The first new major star to arise in the new millennium was a Canadian of Portuguese descent who had grown up in Victoria, BC. After her Juno Song of the Year winner “I’m Like a Bird”, Nelly Furtado went on to sell 20 million of her three studio albums worldwide. But the early years of first decade were known for a slew of new (mostly short-lived) bands.
RPM magazine and their national charts folded in Y2K and determination of the Canadian charts was ultimately handed over to the Americans. Coincidentally, Canadian music seemed to become increasingly Americanized with a host of Canadian-made R&B and rap songs reaching high positions on the charts. Interesting though was the fact that new Canadian artists who embraced American styles of music, though scoring one or two big hits, did not last past an album or two. Fewer new Canuck acts took on genres more Canadian, but those who did saw greater and longer-lasting success.
Alberta gave the nation and the world the hard rock group Nickelback who scored the biggest hit of the year in 2002 on the U.S. Billboard charts. And a young singer from small town Ontario, who swung between pop and punk, scored a diamond debut album and, by the end of the decade, had sold over 30 million records worldwide. Her name was Avril Lavigne.
Montreal-born Daniel Boucher released his debut album in 1999. Its opener, “La désise” was declared song of the year at the Felix awards gala. He was the only significant new soloist in Y2K. All other new artists were bands.
Vancouver’s ambient pop band Delerium had been around since 1989. But it wasn’t until this year that they scored (thanks to the vocal help of Sarah McLachlan) their first big hit. “Silence” peaked on the charts at #5 in Canada, #3 in the U.K. and #1 in Ireland. Further singles released from the band saw greater success in the U.K. and Ireland than at home.
Another Vancouver act was R&B-rap soulDecision whose song “Faded” topped the charts, driving their album to platinum status. They scored a couple more hits later on but remain best known for “Faded” which appeared on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 chart in 66th place. Aimee MacKenzie, who had been part of the female group West End Girls in Vancouver, formed a new R&B band called D Cru. “I Will Be Waiting” was a Top 10 hit (#9).
Sault Ste. Marie produced an indie rock / pop-punk band called Treble Charger. Their 2000 album went platinum thanks in part to the Juno nominated song “American Psycho”. In Toronto, pop boy band B4-4’s debut album went platinum and their song “Get Down” made it to #4. R&B outfit Jacksoul, which had debuted in 1996, scored a #8 hit this year called “Can’t Stop”.
In Montreal, twin sisters Toni and Trisha Sherwood formed a dance-pop duo named after their shared birth date (November 30th). 11:30’s song “Olè Olè” peaked at #10 on the charts. Folk-rockers Okoumé which had debuted in 1997 came out with their second album this year which spawned the Felix-nominated “Irresponsable”. They were never heard from since.
Although there were no significant new female soloists in Y2K, this year one of the biggest acts of the decade emerged. 2001, for all intents and purposes, belonged to Victoria’s Nelly Furtado. Her debut album Whoa, Nelly! went quadruple-platinum and sold 7 million copies worldwide, thanks to the hit “I’m Like a Bird”, a British Top 5 hit and 43rd biggest song of the year in the United States. The album spawned three more Top 20 singles.
New Brunswick’s Natasha St-Pier, who had released a debut album in 1996, represented France in the Eurovision contest with a Jill Kapler-composed masterpiece called “Je n’ai que mon âme”, turning her into an international star. The song entered the French and Belgian charts at #11 and then jumped to #2. It remained on the charts for 26 weeks and, in Canada, was declared song of the year by the Felix Awards. St-Pier released an English version of the song (“All I Have Is My Soul”) which was ignored. Lulu Hughes scored a hit called “Rock with Me”.
In terms of new bands, the most successful was Sum 41, the only act, besides Furtado and St-Pier to score an international hit this year “Fat Lip”, a #8 hit in Britain, helped the Ajax, Ontario punk rockers’ debut album attain triple platinum status. The Matthew Good Band’s “Raygun” was a Top 10 hit this year. Later suburban Vancouverite Matthew Good was to go solo and score another Top 10 hit: “In a World Called Catastrophe” in 2003. Montreal’s funky dance collective Bran Van 3000 scored a Top 10 hit with “Astounded”.
