The Strumbellas Beat Drake, The Weeknd To Win JUNO For Single Of The Year

He’s the biggest act in music right now but Drake came up empty Saturday on the first night of the 2017 JUNO Awards.

The Toronto rap superstar lost Artist of the Year to the late Leonard Cohen, Single of the Year to The Strumbellas (“Spirits”), and Rap Recording of the Year to Jazz Cartier’s Hotel Paranoia.

Jazz Cartier (born Jaye Adams) is a 24-year-old Toronto rapper who has released three mixtapes since 2011. He is also nominated as Breakthrough Artist of the Year, an award that will be presented on Sunday’s JUNO Awards on CTV.

“I didn’t expect to beat Drake but y’all been snubbing him all night,” Cartier said. “So it should go to me.”

The rapper also said “maybe next year” the rap category will be part of the televised JUNOs.

Drake, who did not attend Saturday’s gala, was honoured with the International Achievement Award.

Leonard Cohen’s son Adam accepted his late father’s award. “It’s very hard to speak on behalf of someone who spoke so beautifully,” he said.

“I know that he would have been incredibly happy to have this JUNO.”

Cohen joked: “Many international artists find excuses not to participate in the JUNOs. I think he’s found the best one yet.”

Backstage, Cohen admitted it was surprisingly emotional to accept his father’s award.

“I feel like people are kind of consoling themselves and consoling me by giving this award to my father,” he said, “which I don’t feel is undeserved.

“I’ve been mostly trying to suppress my feelings so this made me have to consult them more than I would have.”

On Sunday’s JUNOs broadcast, Feist will perform a tribute to Leonard Cohen. Adam revealed that he was close to getting Feist — whom he described as a “merchant of cool” — to lend her voice to his father’s final album.

“She is annoyingly good. She just annoys me. There’s nothing I can say about her that doesn’t include how annoyingly good she is,” he said. “There’s something about her that is so wonderful.”

Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, who are performing on Sunday’s show, and The Weeknd also lost Single of the Year and Artist of the Year.

“The nominees we were up against were so exceptional and huge and enormous,” said Izzy Ritchie of The Strumbellas. 

Bandmate David Ritter added: “We’ve heard that if you beat Drake that you become Drake. We’re pretty excited about this next phase of our career.”

The Weeknd managed to get recognized for “Starboy,” which won R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

The Tragically Hip won Rock Album of the Year for Man Machine Poem and frontman Gord Downie was named winner of Adult Alternative Album of the Year for his Secret Path project. The album also picked up a JUNO for Recording Package of the Year.

Sarah McLachlan, who will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Sunday’s show, won Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Wonderland, beating out artists like Celine Dion and Chantal Kreviazuk.

Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams won International Album of the Year, topping releases from Ariana Grande, One Direction, Rihanna and Sia.

KAYTRANADA’s 99.9% won Electronic Album of the Year.

Last year, the Montreal DJ and producer (aka Louis Celestin) lashed out at the JUNOs on Twitter after his song “At All” was disqualified from the Dance Recording of the Year category because it was released outside of the eligibility period.

In a series of tweets, KAYTRANADA called the Canadian music scene “out of touch” and said the JUNOs have lost his respect. He added: “I want my recognition. You cant do me like that.”

On Saturday, he said all is forgiven. “I regret saying all those things. It was definitely something I felt at the time.”

The JUNO for Video of the Year was awarded to “Kill v Maim” by GRIMES.

In all, 34 awards were handed out during Saturday’s gala dinner, which also featured performance by Jesse Moskaluke, Koriass, Daniel Caesar and Neon Dreams. Click here for all the nominees and winners.

JUNO winner William Prince performed during the In Memoriam segment.

In the press room, JUNOs president Allan Reid defended the decision not to include the tribute to lives lost on Sunday’s televised show.

“We’re a two-hour broadcast,” he told reporters. “You try to put as many artists on the show as you possibly can. 

“The biggest challenge is we just don’t have the time to do it, unlike the Grammys, which is a three-hours-plus show.”

Reid also suggested that “a lot of the people who are being recognized are known to the industry but may not be known to the public.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie was honoured Saturday with the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award, presented by Canadian folk music veteran Bruce Cockburn.

Kiefer Sutherland was on hand to present the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award to Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media (parent company of iHeartRadio in Canada).

“He is someone I admire and he is someone I look up to,” said Sutherland, who released a country album last year. 

He described Lennox as “a true lover of music and a true lover of life.”

Sutherland commended Lennox for helping to raise “tens of millions of dollars” for charities across Canada and recognized his accomplishments during his years as head of Universal Music Canada.

“Randy saw and still sees Canada on a global stage,” Sutherland said. “Randy has helped shape some of its biggest careers in the business.”

PICS: Stars Come Out To Celebrate Randy Lennox

Accepting the honour, Lennox thanked his parents, his first boss, his wife, and a list of people who have had a “profound influence on me.” He also recognized the Canadian artists he has worked with during his career.

He ended by asking people to remember that “everyone you meet is going through something that you know nothing about.

“So please be kind… always.”

Follow @jrk_media for JUNO weekend coverage