Issues with Francophone Music in 2012

Musique francophone iTunes Canada

In 2012, Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, a tune performed in the Korean language, topped the Canadian Hot 100 for seven straight weeks, once and for all blowing to pieces the hasty assumption Canadian broadcasters have made that Anglophones are unwilling to listen to songs in a language other than English, an assumption they have parroted over the years, without any supporting evidence, to justify shutting out Francophone songs on English-language radio stations.

Despite the success of “Gangnam Style”, Canada still did not seem to get it. While it was on top of the charts, the Canadian media made no mention whatsoever of the Félix Awards gala, the biggest event in the country to honour Francophone music. Even the CBC which always seems so intent on promoting Canadian music published not a single word on its website about the award winners and the gala. Moreover, the same month that Psy’s Korean tune wrapped up its dynasty at number 1, no Francophone artist was invited to perform at the halftime show of the 100th Grey Cup, a huge national event. The media did not pick up on this snub choosing instead to pick on the choice of Anglophone artists and their performances.

There are some problems with retailers as well.

Issues with iTunes Canada
We have noticed that iTunes Canada considers Francophone music a genre. Whether a song is mainstream pop, hard rock, rap, electronic, jazz, or country, if it is performed in French, it gets categorized as a Francophone song. Moreover, if a Francophone artist releases an album with a couple of English songs, these get labelled as Francophone under the genre. Some may find the Francophone category helpful. But consider that there is no category called Anglophone Music. Songs that are half in French and half in English are considered French songs, not bilingual songs, revealing that Canada has somewhat of a “one-drop rule”* when it comes to music. Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” had a few Spanish phrases; does this make it a Spanish song?

iTunes Canada Musique francophone

Whipping HMV into Shape
Earlier in the year, the Canadian Music Blog was fighting its own battles. One of the most successful Canadian recording artists from Quebec, who is fluently bilingual and had released albums mainly in French in the past, decided to record a bilingual album, most songs being in English with a few in French. The album peaked at #2 on the Canadian Albums chart published by Billboard. We noticed that record chain HMV in Vancouver was not carrying any copies of the album. We checked the store’s website and noticed that none of their stores in western Canada were stocking the CD. We took it upon ourselves to contact their corporate headquarters and inquire. Their response was as we expected, stating that because the artist was Francophone, mostly popular in Quebec, there was no sense in them stocking the album in western Canada. We contacted the artist’s publicist and passed on the information. He relayed it to her management team. We are not sure what transpired, but we do know that shortly afterwards, all HMV stores in western Canada stocked the album. However, despite being mostly an Anglophone album, the Vancouver store filed it in the Francophone music section.

This is an example of what we can do as individual Canadians to try to rectify things. Although we are not in positions to make sweeping changes, we can perform a few strategic acts that can begin to change obsolete patterns of thinking.

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*One-drop rule refers to a historical social classification in the United States by which any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was considered black.

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