Newmarket, Ontario’s Serial Joe scored a #1 grunge-punk hit in Canada called “Completely”. Niagara Falls’ Wave went to number 1 as well thanks to “California”. Created on the first season of the Popstars show, assembled group Sugar Jones became one-hit wonders with the #2 single “Days Like That”.
There only new male soloist this year was Toronto rapper Jelleestone whose “Money” made a brief appearance on the charts peaking at #6.
2002 was a huge year in Canadian music, one of the biggest of the decade. Two new superstars came out of nowhere, both selling over 30 million copies of their records through the decade.
A teenage singer from small town Ontario won a contest to sing with Shania Twain in Ottawa before a crowd of 20,000. She was offered a record deal and became a multi-millionaire when she was 16 years old. Avril Lavigne’s debut album, Let Go, was released this year and went diamond, with four singles entering the Top 20 all over the world. Ironically, her singles charted better in every other country than in Canada, including non-English-speaking countries. “Complicated” was the song that first thrust her into the limelight and was the 11th best-selling single of the year in the U.S.
Alberta had not contributed much in the way of Canadian music over the years besides the occasional artist like The Stampeders, k.d. lang, and Jann Arden. From the small town of Hanna, northeast of Calgary, a rock band had released a debut album in 1996 that went nowhere. Their 2000 release garnered some attention on the “alternative” charts but this year’s release, Silver Side Up, went 8x Platinum. Nickelback’s single “How You Remind Me” was the biggest song of the year south of the border and “Too Bad” was a Top 10 hit in Britain. Furthermore, Chad Kroeger, the band’s lead singer, teamed up with Josey Scott of the American band Saliva to record the song “Hero” for the feature film Spider-Man. It topped the charts in Canada.
Around since 1993, Windsor Ontario’s The Tea Party finally became big names thanks to “Soulbreaking”, which peaked at #3. Four of the band’s albums, with their unique sound of rock with middle eastern touches, reached multi-platinum status. After being around since 1997, folk-rock band Les Cowboys Fringants garnered their first Felix-nominated song this year, “Toune d’automne”. Dance trio The Boomtang Boys topped the charts with “Movin’ On”, following up with the Top 10 hit “Squeeze Toy”. Aside from writing original songs, they created dance versions of past hits, like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”. Toronto’s overlooked all-female power punk band Tuuli scored a #4 hit called “It’s Over”. BC’s rap group Swollen Members made it to #3 with “Bring It Home”. Grungers Theory of a Deadman, from suburban Vancouver, made it to #2 on the charts with “Nothing Could Come Between Us”. Quebec City’s dance band One Ton made the Top 10 with “Supersexworld”.
A male-female duo emerged that sung a couple of popular duets. They were Jean-François Breau and Marie-Ève Janvier. “Changer” was popular this year and, later, “Donner pour donner”.
A few new male soloists appeared this year. Mascouche, Québec’s Marc Déry went solo after a stint with the band Zébulon and scored the hit “Depuis”. Montrealer Sam Roberts rocked his way to platinum, to Juno awards, and gave us the gold single “Where Have All the Good People Gone?” With roots in Rwanda, German-born R&B artist Corneille came out with the hit “Avec classe”, and, later on, “Parce qu’on vient de loin” and “Seul au monde”. Dany Bédar, who had started out as a dj, debuted this year with the hit song “Faire la paix avec l’amour”. Later he scored with “Écoute-moi donc”.
Calgarian nurse-turned-country-star Paul Brandt crossed over onto the pop charts with the #1 “Canadian Man”. His debut album in 1996 had gone triple-platinum and he had been the first male Canadian country artist since Hank Snow in the 70s to have a Top 10 single in the American Billboard charts (“My Heart Has a History”).
Coming up are mini-profiles on semi-major artists Daniel Boucher, Natasha St-Pier, Sum 41, The Tea Party, and Les Cowboys Fringants. Following that will be features on major artists Nelly Furtado, Avril Lavigne, and Nickelback.