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Junos 2023: The Weeknd wins big, Avril Lavigne confronts topless protestor onstage

Toronto singer The Weeknd now has the second-most Juno awards of all time, after winning album of the year during Monday night’s ceremony hosted by Shang Chi actor Simu Liu.

The Canadian music awards show handed out five prizes throughout the evening: the TikTok Juno fan choice award, album of the year, breakthrough artist of the year, rap album/EP of the year and contemporary R&B recording of the year.

The show also featured Nickelback’s induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and a 50th anniversary tribute to hip-hop in Canada. But an early incident nearly overshadowed the rest of the event.

Pop-punk star Avril Lavigne won the final award of the evening, the TikTok Juno fan choice award, alluding in her speech to a bizarre moment earlier in the ceremony when a topless protester appeared on stage behind her.

“Now nobody try anything this time. I’ll f–k a b-tch up,” Lavigne joked.

At the top of the show, Lavigne was introducing Canadian-Punjabi singer AP Dhillon’s performance, when the woman appeared on the stage behind her.

WATCH | Avril Lavigne confronts topless woman on stage at the Junos: 

Avril Lavigne reacts to a protestor at the Junos

Avril Lavigne was caught by surprise on Monday night at the Juno Awards when she was greeted by an unexpected protester.

A message written on her back appeared to read “SAVE THE GREEN BELT” — an apparent reference to a controversial development plan by the Ontario government.

Lavigne turned around and told the woman to “get the f–k off,” swatting at her breast. A security guard then escorted the protester off the stage. CBC News cannot yet confirm why the woman climbed onto the stage or whether she was escorted from the building.

Liu later gave kudos to Lavigne for “handling that topless lady like a champion.”

Wins for Jessie Reyez, Preston Pablo

The Weeknd won album of the year for Dawn FM, though he was a no-show at the ceremony, prompting jeers from the audience. The Toronto singer also won four awards during the Junos opening night ceremony on Saturday evening, when 40 awards were given out.

Toronto artist Jessie Reyez took home the R&B prize for her 2022 album YESSIE, later performing her song Mutual Friend onstage.

A woman wearing a leather ensemble speaks into a microphone and holds an award as two onlookers stand nearby.
Jessie Reyez accepts the Juno award for contemporary R&B recording of the year during the Juno Awards in Edmonton on Monday. (Timothy Matwey/The Canadian Press)

“It’s an honour to be recognized at home,” Reyez said during her acceptance speech, adding that she was grateful to be nominated alongside talents like DVSN and Savannah Ré.

Timmins, Ont., pop artist Preston Pablo won breakthrough artist of the year. During his speech, the 21-year-old singer thanked his family and “the amazing fans for being such a huge part of why I’m here today.”

Nickelback inducted into Hall of Fame

The rock band Nickelback was later inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Actor Ryan Reynolds called the band “the pride of Alberta” during a pre-taped segment, which was followed by an onstage introduction from Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

Six men appear on a stage, one of them holding a microphone.
Nickelback is inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame during the Junos. (Timothy Matwey/The Canadian Press)

Lead singer Chad Kroeger, appearing with guitarist Ryan Peake, bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Daniel Adair, said they only had about two minutes to speak.

“Twenty seven years, blood sweat and tears, started off 300 kilometres southeast of here in a little town called Hanna,” Kroeger said, referring to the band’s hometown.

“We had no idea what we were doing and most of the time still don’t. But everything we did wound up leading us to this moment right here. But we didn’t make it here without a lot of help,” he added, before each band member thanked their various collaborators and loved ones.

The band closed out the show with a performance of their songs RockstarHow You Remind Me and Animals, as a montage of music videos highlighted some of the biggest hits of their career.

Speaking to press after the show, Kroeger spoke about the band’s ill-treatment by the music industry.

“We have been the whipping boys of the music industry for way too long. It’s nice to see a change,” he said, noting that the band members don’t “kill puppies” or make headlines for bad behaviour.

“We’re four guys who make music and we have been absolutely ripped through the mud and worse for a good 15 years of our 27-year career. So what’s it like? It f–king sucks,” Kroeger added.

“What’s it like to win this award tonight? F–king redemption!” 

TOBi wins rap award 

Rappers Haviah Mighty and Kardinal Offishall, who wore a bright yellow jacket emblazoned with hip-hop group De La Soul’s logo, introduced a 50th anniversary tribute to hip-hop in Canada.

The artists narrated a history of the genre over the decades, from the 1970s to the emergence of contemporary talents like Cadence Weapon and Drake — applauding those who put Canadian hip-hop on the map and opened doors for new artists.

A group of people pose for a photo.
Choclair, DJ Mel Boogie, Dream Warriors, Haviah Mighty, Kardinal Offishall, Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee and Tobi pose during the 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebration at the Juno Awards in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

“One of my favourite MCs went on to be the world’s favourite. The world would not look the same if it wasn’t for the unprecedented talent, influence and vision of [a man] like Drake,” Kardi said. “He continued to open doors and help focus the world’s attention on our thriving hip hop scene.”

The duo then introduced genre powerhouses Michie Mee, Dream Warriors, Choclair, each of which performed onstage. DJ Mel Boogie was onstage as well, sporting an Oilers jersey.

Maestro Fresh Wes, who won the first Juno for rap album of the year in 1991, performed a few lines from his hit Let Your BackBone Slide. He announced this year’s winner, TOBi, who won for his 2021 album Shall I Continue?

Tenille Townes, Alexisonfire, Aysanabee, Tate McRae, Banx & Ranx, Preston Pablo and Rêve also performed during tonight’s ceremony.


Here is a full list of winners:

Contemporary R&B recording of the year: Jessie Reyez, YESSIE; Adria Kain, When Flowers Bloom; DVSN, If I Get Caught; Dylan Sinclair, No Longer in the Suburbs; Savannah Ré, WTF

Breakthrough artist of the year: Preston Pablo; Dax; Devon Cole; RealestK; Rêve

Album of the year: The Weeknd, Dawn FM; Ali Gatie, Who Hurt You?; Avril Lavigne, Love Sux; Nav, Demons Protected By Angels; Tate McRae, I Used To Think I Could Fly

Rap album of the year: TOBi, Shall I Continue?; Boslen, Gonzo; Classified, Retrospected (Acoustic); Jazz Cartier, The Fleur Print Vol. 2.; Nav, Demons Protected By Angels

TikTok Juno fan choice: Avril Lavigne; Lauren Spencer Smith; MacKenzie Porter; Preston Pablo; Rêve; Shawn Mendes; Tate McRae; The Weeknd; Tyler Shaw

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