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London may be known as one of Ontario’s prime university cities, but on Sunday, it transformed into a haven for the best and brightest in Canadian music, and excited fans, as the 2019 Juno Awards rolled into town.

The big night for homegrown music was hosted by cryfest generator/Canadian crooner Sarah McLachlan, who pulled double duty with an empowering performance later on in the night, and celebrated a variety of musical talents and genres, from hip hop and country to rock, pop and Indigenous music.

Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the Canadian of it all, shall we? For the full list of winners, head here.

The Good

Everything Corey Hart

We were all wearing our “Sunglasses at Night” when legendary performer and songwriter Corey Hart was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. A teary-eyed Hart accepted the award and dedicated it to his fans as his wife, Quebec musician Julie Masse, and his four children looked on with tears streaming down their own faces.

“I believe that music and love are the most powerful and enduring forces of good in the world,” he said. “Without music or the Junos, I 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… as a songwriter I can honestly say those are the greatest songs I will ever write.”

Cue the waterworks everywhere.

Hart has a long history with the Junos. As McLachlan pointed out, Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” was the first video to ever win a Juno, but more importantly it was during the broadcast one year that he met Masse, as they presented together. They’ve been going strong ever since. #RelationshipGoals.

London Calling

How a show opens is always a pretty important indication of how the evening is going to go and the Junos went for hometown hearts with a performance of “Body” by locals-gone-big Loud Luxury. They were joined by the Western Marching Band and the Western Mustang Cheerleaders, who wore their purple loud and proud.

It was an intricate number that undoubtedly sparked a few “They said London!” drinking games on couches across Canada, but it was sweet to see the hosting city get so much recognition. The swelled crowd certainly loved it, and exploded every time another artist coyly nodded, “Hey London,” from the stage.

Bülow lights up the stage

Sometimes it’s the simplest performances that resonate the most, as 20-year-old Bülow proved with a stripped down version of “This Is Not a Love Song.” The German-Canadian graced the stage with minimalist makeup and bare feet, using an array of lightbulbs as props while she belted out the hit.

It was only fitting when she won Breakthrough Artist of the Year a commercial break later, and tearfully accepted. We have a feeling she earned a few more social media followers as a result.

Jessie Reyez

After winning last year’s Breakthrough Artist of the Year, it was heartwarming to see the outspoken Reyez take home a statue for RB/Soul Recording of the Year 12 months later. Her speech was the cutest too, as she thanked fans over, and over, and over again.

“If there’s one thing that I leave tonight man, it’s that I am you and you are me,” she said. “If there’s one thing that you’re chasing and you’re willing to work hard for it, do it. Because you can do whatever you want man. Thank y’all so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you…”

And to have that award presented by Sting and super-producer David Foster? Not too shabby.

The Bad

Sarah McLachlan makes it political

Sarah McLachlan hosts the 2019 Juno Awards at Budweiser Gardens on March 17, 2019 in London, Canada.

The Junos have a long history of sometimes random but mostly musical hosts,  like William Shatner, Michael Bublé, Brent Butt and Shania Twain taking on MC duties over the years. This year was Sarah McLachlan’s time to shine, 25 years into her career. And she did shine… for the most part.

As with any awards show, sometimes political speeches land and sometimes they don’t. Rather than address any of the current Canadian political turmoil making headlines or leaning into the music side, McLachlan opted to tackle Trump in her opener and viewers seemed a little thrown.

“You know when you live someplace peaceful and beautiful, and then get a crazy neighbour,” she said. “And they start causing all sorts of trouble like putting up weird walls, picking fights with all the other neighbours, telling your daughters how they should behave, all the while saying they’re making the area great again and you just watch feeling helpless… and hoping they’ll be gone by 2020.”

The remarks weren’t met with (much) anger, per se. Most people just seemed genuinely confused.

By the time McLachlan took the stage to perform “Beautiful Girl” and “In Your Shoes,” everyone seemed over it.

Paging Shawn Mendes

Sunday night was unquestionably Shawn Mendes’ time to shine. By the end of the broadcast he walked away with five wins out of his six nominations, including Single (for “In My Blood”), Pop Album and Artist. The only problem? He wasn’t there.

The global popstar is currently on tour and so he wasn’t able to accept any of the accolades in person. Or by proxy. Or by video. It left the show feeling a little hollow and lacklustre, especially when the producers tried to make up for his absence with a “special performance” of “In My Blood” from Amsterdam, which was taped on March 4.

Maybe a heartfelt, taped acceptance speech would have played better, but at least he showed up in some form since he was the night’s big winner.

The fan favourite

Speaking of not showing up, the last award of the night is the we all wait for, and at the Junos, it was the only one voted on by the people who buy the music and the tickets and the merch: the Fan Choice Award. Given Mendes’ online support (hello #MendesArmy) and his big wins it seemed likely that he would sweep the bonus category too, but in the end Avril Lavigne fans showed up and led her to a win. But of course Lavigne wasn’t there either, so instead the night’s big moment just ended with a bit of a whimper.

At least Corey Hart’s show-ending performance was there to save the day.

 

THE CANADIAN

Indigenous rights

The night was full of tributes and performances, including Jeremy Dutcher’s performance of “Sakomawit” (he won best Indigenous music album during the pre-telecast and was asked to return to the stage by fellow winners Arkells after his thank-you speech was cut off), Elisapie’s ode to women delivered in Inuktitut, and indigenous journalist and author Tanya Telaga reminding everyone of the importance of language in a powerful speech.

A mashup of personalities

Sometimes Canadian artists and performers stop by just because they can. That’s how it felt when Rick Mercer, Tessa Virtue, Sting, and the OG grandfather of Canadian hip hop (and former Mr. D star) Maestro Fresh took to the stage at various intervals to present.

Parlez-vous Français?

Last but not least, what would a Junos be without a little French artistry? We are a bilingual nation, after all. We were utterly confused when Hubert Lenoir took the stage to introduce Beatrice Pirate and Loud in some really weird yellow makeup that went unexplained, but the subsequent performance of “Dans La Nuit” really was beautiful.

Only in Canada.