A Secret Canadian Superstar Named Gina Choi

g.na

Canadian recording artists based abroad tend to get disregarded by domestic media unless the foreign country in question is the United States. If a Canadian artist gets snatched up by a foreign record label and relocates to a country like the UK, Hong Kong, Germany, South Korea, what have you, he tends to remain oblivious to the Canadian populace. Things become especially obscure when that artist records music in an Allophone tongue. Consider the scenario that a Canadian singer fluent in both English and Italian gets offered a generous contract by an Italian label, relocates to Italy, records primarily in Italian, and becomes a huge superstar in Italy. Will the Canadian media bring this to the attention of the Canadian public? Aside from maybe a little piece in the back pages of a newspaper or two, generally not.

We have featured a number of these types of artists in Canadian Music Blog, and it is time for another. One of the biggest superstars born and raised in Canada that most of you will have never heard of is Gina Choi who records under the name G.NA.

Gina Choi was born in Edmonton and graduated from Fraser Heights Secondary School in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. She was signed by Good Entertainment under Korea’s CJ Group and was to lead girl group Five Girls. However, the group disbanded prior to its scheduled debut in 2007 due to the label’s financial troubles. Choi found herself stranded in Korea trying to break into the music industry. She became a backup singer for K-pop superstar Hyuna. Despite being of Korean descent, she had a hard time with culture shock, having grown up in Canada.

In an English interview in Singapore, G.NA stated that, in Canadian culture, if an elder person asks you to do something, you can ask why or just say no. In Korea however, this is considered taboo. She also said certain body language and gestures meant different things, and she had to relearn the way she motioned her hands.

At long last, G.NA was picked up by Cube Entertainment and experienced a huge breakout success as a soloist, not only in South Korea but a number of other countries. Her EPs and songs like “Top Girl”, “2Hot”, and “Black & White” rocketed up the charts. According to one source, the latter single reached #1 in Korea selling over 2.5 million copies there.

Alas, at this writing, G.NA is at a new crossroads. On March 1, 2016, she announced that she had chosen not to renew her contract with Cube and left the label under good terms. We are keeping our fingers crossed that she finds a suitable new home and continues slaying in the K-pop realm or perhaps a switch to maple pop? We have embedded below G.NA’s MV for 2011 smash “Black & White” which has 12 million views on YouTube.

Maple Blazers of 2015

Besides artists who already have profiles at the Canadian Music Blog, popularity of the maple blazers listed below intensified in 2015. Some have been at it for a little while and others completely broke through during the year.

Alessia Cara

alessia cara squareBrampton, Ontario’s Alessia Cara (short for Caracciolo) is an R&B singer of Italian descent. She gained popularity at 18 years of age with hit single “Here” which lyrically is about those who secretly hate parties and musically follows a vibe originally done by Isaac Hayes, later used by Portishead and Tricky. The song eventually went multiplatinum in Canada and made the Top 10 in the United States. Alessia had been at it for a while posting covers on YouTube. She signed a deal with Def Jam Recordings and released an EP and full length album. Cara performed at a number of high profile American chat shows and was brought on stage by Taylor Swift at the final concert of her 1989 tour.

Francesco Yates

francesco yates squareDue to his natural talent, Toronto’s Francesco Yates was signed by Atlantic Records when he was only 16. He broke out three years later with “Better To Be Loved”, a Top 40 hit in 2015. Though a non-Top 40 hit in Canada (it peaked at #42), “Sugar” by German house music maker Robin Schulz featuring Francesco’s vocals topped the charts or peaked at #2/#3 in several European countries as well as Australia. It was a big hit in Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.

Jess Moskaluke

Jess Moskaluke1From the humble town of Langenburg, Saskatchewan, country artist Jess Moskaluke took the field by storm, a realm heavily dominated these days by Americans and men. As a Canadian female soloist, she scored the first gold single since Shania Twain, won the CCMA female artist of the year award twice, had her LP Light Up the Night nominated for album of the year, and landed two Top 10 Billboard country radio hits in 2015: “Kiss Me Quiet” and collaboration with Paul Brandt “I’m an Open Road”.

Shawn Hook

shawn hook squareA native of the rural area of South Slocan, British Columbia, Shawn Hook scored a couple of minor hits circa his debut album Cosmonaut and the Girl in 2012. With things ending for record label EMI, Shawn was scooped up by Universal and generated tremendous buzz with hit “Million Ways” which he co-wrote with Grammy winning songwriter Victoria Horn. Followup “Sound of Your Heart” continued generating steam through much of the year and catapulted Shawn Hook to platinum status. He released second album Analog Love in 2015.

The Weeknd

the weekndThe Torontonian’s brand of alt-RnB managed to break through by his combining three indie albums into one package, Trilogy, in 2012. It attained double platinum sales in Canada, with track “Wicked Games” nesting itself just outside the Top 40. The Weeknd’s feature in Drake’s “Crew Love” became a Top 40 hit in Britain. He signed with Universal Republic, but followup album Kiss Land did not do as well as hoped, and a team of ace writers and producers were called in to slick things up for his next album, including Sweden’s Max Martin. The strategy that paid off was having him team up with American singer Ariana Grande. “Love Me Harder” became a Top 10 hit in both Canada and The United States. Strategy #2 was having him do a song featured in a Hollywood blockbuster. “Earned It” from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack became a multiplatinum single. With that, The Weeknd was a hit internationally. Album Beauty Behind the Madness, one of the year’s top sellers, placed not one but two songs at the summit of the charts: “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”. In 2016, The Weeknd released album Starboy. The title track topped the charts.

Yoan

yoan squareWinner of The Voice 2014, baritone country singer Yoan (Garneau) of Ferme-Neuve, Quebec, released his debut eponymous album in 2015. The bilingual work topped the albums charts and struck platinum sales. The album features collaborations with Alberta’s Brett Kissel and Yoan’s coach from The Voice, Isabelle Boulay. It was the second biggest 2015 album on the Billboard year-end albums chart and won a Canadian Country Music Association award.

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Montreal potpourri artist Bernard Adamus went gold with his 2009 debut album Brun, and his third, Sorel Soviet So What, topped the Billboard albums chart in 2015. Thunder Bay folktronica artist Coleman Hell scored platinum single “2 Heads”. He will be releasing an album through Sony’s Columbia Records in 2016. Calgary’s Jocelyn Alice went gold with “Jackpot” and signed a deal with Sony affiliate Disruptor Records. An album is expected in 2016. Mont-Laurier, Quebec’s Kevin Bazinet, winner of The Voice 2015, launched his debut album and scored a Billboard Hot 100 hit. Halifax’s Ria Mae got snatched up by Sony and went gold with single “Clothes Off”. At the tender age of 19, Toronto’s Scott Helman landed his first gold single with “Bungalow”.

Maple Blazers of 2014

Andee

andee3Hailing from Quebec City suburbs; touring Asia as member of all-girl group Akasha; performing with Lionel Richie and finishing in the Top 5 of talent show Star Académie; drawing comparisons to Adele; featured on double platinum and platinum compilation albums; appearing in the bilingual versions of Hedley’s “Kiss You Inside Out” and Shawn Desman’s “Dum Da Dum”; getting signed by Universal Music Canada; teaming with Simple Plan songwriter and producer Sébastien Lefebvre; launching her career in English; contributing track “We Are Gold” to the CBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi; seeing her formal debut single, “Never Gone” reach the Billboard Canadian Hot 100’s Top 40; touring with Demi Lovato; and co-writing “Sorries” with Pink; Andrée-Anne Leclerc, now known as Andee, is all set for an illustrious career.

A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called RedThis Ottawa trio created new genre of music “powwow step” by combining modern electronic dance music with Aboriginal chants and drumming. With a passionate, growing fan base and popularity on the club circuit, the group’s second album Nation II Nation saw its renown skyrocket. A Tribe Called Red declined entry into the JUNO Aboriginal Album department for 2014 taking the risk of going straight for mainstream category Breakthrough Group of the Year, normally heavily dominated by White popular rock bands. Needless to say, the group won.

Crystal Shawanda

CCrystal Shawandarystal Shawanda was born in the Wikwemikong Native Reservation which is situated on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron, southwest of Sudbury). She is of proud Ojibwa heritage. Signed in 2007 to RCA/Sony (Nashville), she launched a career in country music. Her debut album Dawn of a New Day entered the Billboard U.S. Top Country Albums chart at #16 becoming the highest charted album by a full-blooded Canadian First Nations country artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era. The album landed four songs on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. Crystal’s album Just Like You won a JUNO Award. In 2014, she switched genres releasing a stunning blues album, The Whole World’s Got the Blues.

Kiesza

KieszaCalgary’s Kiesza topped the UK Singles chart before most Canadians had heard of her. Retro 90s dance charmer “Hideaway” eventually hit platinum in Canada helped in part by a concept music video of bustin’ moves on Brooklyn streets, shot in one take. “Giant In My Heart” and an EP quickly followed, and by the end of the year, Kiesza’s debut album Sound of a Woman, hit record shops. Live performances of dancing while singing without running out of breath on Letterman, the MMVAs, and other spectacles anchored her credibility.

MAGIC!

MagicAfter songs he produced won Grammy awards in the U.S., Canada’s Nasri Atweh (of production duo The Messengers) formed reggae pop band MAGIC! with his Toronto buddies. Debut single “Rude” became the biggest Canadian song of 2014 globally. It was discovered first in Australia and climbed the charts to #3 before most Canadians knew they had a new band. “Rude” topped the charts in both the U.K. and U.S. At home, it was certified multiplatinum and became only the 3rd song from a home-grown artist to spend over a year on the Hot 100. With the release of the band’s debut album, two further songs made the weekly Top 40. Album Primary Colours followed in 2016 which spawned further hits for the group.

