouTube channel here.
And here is the complete list of winners, with those from Sunday night's Juno Awards ceremony marked with an asterisk:
JUNO FAN CHOICE (PRESENTED BY TD)*
Avril Lavigne BMG*ADA
ALBUM OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY MUSIC CANADA)*
Shawn Mendes Shawn Mendes Universal
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
In My Blood Shawn Mendes Universal
INTERNATIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR
beerbongs & bentleys Post Malone Universal
ARTIST OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED WITH APPLE MUSIC)
Shawn Mendes Universal
GROUP OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED WITH APPLE MUSIC)*
BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY FACTOR, THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA, AND CANADA'S PRIVATE RADIO BROADCASTERS)*
BREAKTHROUGH GROUP OF THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY FACTOR, THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA, AND CANADA’S PRIVATE RADIO BROADCASTERS)
The Washboard Union Warner
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY SOCAN)
“Lost In Japan” – co-songwriters Nate Mercereau, Scott Harris, Teddy Geiger, “Youth” – co-songwriters Geoff Warburton, Khalid Robinson, Scott Harris, Teddy Geiger, “In My Blood” – co-songwriters Geoff Warburton, Scott Harris, Teddy Geiger SHAWN MENDES – Shawn Mendes Universal
Publisher Universal Music Publishing
COUNTRY ALBUM OF THE YEAR*
We Were That Song - Brett Kissel - Warner
ADULT ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Earthtones Bahamas Universal
ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY LONG & MCQUADE)
Baby Teeth Dizzy Royal Mountain*Universal
POP ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Shawn Mendes Shawn Mendes Universal
ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Rally Cry Arkells Arkells*Universal
VOCAL JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Laila Biali Laila Biali Chronograph*Fontana North/Universal
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOLO
Old Soul Robi Botos A440*Universal
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR: GROUP
The Seasons of Being Andy Milne & Dapp Theory Sunnyside*AMPED/AEC/eOne
INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR
China Cloud Gordon Grdina madic*Independent/Universal
FRANCOPHONE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Une année record Loud Joy Ride*Universal
CHILDREN’S ALBUM OF THE YEAR
You, Me and the Sea Splash’N Boots Independent*Fontana North/Universal
CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOLO OR CHAMBER
The End of Flowers: Works by Clarke & RavelGryphon Trio Analekta*Select/The Orchard
CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: LARGE ENSEMBLE
Vaughan Williams Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian featuring Louis Lortie, Sarah Jeffrey, & Teng Li Chandos* Naxos
CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: VOCAL OR CHORAL
Vienna: Fin de siècle Barbara Hannigan with Reinbert De Leeuw Alpha*Naxos
CLASSICAL COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR
Golden Slumbers Kiss your Eyes Ana Sokolović Analekta*Select/The Orchard
RAP RECORDING OF THE YEAR
LoVE me NOw Tory Lanez Interscope*Universal
DANCE RECORDING OF THE YEAR
Body Loud Luxury Armada Music B.V*Sony
R&B/SOUL RECORDING OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY CBC MUSIC)*
Being Human In Public - Jessie Reyez Universal
REGGAE RECORDING OF THE YEAR
Sly & Robbie meet Dubmatix – OverdubbedDubmatix Echo Beach*Fontana North/Universal/The Orchard
INDIGENOUS MUSIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY APTN)
Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa Jeremy Dutcher Independent*Fontana North/Universal
CONTEMPORARY ROOTS ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Both Ways Donovan Woods Meant Well*Fontana North/Universal
TRADITIONAL ROOTS ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Sweet Old Religion Pharis and Jason Romero Borealis*Fontana North/Universal/Free Dirt
BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Miles To Go Colin James True North*IDLA/Universal
CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN/GOSPEL ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Tired Of Basic LOVECOLLIDE ABS Entertainment*The Fuel Music
WORLD MUSIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY AEROMEXICO)
Rapadou Kreyol Wesli WUP*Select
JACK RICHARDSON PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Eric Ratz “People’s Champ”, “Relentless” RALLY CRY – Arkells Arkells*Universal
RECORDING ENGINEER OF THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY 3M)
Shawn Everett “Slow Burn”, “Space Cowboy”GOLDEN HOUR – Kacey Musgraves Universal
ALBUM ARTWORK OF THE YEAR
Mike Milosh (Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, & Photographer) BLOOD – Rhye Last Gang*eOne
VIDEO OF THE YEAR (PRESENTED BY STINGRAY)
No Depression Ali Eisner Bahamas Universal
Director of Photography: Peter John Schnobb
ELECTRONIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Deception Bay Milk & Bone Bonsound*Sony
METAL/HARD MUSIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Wake Voivod Century Media*Sony
ADULT CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Love Michael Bublé Warner
COMEDY ALBUM OF THE YEAR (SPONSORED BY SIRIUSXM CANADA)
Good Friend Bad Grammar Dave Merheje Macaw*Independent
CANADIAN MUSIC HALL OF FAME*
HUMANITARIAN AWARD (PRESENTED BY MUSIC CANADA)
WALT GREALIS SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD