2023 in Review - The JUNO Awards

As 2023 comes to an end, we are revisiting some of the biggest moments in music that defined the year. From up-and-coming stars to monumental world tours, 2023 was a year scored by remarkable performances, sombre farewells, and exciting new music.

Talent on the rise

 If Tate McRae’s name wasn’t on your radar before, chances are it is now. In 2023, the rising star unleashed her pop hit “Greedy,” serving as the lead single from her much-anticipated sophomore album, Think Later. The track not only dominated the charts and amassed millions of streams but also became a sensation on TikTok, appearing in over 1.3 million videos.

Nominated for Best New Artist at The GRAMMY Awards, Noah Kahan, who made waves in 2022 with his hit “Stick Season,” emerged as one of the biggest new artists in 2023. He unveiled the deluxe edition of his acclaimed album Stick Season with all 18 tracks earning a spot on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Charts. The New England folk sensation also sold out his supporting tour, setting the stage for two eagerly anticipated sold-out performances at Madison Square Garden in 2024.

Toronto rock band, The Beaches, also had a significant year, earning widespread acclaim for their infectious track “Blame Brett.” The song not only propelled them into the spotlight but also set the stage for the release of their much-anticipated sophomore album, “Blame My Ex.” With this latest LP, The Beaches showcased their evolving sound and musical prowess, solidifying their status as one of the standout acts in the rock scene. 

Larger-than-life tours

2023 was a monumental year for concerts and music festivals, featuring performances from some of the industry’s most prominent artists. Taylor Swift notably dominated with her Eras Tour, setting a historic record as the highest-grossing tour ever, raking in an impressive $1.04 billion. Her career-spanning tour captivated audiences worldwide, selling over 4.3 million tickets across 60 shows from November 2022 to November 2023.

Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour wasn’t far behind in its impact. As her ninth concert tour, it became her most profitable, drawing 2.7 million attendees across 56 shows in 39 cities. The tour’s phenomenal $579 million earnings not only secured its position among the top-grossing tours of all time but also established a new benchmark for the highest-grossing tour by a Black artist. 

The Weeknd also embarked on an impressive stadium tour in support of his fourth and fifth studio albums, After Hours and Dawn FM. The Weeknd’s post-apocalyptic After Hours til Dawn tour kicked off its European leg in June and played to 160,000 people over two nights at London Stadium, breaking the arena’s single- and two-night record.

The year also showcased standout shows from top-tier artists including Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Coldplay, Elton John, Harry Styles, P!nk, Morgan Wallen, and Luke Combs delivering an amazing year of live music.

Surprising Music Moments

In 2023 there were also a handful of delightful yet surprising moments in the music world, one of which was the release of The Beatles’ final song, “Now and Then”. Originally penned by John Lennon as a home demo in the 1970s, the song was completed by surviving band members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr last year. The song uses guitar tracks by George Harrison and with the help of contemporary audio advancements and artificial intelligence, John Lennon’s voice from the original demo.

Rush bassist-frontman Geddy Lee revealed in his memoir, My Effin Life, the untold story of how he was once fired from the band. This surprising turn of events occurred early in their career, coinciding with the hiring of Ray Danniels as their manager. While Lee had long suspected Danniels’ involvement, it wasn’t until fifty years later that he discovered the true instigator was drummer John Rustey, who had been keen on reshaping the band’s image.

Another notable release this year was André 3000’s long-awaited album, marking his return after nearly two decades. A major departure from his rap roots, the Outkast rapper surprised fans with New Blue Sun, a collection of flute-driven instrumentals. The album’s opening track which is 12-minute and 20-second in length, set a Billboard record as the longest song to enter the Hot 100, securing its spot at No. 90.

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling earned a spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for the Barbie movie ballad “I’m Just Ken” which also snagged a GRAMMY nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media. To celebrate the holidays, Gosling temporarily stepped back into his role for a festive performance and music video for the song alongside Mark Ronson, with whom he also released a four-track project titled Ken the EP.


Remembering music icons

Amidst the highs of the year, 2023 was also marked by sombre moments as the music industry bid farewell to some of its most cherished icons. Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian folk legend and Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee passed away at the age of 84. A prolific writer, Lightfoot penned hundreds of songs and 20 studio albums that examined Canada’s rich history, geography, and culture, shaping the sound of the nation.

The gifted guitarist and masterful songwriter behind The Band, Robbie Robertson passed away at 80. The five-time JUNO Award winner indelibly changed the rock and folk music worlds. From crafting timeless hits like “The Weight” to pushing the boundaries of musical storytelling as a music producer, his impact has reached far beyond Canadian borders.

The music industry also mourned the loss of Robbie and Burt Bachman from the rock group Bachman Turner Overdrive, Myles Goodwyn from the esteemed band April Wine, Karl Tremblay the voice behind Les Cowboys Fringants, and the iconic Tina Turner.

Feature image: Tate McRae performs “she’s all i wanna be” at The 2023 JUNO Awards Broadcast. Rogers Place. March 13, 2023. Photo by CARAS/Ryan Bolton