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The Weeknd, Alessia Cara big winners at hometown Juno Awards

By Jason Herring, April 3 2016

It was a massive weekend for The Weeknd.

The Toronto R&B singer took home Junos for “Single of the Year” and “Album of the Year” at the 45th Annual Juno awards at the Scotiabank Saddledome on April 3. These wins were in addition to awards for “Artist of the Year,” “Songwriter of the Year” and “R&B/Soul Recording of the Year,” which he won at the Juno Gala the night before. The Weeknd won in all his nominated categories except for the Fan Choice award, which went to Justin Bieber.

Thirty-six Junos were given out at Saturday’s Juno Gala, leaving only six for the nationally televised ceremony.

Ontario rock band Walk Off The Earth won for “Group of the Year,” edging out bands like Metric and Marianas Trench. Then Dean Brody beat out hometown icon Paul Brandt for “Country Album of the Year.” Even coming off a Juno win, Brody was more focused on his next album.

“I definitely feel that it’s hard writing a record,” he says. “It’s always a challenge writing a record, but it’s always a great experience and it’s a lot of fun.”

Alessia Cara, only 19, received the “Breakout Artist of the Year” award, which she accepted with an animated speech.

“I’m just a regular girl who’s lived a normal life,” Cara said. “And ever since I released one song, I haven’t lived the same day twice.”

Cara is riding off the success of loner anthem “Here.” She thinks her music is successful because it’s something most teenagers can relate to.

“People say, ‘you’re so wise, you’re so different,’ but I think this is what every teenage girl is thinking and that’s why they’re relating to it,” she says. “I think they’re relating to it because that’s what they’re going through.”

2015 was a dominant commercial year for Canadian music. Alessia Cara, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Drake all had singles place in the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

But it’s not just Canadian music that’s thriving. This year’s Juno Awards are part of what many are calling Calgary’s “Year of Music,” alongside events like Sled Island’s 10th anniversary and the opening of the new National Music Centre. Heritage minister Mélanie Joly says the Canadian government’s investments in the arts industry are one reason for the city’s musical surge.

“We’re pretty much the only country in the world to be investing this much in arts and culture. We believe in investing in our content creators,” she says. “I think it’s a great way to showcase the musical talent of Canada.”

Local musicians were also honoured at the Junos. Art rock mainstays Braids won their first-ever Juno, while Paul Brandt, Viet Cong and AM Static were among the artists representing Calgary with nominations.

In addition to the cultural benefits for Calgary, the Junos should provide the city with a much-needed economic boost. Last time the city hosted the Junos in 2008, the event injected $11.3 million to the local economy. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi believes this investment is key in a struggling provincial economy.

“One of the reasons we’re doing the year of music this year is to have a different view on the city of Calgary as we face the economic downtown so people look at the city as a place of creativity and innovation,” Nenshi says. “There’s a direct economic impact hosting the Junos and we think that’s about $10–15 million.”

Next year’s Juno Awards will take place in Ottawa.

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