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Nanaimo pop star nominated for Juno artist of the year

Lauren Spencer-Smith, 19, was also nominated for the TikTok Juno fan choice award.
Lauren Spencer-Smith was nominated for two Juno Awards. REPUBLIC RECORDS

Nanaimo pop sensation Lauren Spencer-Smith leads the Vancouver Island contingent at the Juno Awards with a nod for artist of the year.

The 19-year-old Spencer-Smith was also nominated for the TikTok Juno fan choice award, representing her third career nomination. Unplugged Vol. 1 earned the teen, who graduated from Dover Bay Secondary, an adult contemporary album of the year nomination in 2020.

The Juno attention comes on the heels of a breakout year in 2022, which included an appearance on The Tonight Show and chart success for her single, Fingers Crossed.

Other performers with ties to Vancouver Island who made the list of nominees Tuesday include Nanaimo’s Shawn Hall of the Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer (blues album of the year), former Victoria residents Pharis & Jason Romero (traditional roots album of the year), and Canadian College of Performing Arts grad Carly Rae Jepsen (pop album of the year).

The Weeknd is back atop the nominees while newcomer Tate McRae and pop-punk favourite Avril Lavigne trail close behind.

The Toronto-raised Blinding Lights and Starboy hitmaker earned six nods across some of the main categories heading into the annual celebration of Canadian music.

They include album of the year for Dawn FM, single of the year for Sacrifice, and artist of the year.

Dawn FM also earned a nomination for pop album of the year while the Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, will vie for songwriter of the year and the TikTok Juno Fan Choice prize, which is voted on by viewers.

It’s a repeat performance for Tesfaye, who was the leading Juno nominee most recently in 2021. He emerged that year as the top winner, scoring five Junos, but didn’t show up for what was a hybrid COVID-19 pandemic ceremony of taped and live appearances.

Whether the superstar plans to attend the Junos at Edmonton’s Rogers Place still hasn’t been announced. The event will be broadcast March 13 on CBC and CBC Gem.

This marks the first time the Junos have toured since the start of the pandemic. The show has been held in Toronto for the past two years.

Other big Juno contenders include Lavigne, the Napanee, Ont. pop-punk princess who competes for the throne with Calgary pop royalty McRae. The two singers go up against each other in four categories — single, album, pop album and fan choice.

Lavigne’s fifth nomination is for artist of the year, while McRae’s is for songwriter.

Nominees for single of the year include Lavigne’s Bite Me, Pablo’s Flowers Need Rain with production duo Banx & Ranx, McRae’s She’s All I Wanna Be, Shawn Mendes’ When You’re Gone, and the Weeknd’s Sacrifice.

— With a file from the Times Colonist