The Junos: Canada’s oldest teenager

0 Posted by - March 28, 2011 - Blog, Editorial, Screen, Sound

Juno Awards

There is a kind of cultural hang-up about music in Canada, mostly centered on the CRTC‘s contentious rules about Canadian content — that, hey, if you’re showcasing music publicly in this country, you’d better make sure that a bit of it is Canadian. And not just at boring times, either.

Which has arguably resulted in a number of groups getting exposure and perhaps even a market niche that they might not have otherwise gained, had they simply fought along in obscurity against the American cultural monolith that eats up our airwaves.

Not that that’s a bad thing.

If the current Juno Awards celebration had anything to do with that, it might be a bit less depressing. The most troublesome thing about the trumped-up Sunday night show is that it’s so unappealingly serious, so pathetically geared to competing with any similar American production that it’s taken to inviting more and more acts from the United States in recent years in a helplessly transparent bid to fulfill its own apparent sense of self-importance.

It’s a bizarre situation to say the least: a celebration of an industry propped up by subsidies so that it doesn’t get swallowed by its American juggernaut cousin that’s geared increasingly to mimic and draw in the gorging monster that it hopes it can stave off in order to survive.

Thankfully, this year’s show avoided giving airtime to a major US band. And yet, everything else remained painfully unchanged.

The Juno celebration (the one that everyone watches — not the Saturday gala) basically goes through the same monotonous checklist that anyone else would.

Red carpet preview show? Check.
Vapid interviews on said carpet about just how goddamned exciting everything is? Check.
Endless commercial breaks? Check.
Screaming teens? Check.
Things for teens to scream at? Check.
And so on.

That is to say that instead of actually starting with a basic, formulaic audience-pandering showcase for mindless drones desperately seeking another glitzy cotton candy night of visual garbage as a jump-off point toward making the Sunday night broadcast show something genuinely unique, it goes nowhere. Instead of keeping it simple, or anywhere near classy or interesting to watch, it languishes horribly for hours in a boring grey zone of sameness.

A while ago, I advocated for putting the Polaris Prize awards show on television. I stand by that, but only if it could stay as intimate and genuinely engaging as it is currently. The same goes for the Junos. Tone it down, forget the endless searching for that “cool” X-factor, and just keep it simple. It’s not complicated.

But that’s not what we have. Sunday’s show predictably lost itself in a horrible self-congratulatory show of force that was virtually — apart from a long tribute to Toronto music — devoid of any lasting substance.

In a weird (but possibly fitting) way, the Junos television extravaganza is now a perfect personification of the very demographic is aims so desperately to please — teenagers. Brash, stuffed with self-importance, desperate for attention, but still, in the end, only capable of surviving thanks to an allowance from a generous benefactor.

Image: 2011 Juno Awards host Drake. Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario (source).

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