The 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards Report

There were two major themes addressed during Friday’s 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards Presented by Music Canada - the effect the pandemic has had on artists and the revelations of the past week of t

The 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards Report

By Kerry Doole

There were two major themes addressed during Friday’s 2021 Juno Opening Night Awards Presented by Music Canada - the effect the pandemic has had on artists and the revelations of the past week of the graves of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops.

The former topic was addressed eloquently by Arkells frontman Max Kerman when his band was named Group of the Year early in proceedings. “This has been a hard year for all musicians, but musos have always been able to figure it out how to make it work,” he noted.

 “Even if you have only a dollar in your pocket you’ll be inspired to make music. I think that what we all tried our best to do this past year was to figure out how we can interact with the world in an honest way and give some comfort to music fans out there. Hopefully we can provide a little bit of that. Now I can say on behalf of all musicians, you can give us comfort by buying tickets to the show when we all go out on tour again!”


 Toronto Mayor John Tory stressed that “Music has helped get us through the last 15 months, and the value of music and musicians has never been so apparent. Music comforts, inspires and entertains us during difficult times.”

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault paid homage to the strength of Canadian artists in the face of the pandemic in his remarks prior to presenting the Breakthrough Artist of the Year award. “Our incredibly talented and diverse artists are so important to our culture, especially in this past year,” he stated. “It has been tough, but your resilience in the face of such great adversity has been remarkable and has brought joy to Canadians.”


The winners of that award, rock duo Crown Lands, took full advantage of its platform to address the Indigenous situation in an acceptance speech. “This win is an extraordinary moment for us and we are so grateful. But still we wanted to take this moment to talk about how every Canadian residential school should be thoroughly investigated. The families of those departed all deserve closure. People are living in abhorrent conditions in this nation. There is a lot more to talk about here. We are going to keep fighting to start these conversations and hopefully spark some real change.”

Singer/songwriter Leela Gilday won the Juno for Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year, and in her eloquent acceptance remarks, she noted (amidst the loud sound of her family celebrating the win) “It has been a tough year. I’m so proud to stand here shoulder to shoulder with people that tell our truth, but also celebrate our resilience. To all the nominees, and all of our people who make music, this is a time of reckoning.”

While picking up the trophy for Alternative Album of the Year, July Talk’s Pete Dreimanis declared that “Our hearts go out to the families of residential school survivors all across the country. We walk about this as a stain on our history, but it is happening every day in this  country. We need to show up and be honest with each other.”


Winner of the Contemporary Roots Album of the Year winner Rose Cousins stressed that “my heart goes out to everyone grieving right now.”

A poignant moment at Friday’s event came with the presentation of the Juno award for Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral. This went to Erin Wall, Joshua Hopkins, Andrew Staples, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir with Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis for Massenet: Thaïs, and a TSO representative stated “This Juno is for Erin. We want to pay homage to the luminous voice of the Canadian soprano Erin Wall who we tragically lost to cancer last year. This is her final recording and were fortunate that her voice has been captured so beautifully. We will always have this remembrance of her.”


In all, some 37 Junos were handed out at Friday’s virtual awards show. Also, a show highlight was the presentation of two special awards, The Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, given to Pegi Cecconi, and the MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Award Presented by Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation to Gary Slaight. Read our two features on the winners here and here.

Six powerful performances commemorated the evening. These included ones from 2021 Reggae Recording of the Year nominees, Ammoye, Kirk Diamond and this year’s winner TÖME, 2021 Breakthrough Group of the Year winners Crown Lands; and  2021 Francophone Album of the Year nominee Klô Pelgag;

A special collaboration by Country Album of the Year nominees Lindsay Ell and MacKenzie Porter; 2021 Rap Recording of the Year winner TOBi, and MONOWHALES, from the 2020/2021 Allan Slaight Juno Master Class short list, rounded out the list of performances.

Not all the winners of the Junos presented on Friday night were able to attend virtually or contribute taped acceptance speeches. Those that did contributed many memorable, charming or witty remarks, so we present some of them here.

Jessie Reyez, winner (with Emma Higgins) for Music Video of the Year: "Thanks all. It’s a teamwork makes the dream work situation. Emma is a genius."

Jocelyn Gould, Jazz Album of the Year: "I didn’t imagine this when I started playing guitar in my bedroom as a teenager. What a huge privilege. Canadian jazz is alive!


Alanis Morissette, Adult Contemporary Album of the Year, in a video of acceptance: "This [Such Pretty Forks in the Road] is an album that really chronicles and marks a period of time in my life that was a huge rite of passage and a juncture."

Leah Fay of July Talk, Alternative Album of the Year: “Thanks to music lovers for being so patient this year. Thank you to the Internet, even if you can be so mean sometimes.”

Allan Reid of CARAS: "The sooner we get everyone vaccinated, the sooner we’ll get back to seeing  live music. We will be able to gather together again.

Tenille Townes, Country Album of the Year: "This record is something I dreamed of making as a little kid. It took me a while to get to do it.

Kaytranada, Dance Recording of the Year:  “I try new things, so this honour means a lot.”

TOBi, Rap Recording of the Year: "Thanks to my mother for putting a pen and pad in my hand at eight years old. We just wanted to bring peace and good music in a time of uncertainty. Canada, we keep moving. Peace."

Bahamas, Adult Alternative Album of the Year: "I never thought in a million years I’d be able to put out an album, and have such a productive year and win a Juno, all without leaving my house!


Andy Milne Jazz Album of the Year: Group:  “Let’s not forget what we’ve learned this year.”

Blitz//Berlin, Instrumental Album of the Year: “My mind is blown, I’m speechless, I didn’t write anything:” He then composed himself enough to offer a shout-out to Toronto dive bar Sneaky Dee’s.

John Tory, Mayor of Toronto: "Live music generates an annual economic impact of 550M in Toronto and the equiv of 10.5K full time jobs in Toronto alone. We are deeply committed to building up the music scene right across the country.”

Allan Reid, CARAS: "The sooner we get everyone vaccinated, the sooner we’ll get back to seeing live music. We will be able to gather together again."

Beyonce is seen on Feb. 15, 2024, in New York City.
METROPOLIS/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Beyonce is seen on Feb. 15, 2024, in New York City.


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