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Juno Awards Underdogs

The Rising Artists & Underdogs of the 2021 Juno Awards

Tate McRae, Ali Gatie, and Crown Lands are ones to watch. 

by Brendan Lee

The 2021 Juno Awards is Canada’s most coveted awards show and after its unexpected disruption last year at the beginning of the pandemic, the Canadian music industry is ready to celebrate.  While still on a virtual stage, this year the Junos will reverberate its way into summer live from Toronto on June 6, celebrating those who are currently dominating the Canadian music landscape.

It’s the golden anniversary of the awards show, and it’s set to be a big night with Jann Arden—every mom’s minivan mixtape matriarch—getting inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, plus what’s destined to be a mind-blowing reunion of the Tragically Hip featuring the almighty Leslie Feist

While this year’s lineup is another star-studded affair, there’s only so many things you can say about Justin Bieber and The Weekend, year after year. Instead, we’re changing gears and taking a moment to celebrate the underdogs while highlighting some of the less recognizable artists up for an award. This is our inside scoop on a few of the many rising talents that the Juno Awards have recognized this year.

Artist of the Year
Ali Gatie

Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism, and the rise of Iraqi-Canadian, Ali Gatie, is a shining success story. Gatie has made steady waves over the past few years with his soulful R&B folk-pop, but it was the hit single, “You,” peaking on charts while streamed by billions worldwide, that was his formal introduction to the world in 2019. At home on the celebrated XO label, whose roster includes The Weeknd, French Montana and Doja Cat, Gatie’s music pierces the heart with a smooth effortlessness.

Also nominated: Céline Dion, Jesse Reyez, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd

Single of the Year
Lennon Stella – “Kissing Other People”

One year on from her Breakthrough Artist of the Year win, Lennon Stella joins other nominees, Justin Bieber, The Weekend, Brett Kissel, and JP Saxe up for song of the year. It’s her second nomination in the category in the past two years, which is a sign that the husky-voiced electro popper is more than making a name for herself. Watch out Anne Murray, this 21-year-old might just claim your spot on the all-time Juno wins list by the time her last chorus is sung.

Also nominated: Brett Kissel – “Drink About Me”, JP Saxe – “If the World Was Ending (feat. Julia Michaels)”, Justin Bieber – “Intentions (feat Quavo), The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

Group of the Year
Loud Luxury

Okay, these guys aren’t exactly underdogs, having previously won a Juno for Group of the Year in 2020, and also in 2019 for their single,“Body” (apologies if we just got it stuck in your head all over again). But no one became a legend overnight and you can’t discount consistency. The fresh-faced DJ duo has consistently proven themselves over nearly a decade as the only choice for any club mix or pool party bonanza, cementing their reputation as trusted hit-makers in the EDM community. 

Also nominated: Arkells, Half Moon Run, The Glorious Sons, The Reklaws

Breakthrough Group Of The Year
Crown Lands

Rock music may have slowed down there for a minute but Crown Lands is doing a damn fine resurrection ritual. The duo has been self-described as The White Stripes covering Rush. Add in a spritz of Iron Maiden or Wolfmother (remember them?) to the concoction and you’ve got a pretty good idea what you’re in for. Their mezzo-soprano vocals mixed with gained-out guitars hit, at times, like an acid trip, while at others echoing in the headphones like thunder off stony mountains.

Also nominated: 2Frères, Manila Grey, Peach Pit, Young Bombs

Breakthrough Artist Of The Year
Tate McRae

Tate was born in 2003. For any of our ‘older’ readers, take a minute to let that sink in. Canada’s latest teen sensation spent her early childhood performing competitively in global dance competitions, while more recently touring the world (pre-pandemic) with her heartfelt, up-beat pop ballads. It’s staggering to look at all she’s accomplished already, but even if we focus on 2020—nominations at the MTV VMAs, a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, going platinum over and over with her single “You Broke Me First,” and so on—it’s clear that she’s made her mark well outside the misconceived walls of Canadian music. Tate McRae is destined for greatness. All we need to do now is step back and watch her soar.

Also nominated: Curtis Waters, JP Saxe, Powfu, Ryland James