TORONTO — The Juno Awards are giving clubgoers reason to celebrate with a new category for underground dance single of the year.
Organizers of Canada’s biggest night in music tell The Canadian Press they’ll announce details of the new award at Friday’s “opening night” Junos show, with plans to launch the category in 2022.
Toronto electronic producer Joanne Hill, who performs as Sydney Blu, lobbied for the underground dance single of the year award by pulling together around 200 support letters from DJs, producers and other members of the dance music industry.
She said having a category specifically focused on more “traditional” underground dance music draws attention to less mainstream sounds with roots in marginalized communities.
“I think that’s really important because incredible music is made from this community and it wasn’t being recognized by the Junos,” Hill said.
“I’m just really happy that it’s finally happened.”
The underground dance single award will cover an array of subgenres including techno, underground house, dubstep and bass, organic house, electro classic/Detroit/modern, soul/funk/disco and Afrohouse.
Those musical flavours have largely been absent from two existing Junos dance categories – dance recording of the year and electronic album of the year – which often celebrate radio-friendly songs or artists who found success in popular culture.
Qualifying recordings must be structured around “slow builds, hypnotic and repetitive arrangements that may include vocals, often extended in length, all developed for maximum utility on the dance floor by club DJs,” the Junos said.
A 15-person Juno committee led by Hill, co-chair and entertainment lawyer Mark Quail as well as fellow music producers and organizers of various dance music festivals across the country will determine if artists submitting to the category fit the description.
Hill said she’s confident plenty of Canadian producers working in the various subgenres will submit their music for consideration.
“In every single one of them there are people making music,” she said.
“Maybe it’s not the biggest scene for it in the world but it’s all being made here by an artist somewhere in the country. Even in small towns, you’ll find an amazing progressive house artist.”
Last year, the Junos pledged to dedicate more resources to fostering a music industry that better supports the voices of artists who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour.
Creating an underground dance category is a step towards those goals.
Many of the sounds originated with Black creators on the dance floors of LGBTQ nightclubs. Since then, they’ve spun off into subgenres that have thrived at big-city raves and been embraced by Indigenous electronic artists in the far north.
In addition to the underground dance award, Junos organizers say they plan to announce two other new categories at the Friday virtual awards where 37 awards are handed out.
The Junos “opening night” event streams live tonight at 8 p.m. ET on YouTube while the 50th annual Juno broadcast airs Sunday on CBC-TV and its digital platforms.
Listen to a playlist of 2021 Juno Award nominees on Spotify: https://bit.ly/CPJunos2021
David Friend, The Canadian Press