2018, from every standpoint, was a loud year. Exclamatory events of all kinds, be they tragic or jubilant, filled the headlines. There were disasters everywhere, both natural and human caused. Some were accidental and others intentional. Large spectacles attracted unfathomable numbers in viewership. Below are some highlights.
A roaring fire destroyed several buildings in downtown Brandon, Manitoba on May 18 before a July heat wave ended the lives of 33 in Quebec. On April 6 a semi-truck collided with a bus carrying Saskatchewan junior hockey team The Humboldt Broncos. The crash killed 16 and injured 13. A little over two weeks later, a vehicle-ramming attack killed 10 people and injured 16 in Toronto. In Metro Vancouver, a short walk away from the park where Marissa Shen was murdered, demovictions forced families out of apartment buildings to be demolished so that condo towers could take their places.
Searing accusations in the music world, involving fornication with minors, burned multiplatinum pop group Hedley at the stake during a cross-Canada concert tour. The scandal razed the band’s meteoric success leaving it as a mere smudge of ash on the landscape. When Alessia Cara became the first Canadian to ever win a Best New Artist Grammy and the only female to accept an award through the evening, naysayers rained on her parade calling into question her status of being new. Undercover investigators found fraud and scalping activities by Ticketmaster, the world’s biggest ticket supplier.
Canadian athletes took care of business in Pyeongchang, South Korea, finishing third in the world at the Winter Olympic Games with 29 medals including 11 gold. Most Canadians did not seem dismayed by being beat by victor Norway which has seven times less inhabitants just so long as we beat The United States, which we did quite easily. March 19 hosted the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, England, attracting an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion.
Tegan and Sara were honoured at the Governor General Awards. Charlotte Day Wilson‘s music video for “Work” won the Prism Prize and Jeremy Dutcher received the Polaris Music Prize (best album). Yama Laurent won The Voice. Klô Pelgag, Lights, and Ruth B were among the performers at Canada Day celebrations. Justin Bieber received an exhibit in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. CTV debuted popular reality mini series The Launch. Victoria Duffield returned as an independent artist. The royal wedding inspired at least a few Canadian recording artists to tie the knot in 2018. Among them were Justin Bieber, Jess Moskaluke, and Tyler Shaw.
In a precarious economy overall, the music industry continued appeals to legislators to rework copyright laws in the midst of an erosion of income due to online music streaming. Canadian recording artists were further excluded from the charts, blamed on the latter, a reality perhaps best summed up by arguably the most annoying catch phrase to become trendy in 2018: “I know, right?” Sunrise Records remained afloat, a remaining retail chain, providing Canadians with physical music: CDs, vinyl records, and even a few cassettes.
The Singles That Sizzled
As far as 2018 music went, the number of Canadian artists appearing on the charts through the year continued its downward spiral which has been in motion since streaming data was factored into things in September 2014. In short, the numbers have been cut by one-third of what they were before the streaming era. This is summarized in the graph below.
Musically, January 30 set the tone for the year 2018 with the debut of three key singles on the Hot 100 chart: Drake‘s number one smash “God’s Plan” (currently 8x platinum), Loud Luxury‘s #3 hit “Body” (currently 7x platinum), and “Ain’t Easy” from Ottawa’s Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, the biggest success story from CTV reality talent search television program The Launch. All three songs made it to the year-end chart, #3, #5, and #84 respectively.
Five Canadian artist songs reached #1, four of them from Drake (the aforementioned “God’s Plan”, plus “Nice for What”, “Nonstop”, and “In My Feelings. The fifth was The Weeknd‘s “Call Out My Name”.
There was much talk surrounding the lack of inclusion of women especially regarding the US Grammy Awards which saw only one accept an award through the multi-hour broadcast. Only two Canadian female soloists had a hit peaking in the Top 40 this year: Alessia Cara (“Growing Pains”) and Avril Lavigne (“Head Above Water”).
Two Franco tunes made the Hot 100, both by rappers: Loud‘s “Toutes les femmes savent danser” and Yes Mccan‘s “Désirée”. The former was the year-end chart topper at CKOI.
