The most significant event that occurred in the latter years of the first decade of the new millennium was that, for the first time in music history, a Canadian of east-Asian descent scored a radio hit. Canadians of Asian descent make up over 12% of the population but have seen little representation in the music industry. Maple Ridge B.C.’s Elise Estrada, born in the Philippines, recorded the R&B hit “Unlove You” which peaked at #11 on the singles chart.
This period also witnessed the 3rd best-selling Canadian single of all-time internationally, after Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”. Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” sold 7.3 million copies worldwide.
Edmonton, which had been left off the map in terms of churning out significant recording artists, contributed two during this time: Kreesha Turner and the Stereos.
Canadian music embraced further diversity. For the first time in a while, Canada gave the world a new male teen international superstar. A couple new electronic artists achieved success. Rock trio Metric released the single “Help, I’m Alive” which peaked at #21 on the singles chart in early 2009. LIGHTS, a female singer-songwriter, won the best new artist JUNO after her electronic pop song “Drive My Soul” became a Top 20 hit. Much of this diversity, however, involved taking on American styles of music, like R&B and rap. This coincided with Billboard magazine’s taking over the Canadian singles and albums charts in 2007.
In the late 2000s, a large portion of Canadian music began to emulate styles popular south of the border. A number of new Canadian artists began performing rap and R&B music. Relatively-speaking, such music did not sell well domestically. Most of these American-style artists arose from Toronto and were heavily promoted by Toronto-based MuchMusic. Although many of them were of Jamaican ancestry, they did not perform reggae music.
While it is true that Canadian artists like Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Raine Maida were busy writing and producing songs for American idol winners like Kelly Clarkson, and, in so doing, somewhat Canadianizing American pop, the American influence on Canadian music was much more apparent.
Artists who continued to perform Canadian styles of music began shedding their Canadian pronunciation, adopting American accents. And bad grammar became trendy. By the end of the decade these tendencies had become quite standard.
We can only speculate as to the motivations behind such a trend. Perhaps with the advent of digital music and the looming threat of rampant online piracy, record labels were pushing Canadian recording artists to tailor their music and accents to American styles in order to maximize chances of being successful in the world’s largest market for music. Ironically, many of the artists who did this did not end up making names for themselves in the republic. The most successful Canadian artists during the latter years of the decade were those who made music that was very Canadian: Michael Buble, Avril Lavigne, and Nickelback. The only new artists to sell many records during this period were Feist and Justin Bieber.
Although the year was heavily dominated by pop-punk superstar Avril Lavigne, the Juno gala held the following year gave all three major awards (song, album, and artist of the year) to a folk-pop singer from Amherst, N.S. called Feist. She had received some attention in 2005 for her cover of the Bee Gees’ song “Inside and Out”. Juno-winning The Reminder was certified double-platinum. Feist’s song “1234” was a Top 10 hit in Britain and the U.S. and made it to #3 at home. In the late 2000s, Feist was the most successful new artist at the Junos, winning eight of 11 nominations.
Five-piece, Vancouver-based, punky grunge band State of Shock scored a Top 10 hit called “Money Honey”. They managed three songs in the year-end Top 100 charts by the end of the decade. They were one of the few male-female combo bands.
Toronto’s Jully Black also made the Top 10 with her cover of the 1960s song “Seven Day Fool”. In Québec, female rocker Anik Jean enjoyed the hit “Oh mon chéri” and Jonathan Painchaud scored with “Pousse, Pousse”. But it was rocker Marie-Mai, Star Académie finalist who shone the brightest. She won four Félix awards, released gold and platinum albums, and recorded songs with David Usher (Moist) and Simple Plan. Although she did not see any hit singles, Peterborough, Ontario’s indie folk singer Serena Ryder scored a pair of gold albums and was honoured with the JUNO for best new artist.
With the handover of the official Canadian charts going to Billboard magazine, there was no year-end chart for the year, and we do not have access to the weekly singles charts for the first half of the year. Nevertheless, we have attempted to piece together data on some of the hits this year which you can find HERE. In brief, besides the new artists mentioned above, Avril Lavigne, Nickelback / Chad Kroeger, Nelly Furtado, Finger Eleven, Michael Bublé, Bedouin Soundclash, and Céline Dion enjoyed big hits.
Like R&B singer Jully Black, Toronto’s Kardinal Offishall (born Jason Harrow) is of Jamaican ancestry. His singles have done much better than his albums. This year, he scored the international hit “Dangerous” (11th biggest of 2008) with American Akon which won the Juno for song of the year. The two collaborated again in “Beautiful” and “Body Bounce” in subsequent years. In 2011, he recorded the song “Ghetto Love” with Montreal’s Karl Wolf, a rap-reggae version of Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”. Kardinal Offishall has won 3 JUNO awards.
