Kiesza, The Weeknd big winners at 2015 Juno Awards
Kiesza receives the Juno for Breakthrough Artist of the Year during the 2015 Juno Awards in Hamilton, Ont., on Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, March 15, 2015 8:04PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 15, 2015 9:28PM EDT
HAMILTON, Ont. -- At the 2015 Juno Awards, Kiesza skipped into the spotlight, Arkells were hailed as hometown heroes, the Weeknd worked and an 80-year-old Leonard Cohen snagged the biggest Juno of his career -- and then Alanis Morissette was here to remind us she still knows exactly how to steal a show.
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The 40-year-old Morissette was ushered into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and closed the show Sunday at Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre with a powerful medley of "Uninvited," "You Oughta Know" and "Thank You" that melted a grateful Steeltown audience.
"I am deeply appreciative of this country," she said after a standing ovation. "A lot of people around the planet ask me what is about you Canadians that make you so expressed and so compelling.
"And I say, 'There's definitely something in the water other than fluoride."'
Morissette's serene presence steadied another breathlessly efficient show in which several decorated artists could stake rightful claim to the status as the year's most distinguished victor.
There was the absent Cohen, Montreal's bard of blackness whose gold-certified "Popular Problems" took the evening's top prize for album of the year, thus giving him six career Junos and continuing his unlikely late-career creative renaissance.
Or perhaps the year's crown jewel was Calgary's Kiesza, winner of her first three career Junos after her irrepressible one-take, Brooklyn-shot video for "Hideaway" -- a throaty ode to '90s house -- catapulted her to unlikely worldwide success.
Before she claimed her award for breakthrough artist of the year, she took a moment to console 16-year-old fellow nominee Shawn Mendes (backstage, she called him "such a sweetheart" and testified he was a deserving winner: "That kid did it all on his own.")
"I'm shaking. I'm a little nervous," she said as she accepted her award. "Thank you for all the support this past year -- it hasn't been a full year yet, which is crazy."
The Junos also proved to be believers in Magic!, the evening's leading nominees whose reggae-redolent smash "Rude" landed the Toronto quartet awards for single of the year and breakthrough group of the year.
They performed the song too -- married as it was to new single "No Way No" -- and frontman Nasri Atweh was air-conditioner breezy both while singing and speechifying.
"We really didn't think that 'Rude' would become a big hit around the world and we're very thankful that it's a hit in our own country," said Atweh calmly, flanked by his identically clad bandmates.
Magic! and Kiesza weren't the only Juno newcomers to make their presence felt.
Although Toronto's the Weeknd (the moniker for master of grim seduction Abel Tesfaye) had won two awards in prior years, he performed for the first time -- crooning his pitch-black "50 Shades of Grey" tune "Earned It" on a stage illuminated by spare lightbulbs -- and claimed the biggest Juno of his career for artist of the year, in addition to R&B/soul recording of the year.
The typically publicity-averse 25-year-old allowed his speaking voice a rare cameo when he accepted the show-closing award.
"I want to thank Canada man -- thank you guys," he said softly. "I wouldn't be here without you."
And in performances, electro-pop songwriter Lights teamed with Sam Roberts to flash through her "Up We Go" and his "We're All In This Together," mega-popular producer Deadmau5 and Colleen D'Agostino grooved through a laser-focused (and enhanced) "Seeya," and Kiesza performed "Hideaway" with fleet-footed fury, surrounded by acrobatic dancers.
Hamilton's Arkells, meanwhile, were boosted by both the comfort of home-court advantage and the swell of the National Academy Orchestra of Canada. They performed "Come to Light," appropriate since they were basking in the glow of winning rock album of the year and group of the year.
"This is an embarrassment of riches," marvelled frontman Max Kerman. "I covered a Sam Roberts song when I was in Grade 12 and to be in his company is always an honour.
"Our first show was about 10 minutes away from here at McMaster University," he added, pausing as the crowd roared. "Our second show was at the Casbah about two blocks away -- that was very cool.
"And to be here on this stage is, yeah, totally overwhelming."
Host and Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard opened the show with a brisk comedy bit featuring taped contributions from Michael Buble, the Trailer Park Boys and Prime Minister Stephen Harper before struggling through "Anything" backed by a drum squad and a hail of sparking pyro.
Later, he joked that it was a "total honour that everybody else said no" and cracked: "Millions of viewers are tuning in right now and they're all thinking the same thing: 'Russell Peters looks sick and white."'
But with due respect to a game and seemingly comfortable Hoggard, it was Morissette whose formidable presence threaded the show together.
She accepted her award at the halfway point and closed the evening with three hits still indelibly etched into the memories of most Canadians.
Beyond the usual gratitude, Morissette in her speech mused on what it means to be Canadian.
"I moved to Los Angeles and I waited six months for someone to ask me a question -- so I listened," she said. "And then I realized I had to adopt a whole other approach to life because Canadians are very engaging, very curious, very self-deprecating, very funny.
"So I took advantage of the cloth from which I was cut and continued to tell stories and feel so touched by how people interpret my songs.
"As an artist, I write for myself in a very self-indulgent way," she added. "I love you, and I thank you, and I thank all people who have supported me in Canada for the many decades."