Alessia Cara went from winning the Juno Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2016 to walking away with a trophy for Pop Album of the Year in 2017. Last year, Lainey wrote about her seemingly unflappable on-stage confidence, and last night, it was back in full force.
There's no doubting it - Alessia's had an amazing year. She's toured with Coldplay, opened the MTV VMA pre-show with a collaboration with Troye Sivan, sang the Oscar-nominated song How Far I'll Go on the Moana soundtrack, and now has two Top 10 Billboard Hits to her name (Scars to Your Beautiful and, of course, Here). Naturally, she returned to the Junos as a household name as a result of her achievements. Co-hosts Russell Peters and Bryan Adams gave her a shout-out in the opening monologue while joking about the evening's nominees, mentioning her before Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Sarah McLachlan:
"The Weeknd is dating Bieber's ex. The Biebs is in Brazil probably punching a fan right now... but we do have Alessia Cara! She's blowing up, Brampton represent!"
Later in the show, Russell did an in-audience bit with her playing up that they're both from the same hometown of Brampton, Ont.
It’s one thing to be nominated. It’s another to get namechecked – and so often. Beyond that, Alessia brought Zedd along for the big show to perform their new song Stay, followed by a brief rendition of Scars to Your Beautiful.
Like Sarah McLachlan, Alessia also had a prime position in the closing multi-musician finale number of Bryan Adams' Summer of '69, and she took her mom and most of her family as her dates to the ceremony.
When she won, she received a hug from friend and category rival Shawn Mendes, which nearly broke the Canadian Internet:
The evening was a "star is born" night for Alessia, and her victory came during a year where the Junos received lots of criticism and flak from artists like Tegan and Sara for not having better female representation in its top categories. This marked the second year in a row where the Junos came under fire for leaving notable women performers off their nomination list, or acknowledging them sparsely, as Carly Rae Jepsen went without any honours for her widely critically acclaimed 2015 album, Emotion.
Speaking to the second year of #JunosSoMale, back in February, the twins posted this statement to their website after receiving their nominations, writing:
"It is with tremendous respect and absolutely no judgement of each nominee’s well-deserved accomplishments that we take this moment to address the disappointing number of women nominated in many of the various categories ... In 8 categories no women were recognized at all, and in over 12 additional categories, only 1 in 5 of the nominees included a woman. Specifically in the areas of production and engineering, it is discouraging to not see a single woman represented."
Yet, despite this gender blindspot, Alessia managed to pick up four nominations (and one win), proving the power of her talent and popularity amongst audiences and critics. And she's only 20; Alessia's just warming up. What kind of impact will she have on #JunosSoMale in 2018?