Although we focus almost exclusively on Canadian artists, we love what international artists are doing too. To show that we are not stiflingly insular (we’re patriotic, not nationalistic), every year we feature our favourite international music. Unlike the narrow focus of most, we do not simply look at American, British, or Australian music, we consider music from all 200 countries that is performed in any language.
International New Artist of the Year: Haerts
This is a new synth pop band based in New York. The four members are from The U.K., The States, and Germany, and met while students at Iceland’s Academy of the Arts. Haerts released its debut, eponymous album in 2014 which is beautiful and sweet, carrying an 80s vibe. Most importantly, the songwriting is very strong, filled with hooks, twists and turns keeping the listener engaged. The album contains a nice mix; you will hear elements of Robyn, Chris de Burgh, etc., while the vocals remind us a little of The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs.
International Artist of the Year: Katy B
Few gals are as cool as the United Kingdom’s Katy B. Her vocals have that rich R&B quality while musically, she expertly kneads some extra deep house EDM. Album Little Red is a treasure. But Katy is not just about making good music, she gives dazzling performances and creates gorgeous music videos. Though currently an underground artist in Canada, she has seen mainstream chart success in Britain. “Crying For No Reason” hit #5 there. We also dig her super slick collaboration with Jessie Ware entitled “Aaliyah”.
International Music Video of the Year: Eternally, Jane Zhang
Jane Zhang hails from Mainland China (Chengdu, Sichuan), her career launched by finishing in the Top 3 of the country’s Supergirl competition in 2005. Jane is known in the Chinese world as The Dolphin Princess. Her debut album was overseen by American Producer Craig Williams, and her exceptional vocal talent, reaching up to the “whistle register”, has been compared to Mariah Carey and Sarah Brightman. She sang in the Chinese version of K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We’ll let Jane’s MV for 2014 song “Eternally” (rough translation) speak for itself with its plethora of eye-popping visual effects. Prepare to have your breath taken away.
International Song of the Year: Into the Blue, Kylie Minogue
We find it a bit odd that the Canadian broadcast industry has largely ignored Melbourne, Australia’s Kylie Minogue since her Fever era circa 2001. She has sold over 70 million records worldwide and is one of the few 80s divas still going strong today. “Into the Blue” from her 2014 album Kiss Me Once was a major hit in the British Isles and is simply delicious, punctuated with spicy, growling background synths. Amidst all the big hits this year from Katy, Taylor, Pharrell and company, we liked this song better than everything else.
International Album of the Year: Play, Jolin Tsai
Taiwan’s Jolin Tsai is known as Asia’s Queen of Dance Music. She distinguished herself early on by dabbling in R&B rather than the usual C-pop piano ballads, later switching to full-on dance music. Play is her 13th career album and arguably her best work. We think it’s the best release in the whole world outside Canada for the year. Opening with jungle anthem “Gentlewomen”, the album contains an amazing assortment of stunners. Hit singles “Play”, a pop tour de force, and club thumper “Phony Queen” are accompanied by alternative rock hair raiser “The Third Person and I”, sweeping piano and strings ballad “Lip Reading”, cinematic delight “Miss Trouble”, and perfect synth-driven closer, “We’re All Different, Yet the Same”. Play becomes available on iTunes Canada December 16.