Canadian artists did well abroad, as always. However, the Canadian media usually only counts foreign success if it takes place in one specific country only—The United States. At Canadian Music Blog, we choose to do things differently. Vancouver’s Kelly Yu released single “Ti Mian”, or Decent, as theme song for a Chinese feature film, and it became one of the biggest Mandopop hits of 2018. Mandarin Chinese is the language with the highest (by far) number of native speakers in the world, so scoring an ace in Mandopop from that perspective is the greatest of all accomplishments.
The Albums That Chiselled
Five Canadian artist albums topped the album chart through 2018 the most successful of which, with certification by year end of double platinum, was Drake‘s Scorpion. It was #1 on the Billboard year-end album chart. The other number ones are Memories Don’t Die by Tory Lanez, EP My Dear Melancholy by The Weeknd, Shawn Mendes by Shawn Mendes (currently platinum), and Love by Michael Bublé (currently gold). Other certified 2018 albums by year-end (all gold) are Après by Fred Pellerin, À jamais by Ginette Reno, Reckless by NAV, and Délivrance by Éric Lapointe.
Twenty-two 2018 Canadian artist albums made the Top 10. This is down from 26 last year and way down from 36 in 2016.
First-Time Charting Artists
Ten Canadians hit the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in 2018. This is down slightly from 11 last year. Anders did this via his co-credit with Loud Luxury on “Love No More”. Daniel Caesar asked his way onto the chart with “Who Hurt You?” Dzeko teamed up with Tiesto in EDM Top 10 hit “Jackie Chan”. Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine from Ottawa scored two hits, their Top 40 entry being “Ain’t Easy” a spin off from CTV talent search program The Launch. Country newcomer Jade Eagleson made it with “Got Your Name on It”, Rapper Killy killed it with “No Sad No Bad”. Loud rapped his way onto the chart with “Toutes les femmes savent danser”. The aforementioned Loud Luxury landed a pair, their most successful being “Body”. Group New City‘s contribution was “Getting Closer” and Yes Mccan‘s was “Désirée”.
The Year in Pop and Dance: A Body of Water
Shawn Mendes was the dominant force in the realm of pop with a #1 platinum album (his third straight) and hits “In My Blood”, “Youth”, and “Lost in Japan”. Coeur de pirate ensured another pop album made the Top 5. Veteran Avril Lavigne‘s comeback hit “Head Above Water” stood side by side with novice Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine‘s “Ain’t Easy”. “Body” by Loud Luxury was however the most successful pop hit of 2018.
The Year in Urban: Mostly About Drake
Urban music did much better in the singles than the albums department. Only five of the twenty-two 2018 Canadian artist albums that made the Top 10 were of the genre. The majority of weekly Canadian artist Top 40 hits were urban tracks, and most of these were from Drake. It is important to note that, while Canada dedicates radio stations to the genres of country and rock, it does not do so for pop; Canadian contemporary hit radio lumps in urban music with pop. This certainly inflates the numbers and popularity of rap and R&B singles.
The Year in Rock: A T-Shirt on the Beach
The most successful Canadian artist songs in 2018 at modern rock radio were “T-Shirt” by The Beaches, “Lost Cause” by Black Pistol Fire, “Creature Comfort” by Arcade Fire, and “Live Through the Night” by Dear Rouge. The Sheepdogs, Three Days Grace, and Metric all scored Top 10 albums this year.
The Year in Country: Women Regain Clout
After much concern expressed from many quarters over the past couple of years about a lack of inclusion of women in country music in terms of radio airplay, award nominations/wins, etc, the tides began to turn in 2018. The first wave that crashed across the field was that Calgary’s Lindsay Ell became the first Canadian female soloist to score a number one hit at country radio in 10 years thanks to her song “Criminal”. The song also made splashes in the United States, where Canadian country content has been dry for many years, becoming a Top 20 country radio hit. In mid-December, Meghan Patrick‘s “Walls Come Down” topped the Canadian country radio charts. This is the first instance in the 21st century when two female soloists scored #1 country hits, the last time being in 1999 thanks to Shania Twain (“Honey I’m Home”) and Terri Clark (“Easy on the Eyes”).
In September, Jess Moskaluke won the Album of the Year award from the Canadian Country Music Association for Past the Past. It marked the first time in 14 years that a female was handed that particular trophy, the last recipient being Carolyn Dawn Johsnon in 2004 for album Dress Rehearsal. The equivalent awards program in the United States offered, in November, the Album of the Year award to American female soloist Kacey Musgraves for Golden Hour, which is significant too for a Canadian contribution – JUNO award winning recording engineer Shawn Everett mixed the album. He is from Bragg Creek, Alberta.
