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Nickelback lead Juno Award nominations with five nods

Nickelback, the Alberta band that tops the charts while often getting a rough ride from critics, has the lead going into this year's Juno Awards.

Nickelback, the Alberta band that tops the charts while often getting a rough ride from critics, has the lead going into this year's Juno Awards.

The rockers from Hanna, Alta., earned five nods Tuesday including fan choice, single of the year, album of the year, group of the year and producer of the year.

Montreal's Sam Roberts scored four nominations while diva Celine Dion and Vancouver band Hedley each nabbed three for the show, which will be hosted by comedian Russell Peters for the second year in a row

"It's always an honour to be nominated," Nickelback said in a statement. "To our fans, the greatest fans in the world, we thank you for giving us the opportunity to do what we love most. See you in Vancouver."

The band's latest record, "Dark Horse," was the top-selling record by a Canadian artist or group last year, moving 216,000 copies to place fourth overall in Canada according to numbers released by Nielsen SoundScan.

Yet the band, which will perform at the show on March 29 in Vancouver, has received its share of negative press over the years. Few groups in recent memory have caused such a wide schism between critical and commercial reception.

"Every once in a while you come across a band that critics love to hate," Alan Cross, host of a new show on ExploreMusic.com and the nationally syndicated radio host of "The Ongoing History of New Music," said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "Nickelback has their critics in the United States, in the U.K., in Europe, in Australia.

"They can't understand how a so-called big dumb rock band can be so hugely popular."

According to Metacritic, a website that aggregates reviews from media outlets around the world, "Dark Horse" received an average review score of 49 out of 100.

That's actually a step up from their 2005 album, "All the Right Reasons," which was scored a 41 and which the New York Times said had "the worst rock lyrics ever recorded."

As a result of the chilly critical reception, frontman Chad Kroeger now refuses to do print interviews. An EMI spokesperson said Tuesday she didn't expect that policy to change.

"Critics and fans tend to be in their own little communities, and they reinforce their belief systems by talking to each other," Cross says. "So if you're a critic, it is highly uncool to say that you actually appreciate, understand or like Nickelback."

But the backlash extends beyond critics.

A YouTube clip shows the band storming off stage in Portugal after being pelted with rocks and water bottles.

The video has been viewed almost two million times.

"I think Nickelback has become the butt of a bunch of jokes simply because music always needs someone to pick on, and it's often easiest to pick on the most successful," Cross says. "Nickelback sells millions of records, millions upon millions of dollars in concert tickets and T-shirts - somebody must like them."

Among other multiple nominees at this year's Juno Awards, which celebrate the best in Canadian music, Montreal phenom Nikki Yanofsky is up for best new artist and vocal jazz album of the year. Toronto's City and Colour, who will also perform at the show, is nominated for artist of the year and songwriter of the year. Toronto-based Serena Ryder, who won for best new artist last year, is nominated for artist of the year and adult alternative album of the year this time around.

Two Montreal bands - the Stills and Plants and Animals - are up for new group of the year and alternative album of the year.

The Lost Fingers could be seen as a surprise among the heavyweight nominees for the fan choice award and album of the year. The Quebec trio is up for "Lost in the 80's," a collection of jazzy, acoustic covers of songs as diverse as Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" and Paula Abdul's "Straight Up."

And the Barenaked Ladies are nominated for children's album of the year for "Snacktime." The nomination comes months after frontman Steven Page faced drug possession charges in the United States.

Other performers announced for the show include Vancouver's Sarah McLachlan and Montreal band Simple Plan, which is up for album of the year and group of the year.

The list of nominees is a curious mix of some of the most famous musicians Canada has to offer - including Alanis Morissette, Bryan Adams and k.d. lang - and a plethora of young newcomers, many of whom were slightly awed by the ballroom reception at a Toronto hotel.

"We're unfamiliar with these kinds of surroundings, we come from the gutter," joked Dave Hamelin, frontman for the Stills.

While the nominees were happy, few wanted to put too much stock in the awards.

"This is great for my career, but if I wasn't nominated, I'd be like: 'I've got a lot of work to do,"' said 25-year-old Chris Donnelly, nominated for traditional jazz album of the year. "Even now, I'm thinking: I've got a lot of work to do."

Singer Liam Cormier, whose Cancer Bats are nominated for new group of the year, agreed.

"It's not going to change how we do anything, you know?" he said. "We're still going to keep touring, we're still going to play the shows that we play, our band's still going to be as heavy as it can be. For us, it doesn't really change anything.

"(But) my mom will be stoked."

 
 
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