Serge Fiori

Serge FioriIn the 1970s, Serge Fiori was lead singer of multiplatinum progressive rock band Harmonium. After the band split in 1978, he teamed up with Richard Séguin on an album. In the 80s he began writing songs for other artists, most notably Diane Dufresne and Nanette Workman and released his own solo album in 1986. He also penned the theme song for internationally renowned Canadian comedy production Just For Laughs. In the 90s, Serge began scoring movie soundtracks and also dabbled in new age music. In 2014 he made a huge comeback releasing a self-titled LP that struck platinum and placed a track in the Billboard Canadian Hot 100. It was voted Album of the Year via a poll conducted by the CBC.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn MendesThis breakout sparkly-eyed teen sensation from Pickering, ON posted a six-second video on Vine that turned him into a household name. He won Ryan Seacrest’s (American DJ) Best Cover Song competition and was signed to Island Records. Shawn’s debut single, “Life of the Party,” reached #1 on iTunes on the night of June 25-26 and became a Top 10 hit on the Canadian Hot 100. In the United States, Shawn became the youngest artist to debut in the top 25 with a first song on the Billboard Hot 100. With millions of Twitter followers, a 2015 tour with American superstar Taylor Swift, and a debut LP that topped the album charts and spawned further hit singles, he is on his way to a big career. In 2016, Shawn released second album Illuminate with further global hit songs. He performed at a number of international awards shows.

Tanya Tagaq

Tanya TagaqRegarded by many as one of the world’s most talented voice musicians, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq has worked with Iceland’s Björk. She hails from Cambridge Bay, NU and released her 4th album in 2014, Animism, chock full of eclectic instrumentation. The critically acclaimed album nabbed the Polaris Music Prize given to the year’s most artistic work. Her mesmerizing performance at the gala, given in conjunction with scrolling names of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, brought down the house. Tanya is a multiple JUNO nominee.

Toque Dynamos of 2013

Henry Lau

Henry LauBorn and raised in Toronto, Henry Lau learned piano to level 10 and won the gold medal for level 10 violin from the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music. He also studied various forms of dance. Lau was one of only two people of 3,000 chosen in South Korea’s SM Entertainment global auditions held in Toronto in 2006. Relocating to Korea, he became a member of popular singing group Super Junior-M. In addition to Mandarin Chinese and his native English, he became fluent in Korean. In 2013, he released solo album Trap in two versions: a Korean version and a Chinese version. Both albums contained a few English songs. The album peaked at #2 on the South Korean weekly albums chart and its title-track became a Top 20 single on the US Billobard K-Pop charts. EP Fantastic followed in 2014.

Marc Dupré

Marc DupreAside from being a recording artist in his own right, Marc composes songs for other artists. He started out collaborating with Céline Dion. In 2013, he became one of the four coaches on the Canadian version of The Voice (La Voix). Prior to 2013, three of Marc’s songs had charted on The Billboard Canadian Hot 100. This year, he launched album Nous sommes les mêmes which, by year end, had been certified gold by Music Canada. Its title track vaulted itself all the way up to #47 on the Canadian Hot 100, a remarkable achievement for a Francophone work. It was named Song of the Year at the ADISQ Félix Awards gala at the end of October. Marc released album La dans ma tete in 2014.

Metric

MetricAt its core, this Toronto-formed electronic rock band consists of Emily Haines and James Shaw. In order to augment its concerts, the group picked up Americans Joshua Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums). Metric’s popularity and success steadily grew since its debut release in 2003. Gold record certifications followed in 2006 and platinum awards in 2009. Album Fantasies gave Metric its first JUNO awards and spawned first major hit “Help, I’m Alive” (#21, Canadian Hot 100). The band released JUNO-winning album Synthetica in 2012, its first album to reach significant chart positions internationally (#12 US Billboard, #21 Australia’s ARIA). In 2013, “Breathing Underwater” from the album peaked at #22 on the Canadian Hot 100 and made the year-end Top 100 at #77. Album Pagans in Vegas came out in 2015.

Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder1Born in Peterborough and raised in Millbrook, this Ontario artist launched her recording debut in 1999 and picked up her first JUNO award in 2008. Her massive breakthrough came this year after releasing album Harmony in 2012. “Stompa” was the 14th biggest song of 2013 (highest position for a CanCon single) and within the year was certified triple platinum. Platinum-certified “What I Wouldn’t Do” also made the year-end chart, and Serena Ryder was the top Canuck on Billboard Canada’s Top Hot 100 Artists of 2013. Her album Harmony attained platinum sales through the year.

Walk Off the Earth

Walk Off the EarthForming in Burlington in 2006, WOTE currently consists of five members: Gianni Luminati, Sarah Blackwood (not to be confused with the British vocalist of Dubstar), Ryan Marshall, Mike Taylor, and Joel Cassady. The band is known for its clever and creative music videos and came to prominence upon covering Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” by all five members playing it on one guitar. The Walk Off the Earth version attained platinum sales. The group released its own song “Red Hands” off album REVO which earned multiplatinum status in 2013. Billboard named Walk Off the Earth the Top Emerging Canadian Artist of the Year. Album Sing It All the Way appeared in 2015 spawning the hit “Rule the World”.

Toque Dynamos of 2012

Lily C.

Lily COpting to dabble in the realm of adult contemporary / easy listening which offers us music that is delicate, sweet, light, and fun is new Toronto singer-songwriter Lily C. (the C stands for Cheng). Lily began her musical career on a trip to east Asia undertaken to get in touch with her ancestral roots. She began writing and performing her songs drawing large audiences, released an independent album, Perfect Moment, and worked as a DJ and TV host. When ill health struck her family, she returned to Canada in 2007 touring Ontario and writing new songs. In 2012, Lily released her first album in Canada, Reaching for Sunlight, which was featured on the CBC. “Take Your Shoes Off” was the most popular track while “I Am a Bee” was named by The Canadian Music Blog as one of the ten best songs of 2012.

Johnny Reid

Johnny ReidJohnny is a naturalized Canadian adult contemporary singer originally from Scotland. He has won several JUNO awards. Although he has scored a number of hit singles on the country charts, he has done best in terms of sales in the albums department. All of his last 5 LPs have been certified platinum or better. His first album, Another Day, Another Dime came out in 1997. He began receiving attention with his second self-titled work with radio airplay. It was his third album, Born to Roll, in 2005 and lead single “You Still Own Me” (later covered by Emerson Drive) where things took off. Reid released Fire It Up in 2012, three of its tracks making an appearance on the Canadian Hot 100. The album itself went platinum making it one of the most successful Canadian albums of the year. 2015 album What Love Is All About debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts.

Massari

MassariTrilingual Massari is a very talented Canadian R&B singer from Ottawa known for his culturally rich sound. His debut, JUNO-nominated, self-titled 2006 album was certified gold and spawned several hit singles including “Be Easy”. But before that Massari had started out in the early years of the new millennium releasing singles. “Spitfire” was aired on radio stations in Ottawa. Massari’s songs have been popular internationally many recorded under local record label CP Records. In 2012, Massari released new single “Brand New Day” which came within a hair’s breadth of the Top 40 (#41 on the Canadian Hot 100). Massari has collaborated with label mates Belly and Mia Martina.

Les Trois Accords

Les Trois AccordsDrummondville, Québec’s alternative rock band Les Trois Accords have scored a number of big hit singles; to date eight have appeared in CKOI’s year-end Top 50. They have been nominated for 19 Félix awards winning 4 of them and been nominated for a JUNO twice. The band has always emphasized art over logic adding dashes of humour and idiosyncrasy bordering on the absurd. Their debut studio LP was released in 2003 and then re-released as Gros mammouth album turbo the following year with 2 bonus tracks. It was a platinum album. In 2005 it was nominated for a JUNO and won the Félix for Best-Selling Album of the Year, the band being named Group of the Year. Les Trois Accords’ second album went gold and won the Félix for Rock Album of the Year. Their fourth album secured their second JUNO nomination in 2010. The band released its fifth studio album, J’aime ta grand-mère, in 2012. It pays tribute to some indie and garage rock, punk, and British new wave. As well, country legend Renée Martel makes an appearance on one of the tracks.  The album’s title track made the weekly Canadian Hot 100 at the end of December. Album Joie d’etre gai followed in 2015.

Elisapie

ElisapieThe northern third of Québec is known as Nunavik, 90% of whose inhabitants are Inuit living in some 14 villages around the coast. The second northernmost of these is Salluit, on the Sugluk Inlet, with a population of about 1,350 and apparently rapidly growing. It is not accessible by road, only by air. This is where Canadian recording artist Elisapie Isaac grew up. Her mother was Inuk and father from Newfoundland. Adopted at birth, she was raised by an Inuit family and was no doubt enriched by learning this beautiful culture. She is now based in Montréal. The press has commented that, although from the icy north, she has a voice and a stage presence that succeeds in melting the hearts of her audience. Elisapie first appeared in a duo with Alain Auger called Taima whose self-titled (and only) album won the JUNO for Aboriginal Recording of the Year in 2005. Her solo debut, trilingual, jazzy folk album, There Will Be Stars, was released in 2009 and sold 25,000 copies which was enough to attract attention south of the border. For her second work, Travelling Love, in 2012, Elisapie decided to move to a more pop/rock sound while retaining some of her folk roots. Track “The Love You Gave” was named by iTunes as “single of the week”.

Karl Wolf

Karl WolfKarl is a naturalized Canadian (originally from Lebanon) based in Montreal. He sings, composes, and produces as well. He began his musical odyssey as backup singer for Felix award winning band Dubmatique and then went on as the new lead singer for popular band Sky. His debut solo album Face Behind the Face was released in 2006 and 3 subsequent LPs came out thereafter, including 2012’s Finally Free. He has been nominated for 3 JUNO awards. Thus far, his greatest success has been in the singles department. He has scored 4 gold songs, and his 2008 reworking of Toto’s “Africa” was certified triple platinum. In 2012, Karl Wolf’s “Mash It Up” was the 94th biggest hit of the year.

Mapleblazers

Belly

Belly is the stage name of Palestine-born rapper Ahmed Balshe and is taken from the word rebellious. He was signed onto Ottawa-based record label Capital Prophet Records (which later relocated to Toronto and became known as CP Records). Belly’s debut album, The Revolution, released in 2007, won the JUNO award for Rap Recording of the Year and achieved Gold Certification. The best-known track from the album was “Pressure”. This was a double-album centered on humanistic themes. Disc 1 was titled “The People” and Disc 2, “The System”. Like most rappers, Belly has collaborated with singers, most notably Danny Fernandes, The Weeknd, and Josh Ramsay (Marianas Trench). He is a supportive fan of the Ottawa Senators.