Canadian gentlemen made some milestones of their own. Dallas Smith scored his 5th (“Sleepin’ Around”) and 6th (“Make ‘Em Like You”) country chart toppers in 2018. The year in fact saw a total of five Canadian artist songs reach the summit, the other two being Dean Brody‘s “8th Day” and Gord Bamford‘s “Dive Bar”.
2018 in Style: Snap … Snap … Snap
DJ Holly Roberts called last year, 2017, the year of the finger snap. She wrote, “I have no idea why pop music has embraced the crack of finger snaps.” Although finger snaps have been part of the occasional song since the beginning, it seemed every song on the radio had them with variations of synthetic snaps to simplistic wooden clicks. Some found them underwhelming and others annoying. Lorde’s “Royals” has been blamed as sparking a wave of interest in using them. Roberts wondered if those snappy, clicky things were the result of record company budget cuts, and if so asked, “why hasn’t pop music embraced the magic of musical cans?” Unfortunately, finger snaps replaced (and in some cases accompanied) solid beats through 2018 as well. It was hard to find pop music that was free of them.
Music and the Media: Bad Habits Continue
Certain quarters of the US mainstream media continued xenophobic campaigns of attempts to discredit Canadian A-Listers, offering selected strokes of defamation from the same palette of tactics that have taken scathing shots at the likes of Justin Bieber, Nickelback, Céline Dion, Avril Lavigne, Carly Rae Jepsen, MAGIC!, Drake, Robin Thicke, and more. In the midst of celebrating her victory of being the first Canadian artist ever to win the Best New Artist Grammy award in the States and also of being the only female to mount the stage to accept an award through a lengthy evening criticized for its exorbitant slant towards men, the media was quick to call into question her qualification as a new artist, as she had been releasing music for a couple of years. Shawn Mendes was also targeted care of a lengthy feature by a popular US magazine which exhibited him as a neurotic, homophobic, drug-smoking juvenile.
Regarding the Canadian media, unexplained emphasis, particularly by the CBC, was placed through the year on urban music, a genre that is not as popular in Canada and the United Kingdom as it is in The United States. Underground artists of the rap and R&B kind were heavily promoted. 2018 saw some of the finest EDM by Canadians to date, but masterpieces like Diversion‘s Connection were ignored and success stories like Loud Luxury‘s were skimmed over.
Canadian media continued its cringeworthy habit of calling artists from Quebec, “Quebec artists” and from any of the other nine provinces “Canadian artists”, treating Quebec like an independent country and perpetuating unseemly attitudes in non-Quebeckers that Quebec music is irrelevant to them.
2018 JUNO Awards Goes Down in Vancouver
Next year’s JUNO awards will honour 2018 music. The gala takes place March 17, 2019 in London. The 2018 JUNO awards, honouring the best in 2017 music, took place March 25 in Vancouver and was hosted by Michael Bublé. Rush frontman Geddy Lee presented Steven Page and Barenaked Ladies’ induction into the Music Hall of Fame. Breakthrough Artist of the Year was Jessie Reyez and Artist of the Year Gord Downie (frontman of the Tragically Hip) who passed away from brain cancer. Arcade Fire‘s Everything Now was named Album of the Year. Shawn Mendes won the JUNO Fan Choice award. A highlight of the performances was Lights‘ which featured a backdrop of giant cartoon renderings she herself drew of her favourite Canadian female recording artists, like Shania Twain, Alessia Cara, and Molly Rankin.
Most of the JUNO trophies were handed out at the JUNO dinner gala and awards the previous evening. Among them were Diana Krall Producer of the Year, Grimes‘ “Venus Fly” Music Video of the Year, Nick Fiorucci featuring Laurell‘s “Closer” Dance Recording of the Year, The Beaches Breakthrough Group of the Year, A Tribe Called Red Group of the Year, Rezz‘s Mass Manipulation Electronic Album of the Year, Alvvays‘ Antisocialites Alternative Album of the Year, Daniel Bélanger‘s Paloma Francophone Album of the Year, Shawn Mendes‘ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” Single of the Year, and Lights‘ Skin & Earth Pop Album of the Year.
