Ten Songs to Check Out by JUNO-Nominated Artists
With the JUNO Awards coming to Budweiser Gardens in London on Sunday, March 17th, our team at young & free press have been busy listening to albums and songs by the artists nominated this year. We have a unique dynamic, of course, as our owner & editor Andrew Gunn is 40 years old, and all our journalists are teenagers! Through our social media accounts, we have an ongoing show called ‘Generation Gap’, in which Andrew introduces music to members of our teenage crew – Jenn Klassen (17), Maddie King (16), and Emily Stage (16) – who in turn introduce Andrew to songs by younger artists. In this way, we try to bridge the musical generation gap! For the past few months, we have themed all these shows around the JUNO Awards, and focussed on songs by JUNO-nominated artists. We thought that, after listening to as many songs as possible, we should compile a list of ten stand-out tracks. Some of the songs are by well-known, established artists, while others are by emerging musicians. We love the mix!
Our whole team is so excited to attend the JUNO Awards this year at Budweiser Gardens, and check out lots of the events happening in advance in London. If you have not really dug in yet and listened to some of the music highlighted this year, hopefully this list of ten songs will provide a helpful starting point. Jenn and Andrew supplied four picks each, Maddie and Emily added one apiece, and we included a bonus pick, too – one song by a band that we all like!
‘Pretty Thing’ by Dizzy
Nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year and Alternative Album of the Year for Baby Teeth, the band started up in Oshawa, Ontario, and have a soft, starlit sound that is perfect for chilled-out, late-night drives. ‘Pretty Thing’ is a little journey through a night out with friends, kind of sweet and open-hearted with a bit of anxiety and insecurity lurking in the corners. Lead singer Katie Munshaw has a cool voice, and the band gets our vote for Breakthrough Group.
'Better Now' by Post Malone
Post Malone is nominated for a JUNO this year in the 'International Album of the Year' category for beerbongs & bentleys. 'Better Now' has more than 145,000,000 views on YouTube, and is definitely one of the most memorable songs of the past year. The track feels like an anthem for those disappointed by love: 'I was so broken over you / Life it goes on, what can you do?' While the theme may be familiar, the lyrics feel genuine and everyone can connect with the sentiment.
‘Not A Love Song’ by bülow
Pretty much a perfect pop song … German-born Megan Bülow was discovered playing acoustic guitar at a summer camp in Canada in 2016, quickly attracted some talented production help, and worked up a three-song EP called Damaged, Vol. One. ‘Not a Love Song’ zeroes in on the idea that love may be easy with the right person, but no matter what, you have to be ready: ‘Wish I could tell you that I miss you but I can’t,’ she sings, ’this is not a love song.’ bülow is nominated for four JUNO Awards, including Single of the Year for ‘Not a Love Song’.
‘Saint Nobody’ by Jessie Reyez
Jessie Reyez had a huge year in 2018, earning a JUNO Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and going on to work with Eminem on his album Kamikaze. We checked out her show in November at the London Music Hall, and were totally blown away by her voice and stage presence. She means what she says and her song-writing is terrific – ‘Saint Nobody’ is from her EP Being Human in Public, and revolves around the idea that she is going to overcome doubt and work like hell to achieve her vision. Powerful stuff … Jessie Reyez is nominated this year for two JUNOS, including Songwriter of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
‘In My Blood’ by Shawn Mendes
One of the biggest stars in music right now, Shawn Mendes continues to gain fans with his heartfelt, polished pop songs. He is nominated this year for six JUNOS, including Album of the Year for his self-titled release, plus Single of the Year for ‘In My Blood’ – the video for the song has gathered over 250 million views on YouTube! Teenagers connect to the song because the theme is so relatable – challenges come up, but you don’t give up and instead find that thing inside yourself that helps you push through. Beyond that, the chorus is one giant hook!
‘Blood // Water’ by grandson
This is one of our favourite tracks of the year because this is the song that really taps into the sense of social disorder and alarm that we feel right now, maybe even the threat of riots kind of boiling up under the relative calm of day-to-day life. Watch the video … we picked up on the idea of everyone feeling watched, like smartphones have turned society into one giant surveillance system and there is no getting out. What happens when there is blood in the water? Or put differently, what might happen if social cohesion in North America is ripped apart by divisive politics? Few songs hit that pitch, where the sound perfectly matches the subject matter of the lyrics … grandson is nominated in the Breakthrough Artist of the Year category.
‘Dressed to Suppress’ by Metric
Metric has been one of the best bands in the country for more than a decade, and earned a JUNO nomination this year in the Group of the Year category on the strength of the album Art of Doubt. The single ‘Dressed to Suppress’ seems to touch on the idea that we put each other through some strange steps in relationships, and after a while one really has to wonder why. Emily Haines is a wonderful songwriter, and there are some cool lyrics in this one: ‘we reach for the things we idolize / but the rings are just for show / her beauty is a form of charity / dressed to suppress all kinds of sorrow.’ The song begins and ends like a dream, a song rounded by sleep.
‘New Blues’ by Tokyo Police Club
Apparently, the members of Tokyo Police Club considered disbanding a while back, but found a path forward and hopefully will keep rolling for a long time … the shows are always a blast, and with songs like ‘New Blues’, the audience will feel renewed, too. With his distinctive voice, Dave Monks finds a way to pull genuine emotion from the lyrics: ‘I’ve been low’, he sings at the outset of the track. ‘I’ve been down and I don’t want to go there anymore.’ Tokyo Police Club is nominated for the Group of the Year JUNO Award, and will be playing JUNOfest in London, too!
‘Perfectly Lonely’ by Chelsea Stewart
Chelsea Stewart has been performing for a long time, and scored her first JUNO nomination this year in the Reggae Recording of the Year category for her album Genesis. Have a look at the video for ‘Perfectly Lonely’ … she has a great voice, and the soulfulness in the song overflows as she sings about waiting for someone who is willing to treat her with genuine respect.
‘Next Year’ by Donovan Woods
Hard not to like Both Ways, the excellent 2018 album by Ontario born-and-raised Donovan Woods, who continues to demonstrate that he is one of the finest songwriters working right now. He is nominated for two JUNOS, including Songwriter of the Year and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. The songs mostly strike serious tones, but he certainly balances everything out with his social media presence, particularly on Twitter, where he really lets his sense of humour flow … and he is seriously funny! ‘Next Year’ is a quiet reflection on family and friends, and putting off things until next year, which never quite seems to come … there is a neat circularity to the song, playing with time and acknowledging that time runs out eventually.
‘Relentless’ by Arkells
Well, what would this list be really without a shout-out to the band that, after more than a decade on the road, just sold out Scotiabank Arena in Toronto? Arkells have built a dedicated and enthusiastic audience the old-fashioned way, delivering consistently strong albums and backing everything up with awesome live shows. Our whole team at young & free press went to the concert in Toronto on February 16th and can attest to the fact that lead singer Max Kerman has mastered the art of making a huge room somehow feel intimate, perhaps drawing a bit of inspiration from frontmen like Gord Downie or even Bruce Springsteen. The band kicked off the show with ‘Relentless’ from the album Rally Cry, and the night just took off from there. Two JUNO nominations this year, including ‘Group of the Year’ and ‘Rock Album of the Year’.