Derek Miller

Derek is a blues guitarist singer-songwriter from the largest First Nation in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River (Ontario) which consists of Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora. After getting into music in his teens, his profile was heightened when he toured with Buffy Sainte-Marie in the late 1990s. He was offered a deal with Winnipeg’s Arbor Records and released his debut album, Music is the Medicine, in 2002. The track “Lovesick Blues” won the JUNO for Aboriginal Recording of the Year. The Dirty Looks followed, winning for him his second JUNO in 2008. Derek Miller was invited to perform alongside Eva Avila and Nikki Yanofsky during the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. He released his third album that year, Double Trouble.

Emmalyn Estrada

Emmalyn is the younger sister of British Columbia Filipina-Canadian R&B star Elise Estrada. When she was 17, she won a singing contest hosted by Vancouver radio station The Beat 94.5 FM and released the single “Get Down” two months later. This was nominated by the CRMA (Canadian Radio Music Awards) in the Dance / Urban / Rhythmic category. In October, she relocated to Los Angeles and teamed up with record producer Chris Stokes of label TUG (The Ultimate Group). Single “Don’t Make Me Let You Go” followed. She returned to Vancouver in 2011 to perform at several festivals and has joined Adam H’s new record label XOXO Entertainment with her sister Elise. She became one of five members of American-British-Canadian girl group GRL which scored a couple of international hits in 2014 before disbanding in 2015 following the death of member Simone Battle.

K.Maro

Born Cyril Kamar in Lebanon, K.Maro relocated to Montreal when he was 11. He is a rapper / singer-songwriter who performs in both English and French, occasionally throwing in some Arabic. K.Maro is also a producer and has his own record label, K.Pone.Inc. He started out in a successful Québec rap duo called LMDS (Les Messagers du Son) in the late 1990s. Debuting in 2002 as a soloist, he has already released several albums which have seen international success, most notably in Europe. Three of his singles have made the year-end Top 50 charts in Québec: “Femme Like You” (#8 of 2004), “Let’s Go” (#38 of 2007), and “Music” (#30 of 2010). He has collaborated with several artists including Belly and Corneille. K.Maro has opened a clothing line called Balbec, named after the town where he was born.

Marc Hervieux

Simply put, Marc Hervieux, graduate of the Montréal Conservatory of Music, is now one of the most popular Canadian opera singers in the world. He has performed in such countries as Russia, Israel, the United States, Spain, France, China, and South Korea. He was invited to put on a private concert in honour of the king of Sweden. Having a natural attraction for a wide variety of musical styles, Marc has also collaborated – onstage or on CD – with several Canadian popular recording artists including Ginette Reno, Sylvain Cossette, Isabelle Boulay, and Patsy Gallant. Three of Marc’s albums have received Gold Certification in Canada: Apres Nous contains both classic and original French songs; A Napoli is dedicated to Neopolitan songs from Italy; and Le Premier Noël, an album of mostly French traditional Christmas songs. His Tenor Arias won the 2010 Felix Award for classical vocal album of the year.

Stef Lang

Stef Lang, a Canadian of proud Eurasian heritage (German-Filipina), was born in Nanaimo BC, but grew up in Ladysmith (also on Vancouver Island). At 17, she relocated to Vancouver to pursue a career in music. She won a contest in 2006 by local radio station The Beat FM and was offered a four-song record deal with producers Mike James (Kelly Rowland) and Troy Samson (Kreesha Turner, Snoop Dogg). In the space of four years, Lang had written over 250 songs and released a couple of EPs. She was eventually signed by Nettwerk and released a digital album in 2010. Besides having an amazing voice and composing her own songs, Stef Lang learned both piano and guitar; she has all the ingredients for a credible superstar. Thus far, her best-known songs are “Mr. Immature” and “Slave 2 Love”. In 2012, she released the new single “Paper Doll” from EP Fighting Mirrors which received radio airply.  She was featured on 2 tracks off Delerium’s album Music Box Opera and released her second LP Self, followed by extended play works.

We Also Got the Beat: Canadian Female Bands

Japan had Speed and Stereopony, France L5, Italy Lollipop, Britain The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and Bananarama, the U.S. Destiny’s Child, The Runaways, The Go-Go’s, and The Bangles. How about Canada?

Canada has had a surprising number of all-female acts over the years. Many of these were indie bands or outside of the pop/rock umbrella. There were a few, however, that enjoyed radio hits, were honoured at the JUNOS, scored gold records, and achieved some international success.

Most prefer to note the distinction between girl groups and female rock bands. Girl groups and boy groups simply sing and harmonize together with others writing their songs and playing musical instruments for them. Female rock bands, in contrast, write their own songs and play their own instruments. Canada has had examples of both over the years.

When such acts hit the mainstream, they tend to become extremely popular, so one may wonder why there weren’t more of them. We have seen that, since the early 90s, few male soloist superstars have emerged unless they did something outside of mainstream rock and roll. They have preferred, instead, to form rock bands. Canadian women, in contrast, have usually preferred to go solo. Part of the answer lies in understanding the differences in Canadian male and female culture, values, and attitudes. Rather than going into this, let’s take a look at some of the Canadian all-female acts. We will not include female duos but those groups consisting of three or more members.

Indie all-female acts include Cub, Magneta Lane, Fifth Column, Maow (sometimes called Meow), Jale, Ladies of the Canyon, The Organ, Plumtree, and Pony Up. The Be Good Tanyas, The Wailin’ Jennys, and The Good Lovelies were fairly successful folk/country bands. Below are mini-profiles of some of the better-known pop/rock groups.

Kittie

This is a four-member JUNO-nominated female heavy metal group from London, ON that formed in 1996. They have, since then, released six studio albums and have had success in the United States and Britain. The band’s debut album Spit went GOLD in the United States, as their song “Brackish” became a hit in heavy metal circles. Kittie formed when two members met during an extracurricular gymnastics class. The band is still active and released its sixth studio album I’ve Failed You in August 2011.

Sugar Jones

This R&B girl group was assembled via Popstars, a televised reality series that was a precursor to Canadian Idol. Five members were selected out of thousands of applicants. In 2001, the group released a platinum album, scored the huge hit “Days Like That,” a cover of Fierce’s song, and were nominated for two JUNOs the following year. The five disbanded and three members have released material as soloists, the most prolific of which is Julie Crochetière.

Lillix

This pop/rock band began as Tigerlily during high school in Cranbrook, BC. In 2001, Lillix was signed by Maverick Records, releasing debut album Falling Uphill two years later. Three singles were released including a cover of The Romantics’ “What I Like About You” which was featured in the Freaky Friday and 13 Going on 30 soundtracks. They received two JUNO nominations in 2004. After their second album Inside the Hollow and single “Sweet Temptation”, Maverick Records folded and two members left the band. The group reformed with added male members and is no longer an all-female group.

LiveonRelease

This short-lived pop/punk band from Vancouver enjoyed the hit single “I’m Afraid of Britney Spears” which appeared on the Dude, Where’s My Car? soundtrack. They released albums in 2002 and 2003 before disbanding. Lead vocalist Colette Trudeau is Métis. Lead guitarist Brittin Karroll has written songs with Bif Naked. The two other members of the band were Foxx Herst (bass) and Leah Emmott (drums). The band’s name comes from basketball jargon.

Shaye

This was a trio of high-profile Canadian female recording artists from Atlantic Canada: Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle, and Tara MacLean. The group was not as successful as the individual artists’ solo careers; however, Shaye’s song “Happy Baby” received a JUNO nomination in 2004 for Single of the Year. They released two albums before calling it quits. Doyle is now with the indie band The Heartbroken. Stockwood is still active as a soloist, releasing the album Back to the Water in March 2011. MacLean released studio album Wake in 2008.

Tuuli

Vocalist/guitarist Jenny MacIsaac, guitarist Jen Blackwood, bassist Claire Blake, and drummer Naomi Langworthy formed this Toronto-based pop/punk band in 1995. They toured both sides of the 49th parallel to packed houses and were interviewed by VH1. Their only album, Here We Go (Warner), came out in 2002. MuchMusic began showcasing the MV for “Who’s the Fool Now?” but it was “It’s Over” that became a #4 hit in Canada. “Summer Song” was their third single. They toured for the next two years but dropped off the map after that, sadly.

West End Girls

This was a beloved Vancouver-based early-90s teenage trio consisting of Camille Henderson (daughter of Chilliwack frontman Bill Henderson), Aimee MacKenzie, and Silvana Petrozzi. The West End is a ritzy area of downtown Vancouver. Their debut (self-titled) album was released in 1991 and spawned two Top 40 singles and two Top 10 hits: “Not Like Kissing You” (which made the year-end Top 100) and “I Want U Back” (cover of the Jackson 5 song). The album was certified GOLD and The West End Girls received a JUNO nomination for Most Promising New Group of the Year. They toured with Roxette. First Petrozzi then Henderson left the band in 1992 and were replaced by Janele Woodley and Celia-Louise Martin respectively. The new lineup released their second album We Belong Together in 1993. “R U Sexin Me” and “Pure” received JUNO nominations. As their sophomore album did not sell as well as their first, the group broke up in 1994.

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Mad June     Caveboy

Please do let us know if there are any other Canadian all-girl groups you would like us to mention.

2011 in Music

In the Autumn, I was walking along in the Collingwood neighbourhood of Vancouver. A young Chinese-Canadian woman beside me suddenly gasped and pointed to a street lined with trees. The sky was completely blue. The sight of the leaves glistening in the sun was spectacular. They were green, chartreuse, yellow, orange, vermillion, red, burgundy, and purple. The year 2011 in sound was similar to that sight; there was a diversity of musical styles being created. Moreover, there were a number of new faces this year, and Canadian artists of Asian descent are on the rise which is very encouraging. Is Canada going to take on a leadership role in the western world in this regard?

Canadians of West Asian descent who enjoyed hits this year included Kristina Maria. Her “Let’s Play” was the 64th biggest song of the year. Karl Wolf is another name. This year he teamed up with Kardinal Offishall in the song “Ghetto Love” which was 67th.

A Canadian of South Asian heritage was Anjulie whose parents immigrated from Guyana, South America. “Brand New Chick” was a platinum single and the 52nd most popular song of the year. Raghav’s “Fire” went gold and was 94th.

