Fans have waited three long years to see Canadian music celebrated on their screens once again in grand prepandemic fashion. The 51st Juno Awards will be aired live on May 15, hosted outdoors for the first time in front of a crowd at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage.
While viewers may be excited for returning stars such as Shawn Mendes, Charlotte Cardin or the Arkells, this year’s awards are full of fresh faces to explore, with more than 80 first-time nominees.
Here are five Juno nominee gems to know before the big show.
Nominated for Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year
Anishinaabe/Cree, queer artist Jayli Wolf from the Saulteau First Nation pours her heart and personal history into her autobiographical EP, Wild Whisper, It is a powerful recounting of generational trauma – from leaving the doomsday cult she was raised in, to her father’s experience during the Sixties Scoop, to releasing the shame and guilt around her bisexuality and much more. Her single Child of the Government hit the covered No. 1 spot on CBC and Indigenous Music Countdown charts. Its video, directed by Wolf, won best music video at Venice Shorts festival in California. Wolf’s Wild Whisper has also received critical acclaim in Rolling Stone, British Vogue and Nylon, while her story has inspired many others to share their families’ experiences of the Sixties Scoop on TikTok.
Nominated for Alternative Album of the Year
Channeling the sounds of R&B and psychedelia, Chiiild blends musical genres in a simultaneously new and nostalgic experience in his debut album, Hope for Sale, The Montreal native’s diverse track list is brimming with optimization and exploration into life, love and social justice. After selling out his first-ever headline run in the United States with the Apocalyptic Optimistic Tour – and performing at famed festivals such as Lollapalooza, Life is Beautiful and the Governor’s Ball – Chiiild’s schedule isn’t slowing down. Later this month, he’ll continue his headlining tour in Europe, after touring with Leon Bridges in the US If you’re a late-night talk-show fan, you may have seen Chiiild make his US TV debut last year on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, performing two of his most noted hits to date, Pirouette and sleepwalking,
Nominated for Underground Dance Single of the Year
Born and raised in Grand Forks, BC, the now London, UK-based artist is no stranger to the big-time award scene: In 2021, Jayda G was nominated for a best dance recording at the Grammy. Now, her single All I Need has earned her a first-time Juno nomination. Known for her high-energy performances as a DJ, Jayda G and her music are vitality personified. All I Need, a springy track off the DJ-Kicks mix, blends house, disco and soul into a time-bending dreamy number that exports the listener to some idyllic rave in the past – or present. The song’s music video features footage from a nineties rave in British Columbia’s wilderness spliced with current day visuals. The effect leaves viewers lost in time and poetically emulates the song’s lyrics: “How I feel now, how I feel then, nothing, nothing, nothing has changed.”
Nominated for Alternative Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year
Mustafa’s stirring sound and poetic lyricism are somehow soft when conveying the hardest realities. A moving and observational poet from a young age, Mustafa, who is based in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, has spent his life speaking to the injustices he sees around him. In his critically acclaimed debut album, When Smoke Rises, the singer-songwriter explores the aftermath of losing several friends to gun violence, taking listeners through his attempts to cope with their departures. Mustafa describes his work as “inner-city folk music,” and channels musical inspiration from folk legends Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Richie Havens through his contemporary lens. The album has garnered Mustafa international acclaim and praise by Rolling Stone, MTV, BBC Radio 1 and many more.
Nominated for Rap Single of the Year
Some call her rap’s Queen of the North, but Charmaine’s addictive tracks have global appeal. Nominated for her single, Bold, the Zimbabwe-born, Toronto-based artist brings the fun to her music with a blend of brash hip-hop and smooth R&B. Charmaine originally entered the studio to record Bold as a singer, but left having recorded it with trap/rap-style vocals that make for a punchy number. The empowering track, accompanied by a vibrant music video, encourages listeners, and especially other Black women, to embrace their authentic selves and be unapologetically bold.
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