Edmonton-born Kreesha Turner, whose mother is Jamaican, started her career by performing 70s-style R&B and scored the Top 10 hit “Don’t Call Me Baby”. South of her, in Calgary, Andrew F became a one-hit wonder (so far) with his punky song “The End”. Marie-Pierre Arthur scored the Quebec hit “Pourquoi” as did Yann Perreau with “Beau comme on s’aime”. Gypsy jazz band The Lost Fingers, from Quebec City, scored a platinum album called Lost in the 80s.
Montreal’s pop pianist Béatrice Martin, under the stage name Coeur de Pirate, released her debut album this year. It was certified platinum and was nominated for Francophone album of the year at the JUNOs.
LIGHTS is not a band but a female singer-songwriter based in Toronto. She became one of the most successful electronic pop musicians in the late 2000s, winning the Juno award for Best New Artist. Her “Drive My Soul” was the 70th biggest song of 2008.
Vancouver’s Phillipine-born beauty contest winner Elise Estrada scored the hit “Unlove You” which finished in the Top 100 year-end chart of 2008. As far as we know, she is the first Canadian of east-Asian descent to score a hit on the radio in Canada, a remarkable achievement.
Mission, B.C.’s Faber Drive were signed onto Chad Kroeger’s label 604 Records and performed mainstream pop. “When I’m with You” made the year-end Top 100 and the following year their “Get Up and Dance” was the 48th biggest song of the year.
Many new artists emerged this last year of the decade.
Lebanese-born Montrealer Karl Wolf began performing R&B and his cover of Toto’s “Africa” was the biggest song of the year by a Canadian artist, finishing the year in 9th spot.
A Canadian rapper had a huge hit south of the border. “Best I Ever Had” was the 22nd biggest song in the U.S. (79th in Canada) thanks to Toronto’s Aubrey Drake Graham, known simply as Drake. He started out as an actor playing the character Jimmy Brooks on the television series “Degrassi: The Next Generation”. Drake’s father is an African American from Memphis, Tennessee, and his mother is Jewish Canadian. He started out by collaborating with American rap artists like Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne, signing onto the latter’s record label. Drake’s album Thank Me Later managed to go platinum in Canada.
Outselling Drake was a youngster from Stratford, ON named Justin Bieber who managed one platinum and two double-platinum albums. “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl” were big hits this year. He became successful by uploading videos of his songs onto Youtube. This led to a recording contract. Although primarily a pop artist, some of his songs feature rap segments from American artists.
Besides Nelly Furtado and Shawn Desman, another Portuguese-Canadian popped out of obscurity; in fact, he is Desman’s younger brother, Danny Fernandes. His “Fantasy” was a big hit this year.
Born in Scotland, naturalized Canadian soul singer Johnny Reid, despite no hit singles, put out an album that went double-platinum this year: Dance with Me. Divine Brown was yet another Toronto R&B singer to arise, though she did not score any significant hits until she teamed up with Nelly Furtado and performed “Sunglasses” (#22).
Toronto’s Suzie McNeil had entered a CBS reality show called Rock Star: INXS to find a new lead singer for the band. She was the last female singer to be eliminated from the competition, having gained by then considerable respect. She relocated to Los Angeles to develop her career. Her “Supergirl” made the year-end Top 100 this year.
Also from Toronto was Melanie Fiona, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Guyana. Her “Give It to Me Right” also made the Top 100 of 2009.
Besides Kreesha Turner, Edmonton produced the band the Stereos who scored two big hits this year: “Summer Girl” (#2) and “Throw Your Hands Up” (#3). The Stereos made a kind of music that blended all the current popular styles: grunge, dance, and rap.
Originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec, The New Cities set up base in Montréal and released their debut LP this year. Gold single “Dead End Countdown” was a big new wave hit, 69th of the year.
Links to Related Posts
Lists of Canadian Songs in the Top 100 of 2008 and 2009 in Canada are HERE.
Mini profiles on semi-major artists Feist, Marie-Mai, State of Shock, Faber Drive, Drake, The Stereos, and LIGHTS are HERE.
Major profile on Elise Estrada is HERE.
Major profile on Justin Bieber is HERE.
A list of Juno and Félix song of the year nominees and winners for the decade 2000-2009 is HERE.
A list of best-selling Canadian albums 2000-2009 is HERE.
A list of best-selling Canadian singles 2000-2009 is HERE.