Another positive element of 2011 was a burgeoning of Canadian dance music, a genre the output of which has seen Canada historically lag behind other countries. We are becoming masters of the genre, and artists like Dragonette, Deadmau5, Kristina Maria, Mia Martina, and Alfa Rococo are spinning some delicious tunes that make sitting still impossible.

Interestingly, the biggest albums of the year were Christmas albums: Michael Bublé’s jazzy Christmas (7x Platinum) and Justin Bieber’s R&B-ish Under the Mistletoe (3x Platinum). This was true both domestically and internationally. Besides those two, the other best-selling Canadian albums globally were rapper Drake’s Take Care, Avril Lavigne’s pop-oriented Goodbye Lullaby, Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never: the Remixes, and Nickelback’s heavy metal release Here and Now

The most successful Canadian artist internationally in terms of a hit single was Avril Lavigne whose “What the Hell” was the highest-charting Canadian single. This includes the world’s three largest markets for music: the United States, Japan (where it was 10th of the year), and Britain. In the world’s most populous nation, China, it was 11th. It was also the most successful Canadian single in Australia. Domestically, there was much more going on in terms of hit singles.

International Success of Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell” in 2011:

Year-End Chart Weekly Chart Peak Rank Among Canadian Singles
Canada 63 6
U.K. n/a 16 1
U.S. 62 1
Japan 10 1
China 11 1
Australia 48 1

 Top Singles of the Year

The highest charting song entirely by a Canadian artist was the aforementioned “What the Hell” by Avril Lavigne, which peaked at #8 on the weekly singles chart and was the 63rd biggest song of 2011. “Hello”, a collaborative effort by Toronto synth-pop group Dragonette and Martin Solveig of Paris, France, enjoyed the highest position partially by a Canadian artist on the Top 100 singles of 2011 (#11) and was the most successful in terms of sales, achieving double-platinum digital download status.

The biggest song of 2011 entirely by a Canadian artist was “Alone Again” by Alyssa Reid (#24). This was a reworking of Heart’s song “Alone”. In terms of an original song entirely by a Canadian performer, honours would go to Fefe Dobson for her “Stutterin'” which was the 45th biggest song of the year.

Simple Plan’s “Jet Lag”, which featured U.K. singer Natasha Bedingfield, was 37th and was certified platinum. They also recorded a French version of the song which featured Québec’s Marie-Mai. Romanian Edward Maya’s song “Stereo Love”, which featured New Brunswick’s Mia Martina, was 34th. And Barbados’ Rihanna was at #32 with “What’s My Name” a song that featured Drake.

Other platinum digital downloads besides those mentioned above were “Brand New Chick” by Guyanese-Canadian Anjulie, “Electric” by Portuguese-Canadian Shawn Desman, Hedley’s “Invincible”, Nickelback’s “When We Stand Together”, and Marianas Trench’s “Haven’t Had Enough”.

Only 2 songs involving Canadian artists made the Top 10 on the British weekly charts this year, both being collaborations between Drake and Rihanna: “What’s My Name” (#1) and “Take Care” (#9). The most successful song entirely by a Canadian artist in the U.K. was “What the Hell” by Avril Lavigne (#16).

Things were similar south of the border. “What’s My Name” was the 20th biggest song of the year in the United States. Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell” was the most successful song there that was not a collaboration between a Canadian and an international artist. It was 62nd of the year.

The biggest Canadian song in Japan the world’s 2nd largest market for music after the U.S. – was Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell” which was the 10th most popular song of the year there.

According to Montreal’s CKOI FM 96.9, the five most popular Francophone songs of the year were as follows:

1. Vincent Vallières’ “On va s’aimer encore” (#4)
2. Marie-Mai’s “Comme avant” (#15)
3. William Deslauriers’ “Je ve mon verre” (#35)
4. Clément Jacques’ “Ariane” (#37)
5. David Jalbert’s “P’tit homme” (#43)

Ten songs were nominated for single of the year at the Félix gala held in October. These are listed below with the winner being Vincent Vallières’ “On va s’aimer encore”.

10 Felix-Nominated Songs

“Météore”, Alfa Rococo
“Fruits défendus”, Brigitte Boisjoli
“J’taime pas, j’t’adore”, Nicola Ciccone
“Près de toi”, Martin Deschamps
“Jusqu’au bout”, Éric Lapointe
“Elle s’appelait Serge”, Les Trois Accords
“Comme avant”, Marie-Mai
“Toujours de nous”, Mario Pelchat
“Je repars”, David Usher, Marie-Mai
“On va s’aimer encore”, Vincent Vallières

The biggest song of the year in Canada this year was from Britain’s Adele—”Rolling in the Deep”.

It will be interesting to see what the JUNO awards in April next year will award in terms of singles, given that there are so many collaborations with foreign artists, covers, and partial covers.

Below is a table of the most successful singles in 2011, all having at least one of the following characteristics:

a) Was on the Billboard Canadian Top 100 singles of 2011 chart
b) Peaked in the Top 20 on the weekly Billboard Canadian Hot 100 singles chart during 2011
c) Was awarded gold / platinum certification (singles on the Top 100 of 2010 or that peaked on the weekly charts of 2010 receiving certification this year are not included)

Note: Most of the Top 20 songs that did not make the Top 100 of 2011 appeared late in the year and will most likely appear on the Top 100 of 2012 chart next year. Foreign artists (with whom Canadians collaborated) are in blue.

2011 Singles Comprehensive Chart

Song Artist 2011 WP C
Hello Martin Solveig, Dragonette 11 8 2xP
Alone Again Alyssa Reid 24 11 G
What’s My Name? Rihanna, Drake 32 5
Stereo Love Edward Maya, Mia Martina 34
Jet Lag Simple Plan 37 11 P
Stutterin’ Fefe Dobson 45 10 P
Brand New Chick Anjulie 52 16 P
Electric Shawn Desman 59 P
What the Hell Avril Lavigne 63 8
Let’s Play Kristina Maria 64 19 G
Ghetto Love Karl Wolf, Kardinall Offishall 67 20 G
Invincible Hedley 69 9 2xP
Latin Moon Mia Martina 74 G
Can’t Breathe Fefe Dobson 76 19 G
Like Magic JRDN 80 G
Haven’t Had Enough Marianas Trench 81 9 P
About Us Neverest 89 G
Moment 4 Life Nicki Minaj, Drake 92
Fire Raghav 94 G
I Wanna Dance w/ Somebody These Kids Wear Crowns 95 G
She’s Dope Down with Webster 100 18 P
Mistletoe Justin Bieber 9 G
When We Stand Together Nickelback 10 P
Shut Up and Dance Victoria Duffield 12 P
Today is Your Day Shania Twain 14
One Life Hedley 16 P
She Will Lil Wayne, Drake 16
Headlines Drake 18 P
Pray (For LJ) Pardon My Striptease 20
Hit Me Up Danny Fernandes ft. Josh Ramsay and Belly 22 P
Famous Audio Playground G
Co-Pilot Kristina Maria G
123 Craig Smart G
Lullaby Nickelback G
Whatta Night Ricky J. G

Top Albums of the Year

There were an astounding number of albums released this year. With a sharp decline in record sales over the past few years, it is a huge honour just to score a gold album these days, something that was pretty much guaranteed for an album with a radio hit in years past. By the end of the year, 8 albums released in 2011 received gold certifications, 2 platinum, and 3 multi-platinum.

The most successful albums of the year by Canadian artists were Christmas albums. Michael Bublé’s Christmas was certified 7x platinum and Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe 3x platinum. Nickelback’s Here and Now was a double-platinum release. The best-selling Francophone album was Maxime Landry’s L’avenir entre nous (platinum). At the October Félix gala, most popular album accolades went to Ginette Reno for La musique en moi. Hedley’s Storms was certified platinum at the end of the year.

All albums mentioned above (with the exception of L’avenir entre nous) made it to #1 on the weekly albums chart. Additionally were City and Colour’s Little Hell, Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never: the Remixes, and Drake’s Take Care.

The biggest album of the year in Canada was 21 by Britain’s Adele which was certified diamond, the first studio album to do so since Céline Dion’s These Are Special Times 4 years ago.

Below is a table of all albums released in 2011 with at least one of the following characteristics:

a) Was awarded gold / platinum certification
b) Was on the Billboard Canadian Top 50 albums of 2011 chart
c) Peaked in the Top 5 on the Billboard Canadian weekly albums chart during 2011

We will continue updating new levels of certification for these 2011 albums through 2012.

2011 Albums Comprehensive Chart

Album Artist C 2011 WP
Christmas Michael Buble 8xP 16 1
Under the Mistletoe Justin Bieber 3xP 36 1
Here and Now Nickelback 2xP 1
Little Hell City and Colour P 40 1
Storms Hedley P 2
Metals Feist P 2
L’avenir entre nous Maxime Landry P
Mixmania2 (Various Artists) G 46 4
L’existoire Richard Desjardins G 49 2
Better Be Home Soon George Canyon G
Undercover Me 2 Jann Arden G
Dans le silence de la nuit André Gagnon G
Ever After Marianas Trench P
Noel Nadja G
The Truth Is… Theory of a Deadman G
C’est un monde Fred Pellerin G
A Napoli Marc Hervieux G
La vie a deux Jean-Francois Breau & Marie-Eve Janvier G
Les grands espaces Isabelle Boulay G
La musique en moi Ginette Reno P 26 1
Never Say Never: The Remixes Justin Bieber 33 1
Americana II Roch Voisine 44 3
Take Care Drake  2xP 1
Seul au piano Pierre La Pointe 2
Goodbye Lullaby Avril Lavigne 2
Get Your Heart On Simple Plan 2
The Truth Is… Theory of a Deadman 2
Siberia Lights  G 3
Collider Sam Roberts Band 3
Michigan Left Arkells 5
Blonde Coeur de Pirate 5
Que Du Vent Les Cowboys Fringants 5
Je Suis Marie-Elaine Thibert 5
Lights of Endangered Matthew Good 5
Everything’s Going My Way Nadja 5

New Artists in 2011

Though a song by Toronto’s Neverest barely scraped into the Top 30 on the weekly charts, its long stay, helped by a popular music video, pushed it into the year-end Top 100; “About Us” was 89th of the year. JRDN is Ralph Jordan Croucher who grew up in both Halifax and Toronto. His “Like Magic” was the 80th biggest song of the year. Like The Stereos, Chilliwack, BC’s These Kids Wear Crowns were discovered on MuchMusic’s “disBand” program. Their cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” was 95th of the year.

