TORONTO — Fiery R&B singer Jessie Reyez, whose potent songs include one about sexual abuse in the music industry, has tied with Arcade Fire for the most nominations at this year's Juno Awards.
The Toronto performer picked up four nods at the Junos unveiling on Tuesday — best R&B/soul recording, best music video, breakthrough artist of the year and the Juno Fan Choice award.
Rock favourites Arcade Fire grabbed best group, single, album and alternative album nominations, while other leading Juno contenders include late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, the Arkells, Ruth B and Hedley, who have three nominations apiece.
Drake was notably absent from the list despite his album "More Life" being released within the year. Organizers said he chose not to submit the project for consideration, which falls in line his decision to skip the Grammy Awards earlier this year.
Reyez stood out as a particularly timely contender for her outspokenness towards an industry where she's only just begun making inroads.
The single "Gatekeeper" recounts the singer's experience as a young artist being pressured into sex by a powerful music industry player who promises her fame. The song, released before the #MeToo and Time's Up movements made headlines, took on even greater resonance with its troubling Juno-nominated music video that visualizes the incident.
"Figures," another track on Reyez's 2017 debut EP "Kiddo," has received heavy airplay on Canadian radio.
During Tuesday's announcement, Junos president Allan Reid acknowledged criticism that the Canadian music industry suffers from a shortfall in female representation.
Over the past two years, the lack of women among the Juno nominees became a focal point for some in the industry, leading to the Twitter hashtag #JunosSoMale.
The criticism intensified when co-host Russell Peters called Heritage Minister Melanie Joly "hot" on last year's broadcast and made jokes that critics said sexualized women. Junos organizers later apologized and said they did not "in any way support, nor did we sanction, the off-script remarks."
Reid, who is also president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, told the industry crowd the organization has pushed for several changes in recent months.
He said a partnership with pop duo Tegan and Sara and the advocacy group Women in Music helped recruit more female Juno voters, while CARAs has added four women to its board of directors.
Junos organizers also plan to create a scholarship to help encourage young women to enter music production and engineering fields.
"We at CARAs we have a voice in this industry and a big platform to use it, so this is our chance to do that," Reid said.
This year's Juno Awards will be staged in Vancouver and hosted by pop crooner Michael Buble. Performers for the show, which airs March 25 on CBC-TV, are set to include Reyez, Daniel Caeser and Hedley, while a tribute to Downie is also planned.
Here's a look at the nominees in some of the top categories:
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
"How Far I'll Go" by Alessia Cara
"Everything Now" by Arcade Fire
"Knocking at the Door" by the Arkells
"There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" by Shawn Mendes
"I Feel It Coming" by the Weeknd
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Everything Now" by Arcade Fire
"Nobody But Me" by Michael Buble
"Revival" by Johnny Reid
"Safe Haven" by Ruth B
"Now" by Shania Twain
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
GROUP OF THE YEAR
Broken Social Scene
A Tribe Called Red
Listen to a playlist of 2018 Juno Award nominees on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2siaaUi
David Friend, The Canadian Press