TORONTO – Canadian pop singer Alessia Cara offered a dash of charm to an otherwise predictable night of celebrity sightings at the iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards.
The Brampton, Ont.-raised singer joined co-host Joe Jonas to set the Toronto event in motion, but everything that followed seemed especially scripted.
Even though the MMVAs built their reputation on crazy antics over flashy accolades, this year lacked any sort of stand-out moments that could rival Lady Gaga’s flaming bustier or Lorde serenading a lamp.
The closest viewers got to any tantalizing content was a pot reference from Jonas as he shared his knowledge of Canadian cannabis culture shortly after the show started.
“This time next year it will be completely legal for Canadians to be blem for real,” Jonas said, tipping his hat to Drake lyrics that popularized the slang for getting high.
Jonas is familiar with working the boisterous crowd at the MMVAs. He hosted eight years ago with his brothers.
Cara, however, is a newcomer to the gig, though her charisma begged for more screen time.
The 20-year-old singer, who counts the body-positive ballad “Scars to Your Beautiful” among her hits, led the conversation towards outspoken artists.
“13 Reasons Why” actor Brandon Flynn took the cue to address the power of a new generation.
“Our voices, they’re young, they’re influential, they’re non-judgemental, non-discriminating,” he said.
“If we stop using them we let an older generation who doesn’t give anything about those things to use their voices.”
Themes of unity and acceptance ran throughout the show with musicians like Toronto’s Serena Ryder taking a moment to promote equality.
Indigenous group A Tribe Called Red also lent encouragement to visible minorities when they won video of the year for “R.E.D.”
“To all the black, brown, indigenous, immigrant, international kids out there: believe in your dreams, make it happen,” said Yassin Alsalman, who raps a verse on “R.E.D.” as Narcy.
While the voices on stage boasted acceptance, those in the audience saved most of their energy for screaming.
Former One Direction member Niall Horan received the loudest squeals. He took home the fan fave international artist or group award before performing two songs.
His fans shouted back the lyrics to “Slow Hands” while holding their phones in the air to capture the performance.
Other winners included Lorde for international artist of the year. She made a point of sharing her affection for the country.
“Canada was one of the first places to go, “Hey, we like this little weirdo,” she said upon receiving the award.
The MMVA’s most colourful moments came before the show at the red carpet ceremony.
YouTube star Lilly Singh arrived wearing a “Love Thy Sister” shirt alongside a dozen young girls. Singh told an MMVA red carpet interviewer that it was important to “understand that feminism is about all shapes and sizes.”
Vancouver band Marianas Trench captured plenty of attention with an especially celebratory entrance to mark their 10th year at the MMVAs.
Lead singer Josh Ramsay arrived hidden in a cake before he revealed himself — almost all of himself — in a faux whip cream bikini. His bandmates plastered dozens of balloons on themselves to mark the occasion.
“I was like, you know what, let’s do something classy,” Ramsay said of the choice.
“Nothing to me says class like leaping out of a cake in a whip cream bikini on Father’s Day.”
Follow @dfriend on Twitter.