Another Chilliwack rock band, Pardon My Striptease, made it to #20 with their song “Pray (For LJ)” about lead singer Andrew Putt’s one-year-old daughter who was in the hospital battling brain cancer. The band challenged Nickelback to match donations to the Children’s Hospital if their song surpassed Nickelback’s “When We Stand Together” on the iTunes chart. Nickelback announced it would honour the challenge and would donate $50,000 to the hospital.

What follows are mini-profiles on the biggest newcomers of 2011.

Anjulie

We have completed a major profile on Anjulie which is HERE.

Brigitte Boisjoli

Beautiful Brigitte is from Drummondville, QC and, in 2009, she finished 3rd in reality television series Star Académie, the same year that Maxime Landry won the singing competition. She led a very athletic life, participating, among other sports, in bungee jumping, parachuting, and kickboxing. As a teen, she participated in musicals. After her success in Star Academy, she released her debut album in 2011, Fruits defendus. Her work was recognized by the Felix awards as she was nominated in several categories. She ended up winning Best New Artist of the Year. Brigitte released a Patsy Cline tribute album in 2015 which went gold.

Victoria Duffield

This diligent and multi-talented singer from Abbotsford, BC was a finalist on the third season of talent search YTV program The Next Star. By the age of seven, she was singing and dancing in local competitions. She began an acting career appearing in such shows as Cold Squad, Smallville, and Supernatural. After her success in The Next Star, Ryan Stewart (who has worked with Carly Rae Jepsen and Suzie McNeil) co-wrote the song “Shut Up and Dance” with her. It was picked up by radio stations across the country at the end of 2011 and climbed up to #12 on the weekly singles chart going platinum. A version with an added French part featuring Lukay was released in Quebec.  Victoria released her debut album in 2012 named after her Platinum single.  Tracks “Feel” and “Break My Heart” both made the Top 40 on the Canadian Hot 100. In 2014, Victoria released her second album, Accelerate and went on tour with The Backstreet Boys.

Kristina Maria

We have completed a major profile on Kristina Maria which is HERE.

Mia Martina

From a small village of 500 people—Saint Ignace, NB—arose one Mia Martina who, after relocating to Ottawa for university, was discovered and asked to sing backup for Danny Fernandes and Belly. She released a dance remix of Edward Maya’s “Stereo Love”, featuring her vocal, a Top 10 hit in Canada at the end of 2010. It finished as the 34th biggest song of 2011. Her own song, “Latin Moon” which was released in both official languages finished the year in 74th place. “Burning” peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 and was the 64th biggest song of 2012. Her debut album was entitled Devotion. Mia’s bilingual song “Danse” went gold in 2014. She released her second album, self-titled, in 2015. It spawned the Top 40 hit “Beast”.

Alyssa Reid

The 24th biggest song of 2011 was brought to us by Alyssa Reid. Born in Edmonton and now living in Brampton, Ontario, she was a finalist on the first season of talent search YTV program The Next Star just as the aforementioned Victoria Duffield. Her “Alone Again” was a reworking of Heart’s song “Alone” (which has also been covered by Céline Dion) with added lyrics and a rap segment by P. Reign, a Guyanese-Canadian from the Toronto area. “Alone Again” peaked at #11 on the weekly singles chart and was certified gold. Her debut album, released in June, is entitled The Game.  “Alone Again” made it to #2 on the British charts in 2012. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” became a Top 40 single in 2013. Alyssa released album Phoenix in 2015 showcasing a more acoustic singer-songwriter style.

JUNO Awards

The JUNO Awards for 2011 music were held in Ottawa on the weekend of March 31, 2012.  Blue Rodeo was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame.  Album of the Year was awarded to Michael Buble and Single of the Year to The Sheepdogs.  For a full list of nominees, click on the following links:  JUNOs Part 1  JUNOs Part 2.

Related Posts

Canadian Music Blog’s Album of the Year 2011

Canadian Music Blog’s Song of the Year 2011

Mini-Profiles on Artists Whose Popularity Intensified in 2011

(Includes Vincent Vallières, Fred Pellerin, Nadja, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dragonette, Richard Desjardins, Coeur de Pirate, City and Colour, and George Canyon)

Felix Awards:   Nominees   Winners Part 1   Winners Part 2

Established Artists Whose Popularity Intensified in 2011

There were a number of established artists we have not yet profiled whose popularity continued to grow in 2011. Marc Dupré was awarded the Félix for pop-rock album of the year thanks to his Entre deux mondes. Ricky J is a popular dj/rapper from Montréal. His single “Whatta Night” was certified gold in December. Pop pianist Pierre La Pointe released a new album this year called Seul au piano which peaked at #2 on the Canadian albums chart. Hamilton’s The Arkells, who won the JUNO for group of the year in 2010, released their second LP this year, Michigan Left, and it made it to #5 on the albums chart. Below, in reverse alphabetical order, are mini-profiles on some of the bigger names whose success continued to burgeon in 2011.

Vincent Vallières

The popularity of this native of Sherbrooke, Québec just keeps on growing. After coming in second place at a 1996 regional talent show in his hometown, he released his debut album way back in 1999, when he was 21, but his first Félix-nominated songs came off his fourth LP, Le repère tranquille, released in 2006. Le monde tourne fort came next, in 2009, and its “En attendant le soleil” was nominated; however, at the Félix gala in October, 2011, it was “On va s’aimer encore” that won the coveted award for song of the year as well as music video of the year. In December, the album was certified platinum.

Fred Pellerin

Fred is from the quaint little town of Saint Élie de Caxton, in the lake-dotted foothills of the Laurentian Mountains. As a folksinger, he tells intriguing stories and first released an album with his brother Nicolas in 2007. His first release as a soloist came in 2009 and was titled Silence. It was massively successful, going platinum. It was nominated for four Félix awards and won two including Folk Album of the Year. His second release followed in 2011. C’est un monde went gold only a month after it was released, an impressive accomplishment for a Francophone album in Canada. It was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2012 JUNOs. In 2014, Fred released album Plus tard qu’on pense.

Nadja

If you search the net with this, you may find references to a Canadian doom metal band. The Nadja that we are talking about could not be farther away from such pursuits. She is an R&B singer (reminiscent of soul music from the 50s and 60s) from Saint-Félicien, Québec, and already has two gold albums under her belt. While studying accounting in Montréal, she sang in piano bars around the city and was soon invited to join a group. This led to a deal performing at a five-star hotel in Taiwan. She left for 3 months and ended up staying for 6 years. Her reputation grew through Asia and she performed for a number of dignitaries. In 2005, she returned home and toured throughout Canada. She attracted the attention of famous singer Mario Pelchat who signed her with his label. She released her debut self-titled album in 2009. “Hound Dog” was a hit on the adult contemporary charts and the album went gold. This year, she released two albums: Everything’s Going My Way and Christmas album Noël which was certified gold in December.

Carly Rae Jepsen

The Mission, B.C. native finished in third spot on the 5th season of television reality series Canadian Idol. She struck a deal with Fontana/Maple Music and released her debut album in 2008, Tug of War. The album spawned two top 40 gold singles: the reggae-styled “Bucket” and the title-track. She received two JUNO nominations. 604 Records in Vancouver signed her next, and she wrote the song “Call Me Maybe”.  At the end of 2011, the song was picked up by mainstream radio and began climbing up the charts. In 2012, it topped the charts and became the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history.  Carly was signed by Justin Bieber’s management team. The song was released internationally, topping the charts around the world and became the best-selling song of the year on iTunes.  Carly’s EP Curiosity was released on Valentine’s Day 2012.  Hits “Curiosity” and “Good Time” with Owl City followed. The latter topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Carly released LP, Kiss.  Jepsen won 3 JUNO awards in 2013 wherein “Call Me Maybe” was named Song of the Year and Kiss Album of the Year. Critically acclaimed album Emotion with gold single “I Really Like You” came out in 2015.

Dragonette

This Toronto synth-pop outfit consists of singer-songwriter Martina Sorbara, drummer Joel Stouffer, and bassist Dan Kurtz. The latter was responsible for producing Feist’s first (independent) album. Feeling that Canada was not the best place to launch their careers, they relocated to electronic-dance friendly Britain to record their debut album in 2007. While there, they backed up New Order, Basement Jaxx, and the Sugarbabes. Dragonette scored its own Top 30 hit in 2009 called “Pick up the Phone”. “Hello”, on which they collaborated with France’s electronic music disc jockey and producer Martin Solveig, finished the year 2011 as the 11th biggest song of the year in Canada and received the highest certification for a digital downloadable single—double platinum. “Hello” stayed on the charts for over 40 weeks.  In 2012, their biggest hit was “Let It Go” which peaked at #23 on the weekly chart and was the 73rd biggest song of the year.

Richard Desjardins

Richard has been around a long time. He was born in 1948 in Rouyn, QC. In addition to his music career, he has directed several films and has also scored music for cinematic productions and documentaries. He debuted musically in 1981 in conjunction with the group Abbittibbi. His albums have sold well, 1990’s Tu m’aimes-tu being his first platinum-certified disc. 1998’s Boom Boom went gold. And, in 2011, his L’existoire was a gold album. Desjardins is an environmental activist especially in terms of speaking out against overactive deforestation.

Coeur de Pirate

One of the Francophone performers to make some inroads into English Canada is Béatrice Martin who operates under the stage name Cœur de Pirate. She has been playing piano since she was 3. Her (self-titled) debut came out in 2009, was certified platinum, and was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the JUNOs. As she became a big name in Europe, she won the Félix for Québec artist having the most success outside the province. Her second album, Blonde, was released in 2011, debuting at #5 on the albums chart. Her work was acknowledged by the CBC’s Q radio show who named it as the 12th best album of 2011, a notch ahead of Adele’s 21. It was nominated for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2012 JUNOs. Coeur de Pirate released biliingual album Roses in 2015 and made the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with single “Carry On”/”Oublie Moi”.

