By: Alexis Kuskevics
While the 60th Grammy Awards won’t elicit more photos of Drake drinking from the phonograph of his trophy, Canadian audiences may have another reason to celebrate when the ceremony airs on Sunday.
After a year of Canadian dominance in the industry, the annual award show will recognize various home artists - from Cohen to Cuba, and Bublé to Bieber, it will spotlight both rising and recognizable national talent across the international stage.
Missing from the nominations is Toronto-patriot Drake, whose recent mixtape, More Life, was not eligible for 2018 Grammy consideration. After taking home Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Hotline Bling” in 2017, the show will feature faces audience members haven’t seen in a long time.
This year marks first-time nominations for Alessia Cara, Daniel Caesar and other promising Canadian musicians looking to break onto the international stage. Veteran artists include The Weeknd, Sarah McLachlan, who hasn’t been nominated since 2007, and Michael Bublé, who won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for To Be Loved in 2014.
“At a time when the Canadian government is investing heavily in the arts as well as the digital infrastructure for art making and promotions within Canada, opportunities for visibility outside of the country are crucial,” says Matthew Fava, a director of the Canadian Music Centre. “Beyond the individual recognition, and resulting career benefits for the person who is given the platform provided by the award, we can work to mobilize more resources to support the wider arts community.”
Cara, who broke onto the worldwide stage with her 2015 hit “Here,” is nominated for Song of the Year with “1-800-273-8255,” which she co-wrote and performed with rapper Logic. The song is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and is also nominated for Best Music Video.
During the ceremony, both Logic, Cara and up-and-comer singer Khalid will perform on stage alongside suicide attempt survivors and suicide loss survivors. Cara is also nominated for Best New Artist and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Stay” with record producer and DJ, Zedd.
“The U.S. has a very robust music industry, so I think any time that someone is nominated or receives an award at this level is something to be celebrated,” says Aengus Finnan, the executive director of Folk Alliance International.
The Folk Alliance International, a 30-year-old non-profit organization established by both Canadian and American folk festival presenters, have relations with several national acts nominated this year: Rose Cousins, a native of Prince Edward Island, is nominated in the Best Engineered Album category for her album Natural Conclusions. Her folk-pop sound is similar to nominees Northern Cree, who is nominated for “Miyo Kekisepa, Make A Stand (Live)" for Best Regional Roots Album, and of course the late, yet immortal, Leonard Cohen.
Cohen’s song, “You Want It Darker,” is nominated for Best Rock Performance, while “Steer Your Way” is featured for Best American Roots Performance. Both records come from You Want it Darker, which was his final album.
“I think there has always been a distinct appeal to Canadian music in the U.S. and international markets,” Finnan says. “There is something different about the sound, and the style and the approach – there’s no denying that there is a very healthy music community in Canada and the talent pool continues to deliver emerging stars within the recording academy community.”
Justin Bieber, who grew up in Stratford, Ont., is nominated for his vocal and writing assistance in the honorary summer 2017 anthem “Despacito” with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. Nominated for Record Of The Year, Bieber is up against Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars, and is expected by music critics to take home the win.
While this could be the second victory of multiple and previous nominations, Bieber isn’t the only young Canadian building award-show hype. Daniel Caesar, a rising R&B artist from Toronto, is nominated in the best R&B album category for his record Freudian, and his gold-certified hit, “Get You,” for Best R&B Performance.
“Personally, I’m very excited by the recognition and Grammy nominations Daniel Caesar has received,” says Corey Poole, the communications coordinator for Music Canada. “Freudian is an awesome album and he’s also getting a ton of radio play in Canada for ‘Get You’.”
While the majority of the notable categories feature mainstream songs — most of which are produced within American markets — Fava says that recognition is just as important as receiving the actual award, to both established Canadian artists and those whose music careers remain mere dreams.
“Market-based or commercially driven awards can never be fully representative of musical creativity, but they can hopefully draw attention to some forms of experimentation happening in different genres,” says Fava. When the ceremony airs, Fava says he’ll be cheering for Canadian nominee Northern Cree to take home Regional Roots Music Album. “This inevitably offers inspiration to a number of artists operating outside of the star-making machinery.”
James Corden of "The Late Late Show" will host the awards show, which will air on Jan. 28 on CTV.
The full list of Canadian nominees include:
Justin Bieber for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: all for “Despacito.”
The Weeknd is nominated in the best urban contemporary album with Starboy.
Michael Buble is nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album with Nobody But Me.
Up-and-comer Daniel Caesar is nominated for Best R&B Album with Freudian and Best R&B Performance with “Get You.”
Everything Now, the recent album by Arcade Fire, is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album.
Sarah McLachlan’s album Wonderland is nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Recording Engineer Serban Ghenea is recognized for his work on Bruno Mars’ album 24K Magic - which is nominated for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical - and Lorde’s soundtrack Melodrama, nominated for Album of the Year.
Adventure Club’s record remix “Undercover” is nominated for Best Remixed Recording.
Miyo Kekisepha, Make A Stand (Live) by Northern Cree is nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album.
Come From Away is nominated for Best Musical Theater Album.
Toronto-native Charles Moniz is nominated for his work on 24K Magic.
Natural Conclusion by Joao Carvalho is nominated for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
Noel Edison (John Relyea, Erin Wall, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir) are nominated in the best choral performance category for Handel: Messiah
Crazy Girl Crazy by Nova Scotia-native Barbara Hannigan is nominated for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album with Oddara.
Of Newfoundland and Labrador, artist Matt Maher is nominated for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for his album Echoes.
This piece was edited by Jacklyn Gilmor and Luke Elisio.