Stylist Steph Major joined via zoom to create Reyez's Marie Antoinette look
© Magnafire
Music

Go behind the scenes of Jessie Reyez's performance at the 2021 Juno Awards

Reyez and Director Adrian Vieni set a new precedent for live experiences with cinematic and artful pacing; the team behind the Juno performance turned a distanced performance into an intimate event.
By Jamila Pomeroy
Published on
Four-times Juno award winning artist, Jessie Reyez, took home the ‘Best Music Video,’ prize at this year's Juno Awards. The Toronto-raised singer/songwriter released her debut album, Before Love Came to Kill Us, last March, though wasn’t able to tour; Reyez and her innovative team instead used this time as an opportunity to get creative -- opening our eyes to the potential of live performances.
Watch how it all came together in the player below:
Music · 4 min
Jessie Reyez's 2021 Juno Awards Performance: Behind the scenes
01

Majestic, Great, Grandiose

With a romantically-lit lavish home as a backdrop, and styled in a Marie Antoinette-esque dress, Jessie Reyez delivered a powerful performance at the 2021 Juno Awards, performing the first song off her debut album, Do You Love Her. The song -- with it’s opening, fiery, punchline edited from "I should've f--ked your friends" to "I should've smashed your friends" -- set the stage for a performance that unpacked the moods, feelings, and triumphs of what that means to a woman. All too appropriate, a decked out Reyez, was accompanied by a woman-led band. “Usually I would be doing live performances with my main band, but due to the forces that be, we weren’t able to get them in LA. As opposed to an obstacle I decided to view this as an opportunity [...] I wanted this piece to be a concentrated depiction of a pure state of abundance. So I thought about abundant divine feminine energy as well."
Since we did this in LA, where some of the best musicians in the world live, we were able to build a really strong substitute band in very little time
Jessie Reyez
Grounded and empowered with emotion that developed cinematically, the artful performance set a new precedent for the live show experience. From her outfits that resembled a modern Marie Antoinette (styled by Steph Major), to the genius pacing and direction of Adrian Vieni, the stage value of the performance charted on unrecognizable stylistic territory. Harnessing the opulence and poise of a candle-lit rococo-era theatre (production designer, Hunter Krist); the visual impact of a modern arena experience; and the intimacy of the performance, well, it felt like we were flies on the wall, witnessing a passionate Reyez move through the memories and emotions of the song's foundation.
02

Blurring cinematic lines

The opportunities are endless when you're not tied to a stage
Adrian Vieni, Director
For Director Adrian Vieni, this too was an opportunity to take an artful and cinematic take on the live show experience. “My approach to any live performances has been to take them off the stage and explore physical spaces [...] The opportunities are endless when you're not tied to a stage. I've been creating live music films for years, and I feel like finally, since there's such a need for it, people are embracing new creative and unconventional ways to capture them. I think there's going to be a big shift in how live music is presented, both in person and virtually, and I can't wait to continue to explore that medium,” says Vieni.
Exploring those physical spaces, with Reyez as our guide, the camera, manned by DOP Matt Plaxco, captured the emotive storyline in just one take -- which for a project with its director in an entirely different country, (back in Toronto, Canada) made a well-planned pre-production crucial.
In order to make something like this happen, you need a team of minimum 40 people and weeks of prep
Mauricio Ruiz, Manager
“Due to the pandemic, live performances are shared in abundance online,” Managers Mauricio Ruiz and Byron Wilson explain. “Jessie took note of that so we wanted to elevate the experience and bring a cinematic approach vs your straight forward performance. It feels like you’re watching a movie featuring Jessie Reyez singing live,” says Ruiz. Though the audience experienced a four minute performance from the artist and her band, to pull off something with movie-like qualities took weeks of prep. “[There are] A lot of moving pieces behind the scenes that people don’t see. They only see the end product. Hopefully they love it but in order to make something like this happen, you need a team of minimum 40 people and weeks of prep. Fortunately Mad Ruk Entertainment, the content agency who produced this, has a wealth of experience dealing with large complicated setups,” explains Ruiz.
03

Reflective art forms

For Director Adrian Vieni, the transition from inside to out was the thing that took the most planning, which in turn came out the most seamless. “I wanted to play up that strings interlude between the songs, and it gave me a perfect segue to move from inside to out. When we reveal the exterior and see Jessie sitting by the pool, I just look at that frame and think 'This is art.’ From the light bouncing off the pool and scattering ripples across the whole space, to the train of her dress fanned out across the ground, to the way she turns to camera right when the beat drops. Everything about that moment is so flawless,” says Vieni. Singing into mirrors, water, and into the abyss of a Los Angeles night sky, these visuals ripple into visual and lyrical statements, spanning the artist’s discography; this performance though, featuring an unbothered, unbreakable Reyez, like we’ve never seen.
Reyez’s Juno award-winning music video, No One’s in the Room, explores so many themes surrounding our inner dialog, self expression, reflection, and how we are perceived by others -- all from a female lens. While she often showcases the pretty, pleasant, and romantic, Reyez is undoubtedly unafraid to showcase all angles of what it means to be a woman; and further, the human experience in reaction to being perceived by the world around us; and parallel, the inner dialog that follows it all. For Reyez, these elements of the human experience are not only embedded into her lyrics, but her own inner dialog.
“They show up every day. They show up in what I say when I look at myself in the mirror. They show up in my dreams when repressed things pop up in my subconscious,” she explains. Her antidote? “Be your own best friend because no one is going to look out for you like you look out for you. Life is hard as is, so if the voice in the head is against you then you’re f*cked. You gotta make sure the voice in your head is on your side and make time to meditate and/or pray.”