City and Colour

City and Colour is not a band but an individual from St. Catharines, ON named Dallas Green, Dallas being a city and Green being a colour. He was previously the lead singer of the band Alexisonfire and now plays a style of melodic indie rock. His released his first album, Sometimes, under his moniker in 2005. Both it and his second album were certified platinum. In 2011, Little Hell, was his third and went platinum in early 2012. He has not yet fared as well in the singles department; however, his song “Waiting” peaked at #32 on the weekly singles chart in early 2008. In 2014 Dallas teamed with American artist Pink in duo You + Me and released a folk album. Album If I Should Go Before You reached #1 in 2015.

George Canyon

George is one of the more popular Canadian country artists. He grew up in Nova Scotia but relocated to High River, Alberta. He held many interesting jobs to support his dream of becoming a professional singer. He worked as a law enforcement officer and a slaughterhouse beef inspector. Ironwolf was his first album, released in 1996. 2004’s One Good Friend, his third, secured his breakthrough, going gold and winning Country Recording of the Year at the JUNOs. His followup release, Somebody Wrote Love, reaped the same award. His second gold album came out in 2011, Better Be Home Soon.

Update to The Year 2010 in Canadian Music

In preparation for our review of 2011 in Canadian music, we have just finished revamping our summary of the year in music 2010. Within this major article, we provide mini profiles of some of the new stars that made it big that year: K’naan, Maxime Landry, Deadmau5, Bobby Bazini, Meaghan Smith, Nikki Yanofsky, Tegan & Sara, The Arcade Fire, Down with Webster, and Karkwa. We include some of the major JUNO awards (with those nominated), list the most successful albums and singles, and all the songs by Canadian artists that made the Top 100 of 2010. Check it out HERE.

2010 in Music

After the Vancouver Olympics, which saw Stephan Moccio and Nikki Yanofsky’s “I Believe” top the charts and become the 33rd biggest song of the year in Canada, many Canadian artists began collaborating with others to produce hit singles.

Collaborations

Montreal’s A-Trak joined American Armand Van Helden to form the house duo Duck Sauce. They churned out “Barbara Streisand” which became a number 3 hit in the U.K. Somali-Canadian K’naan teamed up with British band Keane as well as a supergroup of Canadian artists to record a charity single for Haiti. We will get to K’naan in a bit.

Justin Bieber allowed American rapper Ludacris to appear in his song “Baby”, a Top 5 hit in Canada, the U.K., and U.S. His “Eenie Meenie” was recorded with Jamaican-American Sean Kingston. The song made the Top 10 in Britain. Both songs made the Billboard year-end Top 100 chart. Bieber’s solo performance in “Somebody to Love” was a Top 10 hit at home.

Drake only had one Top 10 hit in Canada, “Find Your Love” which was the 32nd biggest song of the year in the U.S. (highest position for a Canadian artist). “Over” was another solo hit for him. “Forever” included contributions from Americans Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem. Drake was featured in two songs from other artists: Lil Wayne’s “Right Above It” and Timbaland’s “Say Something”. All these songs by or featuring Drake make the Billboard Top 100 year-end chart in the U.S. He was also featured in the song “What’s My Name” with Barbados’ Rihanna, a #2 hit in Britain.

Calgary’s twin sisters Tegan & Sara collaborated with Dutch musician Tiesto on the song “Feel It In My Bones” which made the year-end Top 100 in Canada.

Biggest Hits

The biggest Canadian song of the year was Hedley’s “Perfect” which finished in 18th spot. Two versions of “Wavin’ Flag”, one by the artist himself, K’naan, and a reworked version performed by Young Artists for Haiti came next (#21 and #19 respectively). The latter won the JUNO for song of the year in 2011. At #31, was Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet”. Aforementioned Nikki Yanofsky’s “I Believe” was 33rd, and new Toronto band Down with Webster’s “Your Man” was 37th.

French-language hits this year included Les Trois Accords’ “Dans mon corps”, Marie-Mai’s “Deja loin”, William Deslauriers’ “Recommencer tout à zéro”, and Dumas’ “Le bonheur”.

Three albums released this year were certified double-platinum: Johnny Reid’s A Place Called Love, Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0, and kd Lang’s Recollection. The album of the year JUNO went to The Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs with Karwa’s Les chemins de verre winning the JUNO for Francophone album of the year.

Newcomers

Besides the above-mentioned Nikki Yanofsky, Down with Webster, K’naan, Tegan & Sara, and Duck Sauce, there were a few additional artists who rose to prominence this year, whether they had been around for a few years already or released a successful debut. Around since 2004, The Arcade Fire, without any hit singles to speak of, rose to prominence in terms of awards, not only in Canada but around the world. Deadmau5, around nearly as long, scored his first platinum album, giving his credibility as a leader of Canadian dance music. Quebec dance duo Alfa Rococo released their second album this year which was very popular. Brand new singer Bobby Bazini scored a platinum debut album. Star Academie winner Maxime Landry did twice as well this year with his first album, released at the end of 2009. The JUNO for best new artist went to Meaghan Smith with Vancouver indie band Said the Whale winning best new group.

K’naan

While most African Americans are several-generation U.S. citizens, K’naan was actually born in Africa (Somalia) and immigrated to Canada. He lived through the Somali Civil War in Mogadishu. His father left Somalia for the U.S. and sent his son rap records which he savoured. When he was 13, K’naan, his siblings, and mother left Africa for New York to visit relatives before settling in the Toronto neighbourhood of Rexdale. During his teen years he began to practice rapping himself.

In 1999, Canadian promoter Sol Guy helped K’naan secure a speaking engagement before the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. He criticized the organization for its failure in aiding Somalia. In the audience was Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour who was so impressed that he invited him to contribute to his 2001 album Building Bridges.

Eventually, Canadian producer Jarvis Church agreed to produce K’naan’s debut album The Dusty Foot Philosopher in 2005 which won a Juno. The man’s breakthrough, however, came this year, not with a rap piece but the pop song “Wavin’ Flag”. It made it to #2 on the charts in Canada and Britain. The song was chosen as theme song for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and was recorded in many languages.

Later, “Wavin’ Flag” was rerecorded by a supergroup of Canadian artists as a charity single to raise funds for Haiti in the aftermath of its earthquake. Besides K’naan, Young Artists for Haiti included soloists Nelly Furtado, Sam Roberts, Avril Lavigne, Pierre Bouvier (of Simple Plan), Tyler Connolly (of Theory of a Deadman), Kardinal Offishall, Jully Black, LIGHTS, Deryck Whibley (of Sum 41), Serena Ryder, Jacob Hoggard (of Hedley), Emily Haines (of Metric), Hawksley Workman, Drake, Chin Injeti, Ima, Pierre Lapointe, Elisapie Isaac, Esthero, Corb Lund, Fefe Dobson, Nikki Yanofsky, Matt Mays, Justin Nozuka and Justin Bieber.

Performing the chorus were Arkells, Lamar Ashe, Broken Social Scene, Torquil Campbell, Canadian Tenors, Aion Clarke, City and Colour, Tom Cochrane, Jim Cuddy, Jim Creeggan, Kathleen Edwards, Dave Faber, Jessie Farrell, Colin James, Pat Kordyback, Brandon Lehti, Colin MacDonald, Jay Malinowski, Stacey McKitrick, Suzie McNeil, Stephan Moccio, Kevin Parent, Josh Ramsay, Red 1, Hayley Sales, James Shaw and Shiloh.

This version of “Wavin’ Flag”, produced by Bob Ezrin, topped the singles chart and won the JUNO for song of the year. The music video can be seen HERE.

K’naan also teamed up with British superstars Keane. Keane released an album in 2004 called Hopes and Fears which was certified 9x Platinum in Britain thanks to Top 5 hits “Everybody’s Changing” and “Somewhere Only We Know”. In 2010, K’naan was featured in a couple of songs for the band’s Night Train EP, including “Stop for a Minute” which became an international hit.

In 2012, K’Naan teamed up with Nelly Furtado releasing “Is Anybody Out There” which topped the charts in New Zealand and was the 52nd biggest hit of the year in Canada; his “Hurt Me Tomorrow” was 70th.

Maxime Landry

The best-selling Francophone album in 2010 was from 2009 Star Academie winner Maxime Landry. His album Vox Pop, released in December, 2009, was certified double-platinum. He is from Saint-Gédéon-de-Beauce, Quebec, which is near the border with the U.S. State of Maine. There is not much info on the web about him, but, from what we gather, he was born in 1987 and started out learning the guitar. He participated in a number of music competitions before entering Star Academie.

Deadmau5

This is not in reality a band but an individual named Joel Thomas Zimmerman, born in 1981 in Niagara Falls. He released his debut album in 2006 and has been leading the way in making Canadian dance/house music from Toronto. The correct pronunciation of his stage name is not “dead mau five” but “dead mouse”. He often performs wearing a “mau5head” costume. He attracts large dance crowds to his performances. His album 4×4=12 was certified platinum.  In 2012, four deadmau5 singles made the Canadian Hot 100, the most successful of which was “The Veldt” (#24); it was the 75th biggest hit of the year. Album While 1 Is Less Than 2 came in 2014 spawning a couple of hits.

Bobby Bazini

Born and raised in Mont-Laurier, a small town north of Montréal in the Upper Laurentians, teen Bobby Banzini learned the guitar from his father. He took a liking to the music of Johnny Cash but developed an interest in soul music after watching a documentary about Otis Redding. Bazini began writing lyrics and then melodies and, encouraged by his grandmother, he began composing music. When he was 18, he performed at a local music festival which caught the attention of a local deejay who was also a drummer. The two began working together and a song was sent to a promoter in Montreal who introduced Bobby to a record label. He was signed very quickly.

Bobby’s debut album, Better in Time, was released in 2010 and his song “I Wonder”, which peaked on the Quebec charts at #3, helped the album reach platinum certification in Canada. His sophomore album, 2014’s Where I Belong also struck platinum as well. In 2016, he released Summer Is Gone which spawned cross-Canada radio single “C’est La Vie”.

Meaghan Smith

After her songs appeared in the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer, Meaghan’s independent album The Cricket’s Orchestra was picked up by Warner Music and distributed in Canada this year. At the JUNO gala in 2011, she won the award for new artist of the year. Meaghan is from London, Ontario. Album Have a Heart in 2014 combined vintage and modern pop.

