TORONTO – Quebec singer Elisapie says she felt like “disappearing from the Earth” after the Juno Awards rescinded her nomination for breakthrough artist of the year, but at the same time she’s grateful she was recognized in the first place.
The Juno Awards announced earlier this month that Elisapie was actually ineligible for the category because the Inuit singer had won a Juno in 2005 for Aboriginal album of the year as part of the duo Taima.
Only first-time nominees are eligible for breakthrough artist of the year.
She was replaced in the category, which already featured Grimes, Cold Specks, Kira Isabella and the Weeknd, by B.C. songwriter Shawn Hook.
Now, Elisapie has taken to laughingly calling herself an “ex-Juno nominee” and referring to her “de-nomination,” but there’s still some residual pain over the incident.
“I just have to laugh about this but of course, it’s not funny,” she said over the line from Sudbury, Ont.
“I think it’s not fair in a sense … and of course I want to yell at them and shake them but at the same time, it’s something that happens.”
Elisapie points out that the Juno she won in ’05 was for a drastically different project than her solo work (she dropped the innovative pop record Forbidden Love last fall). They are “two identities,” she points out, and “completely different.”
She was en route to a gig in Quebec City when she first found out the good news that she was nominated for her first solo Juno. She was a bit too busy to pop a bottle of champagne then, but she was elated nonetheless.
By some coincidence, she actually wound up dipping into the bubbly after finding out the sad news that the nomination was being taken away. As it happened, it was the eve of her 36th birthday.
Upon finding out, she said she didn’t immediately feel up to trying to figure out why the Junos had made the mistake — whether they were unaware of their own rules or simply unaware of her Juno-winning past, but she suspects it was the latter. In a statement at the time of the decision, Junos president/CEO Melanie Berry called the situation “very unfortunate.”
“We didn’t really get into details because this was just like — oh my, I wanted to disappear from the Earth for the first day really,” recalled Elisapie, whose last name is Isaac. “And then the next day I said it’s not that bad, really. It’s OK.”
She’s hoping that the original nomination, or news of her “de-nomination,” might still help spread the word about Forbidden Love. The trilingual Elisapie was born to a father from Newfoundland and an Inuk mother before being adopted at birth by an Inuit family and raised in that culture in a “little arctic village” in northern Quebec.
The disc explores the meeting point between English and Inuktitut, the language of her youth, but it’s also a fleet-footed modern pop record, steeped in the melodic staples of her childhood — from ABBA to Fleetwood Mac. Though some tough times are reflected on the album — including her separation from the father of her nearly seven-year-old daughter — she wanted only a light touch of melancholy to colour the organic, fizzy pop.
“This album, I really wanted to put me in a light mood … I really wanted to free myself,” she said. “I think it was kind of like a therapy, musically.”
And its diversity — ranging from synth-pop rave-ups to airy rock to gritty folk — is key, she says.
“If people were to try to put me in one style, I’d kill them,” she laughs.
Now, she’s mulling whether she still wants to go to Regina for the Junos on April 21 just to enjoy the festivities. She says she’ll likely end up doing so.
Indeed, she’s trying to move on and view the incident, if possible, in a positive light.
“I think that the Junos jurors are intelligent people and they have their way of doing (things), and I think they came up with this for a reason. So I’m not going to fight them. That’s not my plan,” said Elisapie, who also has a role in the new 3D animated children’s film The Legend of Sarila, which stars Christopher Plummer.
“I think it’s already wonderful that they did recognize me as a breakthrough artist…. I might not have one and be nominated but now at least I’m an ex-Juno nominee, and we can have a good laugh and people (find it) an interesting topic, right?”
© The Canadian Press, 2013