CALGARY – He won the most Juno awards but there was no sign of superstar the Weeknd at Saturday night’s celebration of the Canadian music industry.
It was hard to ignore the absence of the R&B singer, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, at the gala dinner partly because he just kept on winning.
The singer grabbed three trophies for “Beauty Behind the Madness,” picking up artist and R&B/soul recording of the year as well as songwriter of the year for his triple-threat of hit singles — “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “In the Night” and “The Hills.”
For those keeping track, the Weeknd now has a career total of seven Junos on his mantle, and he’s up for three more at Sunday night’s main event — the televised show, where he’s also scheduled to perform.
Each time he won on Saturday someone else would accept the award on his behalf.
That became a common theme at the non-televised gala ceremony, which streamed online, as other megastars secured their own Junos but didn’t show up to take them home.
Justin Bieber grabbed pop album of the year for “Purpose” and Drake won rap recording of the year for “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.”
Neither attended the ceremony at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre where most of the 42 Juno awards were handed out.
In a year when some of the world’s biggest popstars were Canadian, it wasn’t exactly a surprise some of them might be elsewhere.
The Juno producers found humour in one of the missing guests.
When Adele picked up international album of the year for “25,” the organizers ran a clip of a past Brit Awards acceptance speech from the songstress with a Juno hastily pasted over top of the trophy.
The clip was only shown inside the auditorium and not in the streamed version, likely due to rights issues.
Music video of the year went to Adele’s “Hello,” though Quebec director Xavier Dolan was another no-show at the gala.
At least two newcomers who recently found themselves in the upper echelons of the Billboard charts were at the gala event, however.
Teen pop singers Alessia Cara and Shawn Mendes both watched from the audience, though neither won their album categories.
The lack of global starpower on stage gave some other homegrown talent a greater opportunity to celebrate their wins in the limelight.
Cree singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie’s latest “Power in the Blood” claimed two awards for aboriginal album and contemporary roots album of the year.
Death from Above 1979 snagged rock album of the year for “The Physical World,” the band’s first studio release in a decade after breaking up for several years.
Sebastien Grainger, one half of the duo, said that returning to work on another album was different this time around.
“I think we felt a little bit more empowered to make the music we wanted to make on this record.”
Vancouver husband-and-wife duo Dear Rouge were chosen as breakthrough group of the year. Guitarist Drew McTaggart was reminded of watching the Juno Awards at home three years ago when the band was just getting its start.
“The awards show, it can give us time to reflect and look back,” he said.
“We have our heads down, we’re touring all the time. And right now it’s just like, ‘Yeah — tonight we’re going to have a big glass of whisky and celebrate.”
“Canada’s Smartest Person” host Jessi Cruickshank served as the evening’s emcee, tearing through the show with a flurry of off-colour jokes and jibes at celebrities.
She touched on everything from the Jian Ghomeshi verdict (“A huge step forward for sexual assault.”) to 17-year-old pop singer Mendes’ numerous tweets about puberty (“Shawn is yelling at me, he’s calling me creepy.”).
She also chided the Junos over the lack of female nominees in this year’s marquee artist categories.
“On the plus side that means 80 per cent of all the losers will be male,” she said. “That, my friends, is progress.”
Sunday night’s main event will dole out awards in eight categories that include album, single, artist and breakthrough artist as well as country album of the year.
Viewers can also vote for the Juno Fan Choice Award on the Juno website.
The show begins at 7 p.m. ET on CTV.
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