Nikki Yanofsky

As the whole world tuned in to watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, expecting to see a superstar like Celine Dion perform the national anthem, there was some surprise awaiting them. Celine was pregnant and it was decided that the tone of the games needed to be set by a fresh, youthful face. 16-year-old jazz-pop singer-songwriter Nikki Yanofsky of Montreal shone on stage like a Rudolph leading the country into the hearts of the world. The citizens of her hometown of Montreal were floored. The principal of her high school is reported to have said, “I gasped when I saw her on TV in that red dress and those red shoes – and then I cried, she was so spectacular.”

Yanofsky’s song “I Beleive” was a quadruple-platinum single and her album Nikki eventually struck platinum. Album Little Secret in 2014 was produced by American heavyweight Quincy Jones and new music in 2016 by Wyclef Jean.

Tegan & Sara

This indie duo of identical twin sisters who compose, sing, and play both the guitar and piano debuted back in 1999. Their last three albums have gone gold as they have a large underground following. They hit the mainstream this year when they teamed up with Dutch musician Tiesto and released the new wave single “Feel It In My Bones” which made the Top 100 of 2010 chart.  In 2012, their popularity skyrocketed as they collaborated with house American DJ Morgan Page in “Body Work”, a Top 40 single, while “Closer” reached #21 on the Canadian Hot 100.  They released a new album in 2013, Heartthrob and scored subsequent hit singles. For the album, the duo won 3 JUNO Awards in 2014.

The Arcade Fire

The art rock band from Montreal has been around since 2004. This year, they released their third album called The Suburbs. It won the album of the year award at The Canadian JUNOs, American Grammys, and the United Kingdom’s BRIT award for Best International Album. At the end of 2011, the album was certified double-platinum in Canada. The seven-member band plays an assortment of instruments including piano, keyboard, guitar, drums, bass guitar, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, French horn, accordion, harp, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy. In 2013 the title track of their album Reflektor became their first Top 40 hit peaking on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 at #20.

Down with Webster

Like the Arcade Fire, this is a large band, consisting of several members and hail from Toronto. They perform rap music. Down with Webster signed a record deal in 2009 after a self-released album two years earlier. They released a gold EP which spawned two big hits. “Your Man” and “Whoa Is Me” both made the Top 100 of 2010 and were certified platinum digital downloads. In 2013, “One in a Million” made the Top 30 and became a platinum single. Further success cam in 2014 with the release of album Party For Your Life.

Karkwa

The JUNOs presented Karkwa with the Francophone album of the year award for their gold 2010 release Les chemins de verre, the band’s fourth album. Singles from the LP were “Marie tu pleures” and “Le pyromane”. Karkwa is a five-man indie rock band that formed in Montreal in 1998 and has been releasing material since 2003. Their lead singer is Louis-Jean Cormier and the band’s name is a phonetic rendering of carquois which is French for a quiver of arrows.

Major Juno Awards

For music in 2010, below is a summary of nominations and wins in major categories at the 2011 gala.

Francophone Album of the Year:

Bernard Adamus, Brun
Daniel Bélanger, Nous
Fred Pellerin, Silence
Radio Radio, Belmundo Regal
Winner: Karkwa, Les chemins de verre

Album of the Year:

Drake, Thank Me Later
Hedley, The Show Must Go
Johnny Reid, A Place Called Love
Justin Bieber, My World 2.0
Winner: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Single of the Year:

Classified, “Oh Canada”
Drake, “Find Your Love”
Hedley, “Perfect”
Kd lang, “Hallelujah”
Winner: Young Artists for Haiti, “Wavin’ Flag”

New Artist of the Year:

Basia Bulat
Bobby Bazini
Caribou
Hannah Georges
Winner: Meaghan Smith

Artist of the Year:

Drake
Johnny Reid
Justin Bieber
Sarah McLachlan
Winner: Neil Young

New Group of the Year:

Die Mannequin
Hollerado
Misteur Valaire
My Darkest Days
Winner: Said the Whale

Group of the Year:

Broken Social Scene
Down with Webster
Great Big Sea
Three Days Grace
Winner: Arcade Fire

Successful Albums Released in 2010

Three albums released in 2010 have been certified double-platinum, the highest certification reached for albums that year. They are…

Justin Bieber, My World 2.0
Johnny Reid, A Place Called Love
k.d. lang, Recollection

5 albums released in 2010 have been certified platinum.

Bobby Bazini, Better in Time
Drake, Thank Me Later
Justin Bieber, My Worlds Acoustic
Deadmau5, 4×4=12
The Canadian Tenors, The Perfect Gift

Successful Singles Released in 2010

Stephan Moccio, “I Believe”, 5x Platinum Sales
Nikki Yanofsky, “I Believe”, 4x Platinum Digital Download
K’naan, “Wavin’ Flag”, 3x Platinum Digital Download
Young Artists for Haiti, “Wavin’ Flag”, 3x Platinum Digital Download
Down with Webster, “Whoa Is Me”, Platinum Digital Download
Down with Webster, “Your Man”, Platinum Digital Download
k.d. lang, “Hallelujah”, Platinum Digital Download
Shawn Desman, “Electric”, Platinum Digital Download

Canadian Hot 100 Year-End Singles Chart for 2010

Title Artist Pos
Perfect Hedley 18
Wavin’   Flag Young Artists for Haiti 19
Wavin’   Flag K’naan 21
Haven’t   Met You Yet Michael Buble 31
I   Believe Nikki Yanofsky 33
Your Man Down with Webster 37
Find   Your Love Drake 42
Ghost Fefe Dobson 47
Bodybounce Kardinal Offishall ft. Akon 50
Don’t   Talk to Strangers Hedley 54
Take a   Minute K’naan 56
This   Afternoon Nickelback 58
Baby Justin Bieber 61
Beside   You Marianas Trench 64
Celebrity   Status Marianas Trench 69
Eenie   Meenie Justin Bieber 76
Shiver Shawn Desman 78
Turn It   Up Stereos 80
Give Him   Up Faber Drive 84
Whoa Is   Me Down with Webster 85
Night   Like This Shawn Desman 86
Somebody   to Love Justin Bieber 87
Over Drake 91
Cha   Ching Hedley 92
Feel It   In My Bones Tiesto ft. Tegan & Sara 94
Hands Up Hedley 96

Top Francophone Songs of 2010

SONG ARTIST POS
DANS MON   CORPS LES TROIS ACCORDS 17
DEJA   LOIN MARIE-MAI 20
HYMNE A   QUEBEC LOCO LOCASS 22
RECOMMENCER   TOUT A ZERO WILLIAM DESLAURIERS 26
MUSIC K-MARO 30
LE   BONHEUR (RIEN NE NOUS ARRETERA) DUMAS 35
SI T’ES   VIVANT JONATHAN PAINCHAUD 37
CHENE ET   ROSEAU LES COWBOYS FRINGANTS 39
HYMNE A   MONTREAL (VILLE-MARIE) ERIC LAPOINTE 43
LE TEMPS   EST LONG VALLIERES 45
VOYAGE DAVID JALBERT 47
LA VIE   C’T’UNE JOB LES RESPECTABLES 49

Late 2000s Mini Profiles on Semi-Major Artists

Feist

Feist was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia but the family relocated to Regina and then Calgary. In 1991, while a teenager, she formed a punk band in Calgary. She experienced vocal cord problems in 1995 and relocated to Toronto a year later where she worked with various local indie artists. She recorded her own album on an independent label which was produced by Dan Kurtz who later created Dragonette. In 2001, with friends, she formed popular indie band Broken Social Scene. She released the acclaimed album Let It Die in 2004 and her cover of the Bee Gees “Inside and Out” was popular. She won the JUNO for Best New Artist in 2005. A remix album, Open Season, came the following year. Her big breakthrough was in 2007 when she released double-platinum The Reminder. It won the JUNO for album of the year, track “1234” song of the year, and Feist, herself, artist of the year. In all, she has won 8 JUNO awards. “1234” was the 35th most popular song of 2008. Feist released the album Metals in 2011.

Marie-Mai

Rocker Marie-Mai (Bouchard) was a finalist during the first season (2003) of Star Académie, somewhat of a French version of Canadian Idol. She grew up learning piano and developed a love and a talent for singing. Her grandmother mentored her and was the one who encouraged her to audition for the reality TV show. She released her gold debut album in 2004. She became noticed in Europe opening for Garou. Marie-Mai’s popular standing was sealed with the release of her second (gold) album, Dangereuse attraction, which won the Félix for rock album of the year. “Mentir” was nominated for the Félix song of the year, and she performed “Emmène-Moi” at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. She released her 3rd album, Version 3.0, in 2009. It was certified platinum and won her 2nd rock album of the year award. Both “C’est Moi” and “Comme Avant” (co-written by Rob Wells) were nominated for Félix awards. Marie-Mai won the Félix female artist of the year award in both 2010 and 2011. She recorded the song “Kill the Lights” with David Usher (Moist) and provided vocals for the French version of Simple Plan’s “Jet Lag”.  In 2012, she had the biggest Francophone song of the year, “Sans cri ni haine”, a French-language cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”.  It won the Song of the Year Felix.  She released album Miroir which was quickly certified gold and later platinum. Album M appeared in 2014.

State of Shock

This Vancouver hard rock band has enjoyed three songs in the year-end Top 100 singles charts: “Best I Ever Had” (#87, 2008), “Money Honey” (#67, 2008), and “Too Pretty” (#100, 2009)—all from their second (gold) album Life, Love, and Lies. State of Shock is special in that it is a gender-combo band, including both male and female members. They released their debut album in 2004 but shot to stardom with their second release. Their lead singer is Cameron Melnyk, originally from Edmonton and of Ukrainian descent. They have toured with Nickelback and Puddle of Mud. State of Shock released its third album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Romance, in 2011.

Faber Drive

This band is from Mission, B.C. and has been more successful in the singles than the albums department. Like State of Shock, they have enjoyed three songs in the year-end Top 100 charts: “When I’m with You” (#83, 2008), “G-Get Up and Dance” (#48, 2009), and “Give Him Up” (#84, 2010). “Tongue Tied” was a hit in 2007. The band is named after lead singer Dave Faber and has gone through several line-up changes, the only other consistent member being Jeremy “Krikit” Liddle. They shifted from standard pop rock fare to a more synth-rock sound on their second album.

Drake

Toronto’s Aubrey Drake Graham is a Canadian rap artist. He became known as an actor first, however, playing the character Jimmy Brooks on the television series Degrassi: The Next Generation. His recording career was launched when he was signed by American rapper Lil Wayne’s company. He released an EP first (in 2009) and his debut (platinum) album, Thank Me Later, was released the following year. Drake often collaborates with other artists in his recorded singles. “Headlines” is his only gold-certified single. “Best I Ever Had” made the year-end Top 100 in 2009; “Find Your Love” and “Over” did in 2010, when he won two JUNO awards, including one for best new artist. In 2011, he recorded hits with Barbados’ Rihanna and Trinidadian-American Nicki Minaj. That year he released his second full-length studio album, Take Care, with contributions by Chantal Kreviazuk, among others. Nothing Was the Same followed in 2013. Drake’s father is African American and his mother is Jewish Canadian. Drake released two albums in 2015, one a collaboration with U.S. artist Future and his own entitled If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. With album Views in 2016, track “One Dance” became his first #1 hit.

Stereos

Edmonton is not known for churning out popular rock bands. But all that changed with the advent of The Stereos who have a gold album under their belt and have managed three year-end Top 100 singles: “Summer Girl” (#35, 2009), “Throw Ya Hands Up” (#85, 2009), and “Turn It Up” (#80, 2010). The first two were double-platinum digital downloads and the latter platinum. The Stereos are led by Pat Kordyback. They formed in 2008 under the moniker Stand By Me, changed it to Turn It Up, and finally settled on The Stereos. They rose to prominence by performing on MuchMusic show disBAND and were judged by Gene Simmons of Kiss. Universal Music Canada signed them immediately. After their gold debut album in 2009, they released a second album the following year.

LIGHTS

LIGHTS is a female recording artist and synthesizer virtuoso. She was born in Timmins, Ontario but moved around during her childhood, living in Jamaica, The Philippines, and Vancouver, before settling in Toronto in her teens. In 2006, she got a job with Sony/ATV Music Publishing and composed music for television. Her talents led to a record deal with Sire / Warner Music and her song “Drive My Soul” became a Top 20 hit and the 70th biggest song of the year 2008. Before she even released her debut album, she received the JUNO award for best new artist. The Listening came out in 2009 and was certified gold. Her second album, Siberia, came out in 2011 and was certified gold in 2012. A departure from her more poppy-sounding debut, Siberia showcased a more creative electronic rock sound and drew critical acclaim. LIGHTS released her third album Little Machines in 2014 becoming her first Top 40 entry on the United States’ Billboard Albums chart.

Mid-2000s Mini Profiles on Semi-Major Artists

Gregory Charles

Of French and Trinidadian ancestry, multi-talented Charles was born in 1968 in Montreal. At 7, he won the national Canadian piano contest and performed with many of the country’s symphonies. He studied law but landed a role in the TV series “Chambres en ville”. This led to his hosting a daily radio show, a television game show, a chat show, and he made several appearances in “Just for Laughs”. He toured with Celine Dion in 1998, providing backing vocals and piano work. He launched a variety show in the new millennium and finally his first studio album in 2006, I Think of You. It was certified triple platinum and he was nominated for three Juno awards. The French album Loin de la lumière followed in 2008 for which he won the Felix for male artist of the year.

Fefe Dobson

Born in 1985 this singer-songwriter and model from Scarborough has English, French, Aboriginal, and Jamaican ancestry. Her debut self-titled album, released in 2003, went platinum and she received two Juno nominations. The album spawned two Top 10 hits: “Bye Bye Boyfriend” (#8) and “Don’t Go (Girls & Boys)” (#9). She ran into record company problems and her second album was never released. After many delays and changes, her third album Joy came out in 2010 resulting in three Top 20 hits. “Ghost” was the 47th biggest song of 2010. And, in 2011, “Can’t Breathe” was 76th of the year while “Stutterin'” was 45th.  Fefe is known for her music videos which have won three MuchMusic awards for her.

Finger Eleven

Forming way back in 1989 as the Rainbow Butt Monkeys, they released their first album in 1995. It and its two hard rock follow ups made little impact. But in 2004, the band scored the international acoustic guitar hit “One Thing”, the 66th biggest song of the year in the U.S. In 2007, their song “Paralyzer” did even better scaling up the domestic charts to #3 and was the 64th most popular song in 2008. “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague” also made the year-end chart (#53). Two of the band’s albums have gone platinum, including 2007’s Them Vs. You Vs. Me which won the Juno for best rock album. The band has received 8 Juno nominations to date. The band released album Five Crooked Lines in 2015.

Mes Aïeux

This sextet (five men and one woman) folk outfit formed in 1996 and released its debut album in 2000. Like Les Cowboys Fringants, their style is dubbed as neo-traditional. The band’s third 2004 album, En Famille, went double-Platinum, a difficult feat for a French release. They have also scored two platinum albums. At the 2007 Felix gala, the band’s song “Dégénérations” was named song of the year. “Le déni de l’évidence” was nominated two years later. Mes Aieux was declared Group of the Year thrice in Quebec.

Billy Talent

This is a heavy metal quartet, formerly known as Pezz, led by vocalist Ben Kowalewicz. They formed in Mississauga and recorded a self-titled album in Vancouver in 2003 which sold over 300,000 copies domestically. Their first Top 10 hit came in 2009—”Rusted from the Rain” which was the 61st biggest song of the year. Billy Talent has been nominated for a whopping 20 Junos, winning 7 of them including Group of the Year twice and album of the year in 2005.

Shawn Desman

Shawn is an R&B singer from Vaughan, Ontario (just north of Toronto) and, like Nelly Furtado, is of Portuguese descent. Generally speaking, he has done better in the singles than the albums department in terms of sales. His only album to achieve gold certification was his debut, self-titled release in 2002. 2005’s Back for More won a Juno for R&B/Soul recording of the year. “Don’t Wanna Lose You” was his first hit single (#19). “Get Ready” topped the charts with “Shook” (gold) peaking at #3. His album Fresh, released in 2010, spawned three hit singles, all of which made the year-end charts. In 2010, “Shiver” was 78th and “Night Like This” was 86th. And in 2011, “Electric“, a platinum download, was 59th of the year. In 2012, “Nobody Does It Like You” peaked at #18 on the Canadian Hot 100.

Marie-Élaine Thibert

Thibert of Montreal has achieved remarkable success in a very short time. She was runner-up in the first season of Quebec television reality series Star Académie (somewhat of a French version of Canadian Idol). Her debut, self-titled album, released in 2004, went triple platinum in Canada, a striking achievement for a Francophone album. It won the Juno award for Francophone Album of the Year. What’s more, her single “Toi l’inoubliable” was certified 6x platinum, making it the 2nd best-selling single of the decade (after Kalan Porter’s “Awake in a Dream”). She has released a few albums since then, some going platinum.

Marianas Trench

Mike Ayley, Ian Casselman, Josh Ramsay, and Matt Webb formed the band in Vancouver and eventually landed a deal with Chad Kroeger’s (Nickelback) local record label, 604 Records. Their debut album appeared in 2006 and spawned a couple of hit singles: “Say Anything” peaked at #3 on the charts and “Shake Tramp” was certified gold. Followup album Masterpiece Theatre was a platinum release in 2009 and, in all, four tracks made the year-end Top 100 singles chart in 2009 and 2010; the highest charting was “Cross My Heart” (43rd of 2009). In 2011, they released a new platinum single “Haven’t Had Enough” (81st of the year) and their third studio album, Ever After.  “Fallout” and “Desperate Measures” both made the year-end Hot 100 of 2012. The band won its first JUNO Award in 2013. Hit single “Pop 101” followed in 2014. Album Astoria came out in 2015.

Early 2000s Mini Profiles on Semi-Major Artists

Daniel Boucher

Blues-rocker Boucher has released three studio albums, including his platinum- certified debut Dix Mille Matins. His song “La désise” was declared the song of the year at the Felix awards gala in 2001. Other hits of his include “Chez nous” and “Le vent soufflait mes pellicules”. Daniel studied civil engineering in Montreal before switching to a career in music after success in multiple singing contests. In 2014, he released album Toutte est temporaire.

Les Cowboys Fringants

Although not achieving huge album sales, the band from the Montreal suburbs, has achieved tremendous critical reception and attracted large underground cult followings in Europe. Six of their songs have garnered Felix song of the year nominations, one of which, “Les Étoiles filantes“, won the award at the gala in 2005. The other nominees were “Toune d’automne”, “Mon chum Rémi”, “Plus rien”, “8 secondes”, and “La tête haute”. They were named Best Group two years in a row. Their album Break Syndical received a Juno nomination. They are best-known for performing modernized Quebec folk music with a rock flavour, known as the néo-trad movement. Album Octobre appeared in 2015.

Natasha St-Pier

The powerful Francophone singer from New Brunswick has released seven studio albums. De L’amour le mieux was nominated for a Juno. Her exquisite piece “Je n’ai que mon âme“, which she performed at the Eurovision contest, was named song of the year at the Felix gala in 2002. She also delivered the Felix-nominated “Laisser l’été avoir 15 ans” with Claude Dubois. St Pier has, unlike many French Canadian singers, become popular in francophone Europe, as well as in Poland and Russia. 2015 album Mon Acadie paid tribute in musical style to Natasha’s Acadian roots.

Sum 41

They never scored any big hit singles until 2011’s “Baby, You Don’t Wanna Know” (#10) but the punk rock band from Ajax, Ontario has sold many records, their most successful being their triple-platinum debut All Killer, No Filler, released in 2001. “Fat Lip” from the album topped the Billboard so-called “Modern Rock Tracks” charts. The band is led by Deryck Whibley who enjoyed a marriage to Avril Lavigne. The band has received nine Juno nominations, one of which it won: Group of the Year in 2003.

The Tea Party

The brand of music performed by this Windsor, Ontario band was labelled “Moroccan roll” by the media. Before disbanding in 2005, the group released eight studio albums, three of which were certified double-platinum. Eight of their singles made the Top 40, the most successful of which were “Lullaby” and “Soulbreaking” both reaching #3 in 2001. “Heaven Coming Down“, however, remains the band’s signature song. Led by Jeff Martin, the band achieved an amazing 13 Juno nominations, winning none. The band reformed and released album Ocean at the End in 2014.