2018 Gala ADISQ: All Things Male
Following in the footsteps of the US Grammy Awards, this year’s Félix awards presented at the Gala ADISQ (honouring the best music to come out of the province of Quebec), saw only one of the 27 trophies given to a female: Klô Pelgag for Female Artist of the Year. The biggest winner this year was Philippe Brach who won five awards. It was, however, newcomer Hubert Lenoir who stirred up the most buzz. He won four trophies: New Artist of the Year, Pop Album of the Year (Darlène), Song of the Year (“Fille de personne II”), and Album of the Year – Critical Acclaim.
2018 Selected Music Headlines
♦ As mentioned above Alessia Cara became the first Canadian ever to win a Best New Artist Grammy, the flagship music awards gala of The United States which was inaugurated in 1959. She was the only female who was presented with a trophy through the evening and had to defend herself against naysayers who wondered why she was a contender in the category as she had been releasing music since 2015. Later in the year, Cara headlined the 2018 Grey Cup Halftime show. The Calgary Stampeders defeated the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
♦ Calgarian identical twin-sister pop duo Tegan and Sara capped off a 20-year music career as recipients of the prestigious Governor General’s Performing Arts Award receiving medals pressed at the Canadian Mint. The sisters have opened for superstars such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, performed at the 2015 Academy Awards, collaborated with EDM heavyweights Tiesto and Morgan Page, scored a trio of JUNO awards, and achieved gold/platinum certifications on nine recordings. Following the ceremony, Tegan and Sara were featured on CBC’s The National in an interview with Rosemary Barton.
♦ Canadian R&B singer CDW a.k.a. Charlotte Day Wilson was crowed winner of the 2018 Prism Prize which grants a cash reward to what is deemed the best/most artistic Canadian music video of the year. Her MV for song “Work”, the whole of which features pedestrians on an escalator, pleased the judges most. Surrounding the awards was talk of the potential demise of higher-budget music videos made for Canadian B-list artists due to the folding up of muscular funding bodies like MuchFACT. Since its inauguration in 1984, The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent awarded $100 million to 9,000 projects. Fantavious Fritz, director of Charlotte’s “Work”, won the grand prize of $15,000 for best Canadian music video. He declared that part of the money would be used to create a one-time music video grant for a female director.
♦ Jeremy Dutcher was awarded the Polaris Music Prize for his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, a work recorded in his First Nations language of Wolastoq. The disc was made following a research project on archival recordings of traditional Maliseet songs at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in an attempt to preserve the music, culture, and language of his people.
♦ Double diamond country pop superstar Shania Twain hosted the 2018 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awards September 9 in Hamilton. Jess Moskaluke became the first female to win the Album of the Year Award (for Past the Past) in 14 years, the last time being Carolyn Dawn Johsnon in 2004 (Dress Rehearsal). James Barker Band‘s “Chills” was named Single of the Year.
♦ Country stars Brett Kissel, Chad Brownlee, Dallas Smith, Gord Bamford, The Hunter Brothers, and Jess Moskaluke played a fundraising concert for the victims and their families of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy April 27 in Saskatoon. Sixteen were killed in a bus crash when a lorry struck it on the highway. Tom Cochrane released a reworked version of his song “Big League” to honour the victims. Paul Brandt performed a powerful song in homage on CBC’s q. Rap superstar Drake wore a Broncos jersey at a Toronto Raptors (basketball) game. After the match, he and the Raptors signed the jersey, which was auctioned to raise funds for the families.
♦ Bell Media’s The Launch, produced by the Big Machine Label Group, wrapped up Season One after seven episodes broadcast on CTV. Six singles voiced by winning contestants saw success in terms of digital downloads and picked up radio spins across the country. The most successful on the charts was “Ain’t Easy” by Ottawa’s Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, shaped by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. The other five singles were Logan Staats‘ “The Lucky Ones”, The Static Shift‘s “Wide Awake”, Poesy‘s Soldier of Love, Jayd Ink‘s “Codes”, and Ethan Young‘s “Giants”.
The success of the show means it will be returning in 2019 for season 2, the first episode airing January 30. Mentors, songwriters, and producers appearing through Season One included Alessia Cara, Boy George, busbee (P!nk, Shakira, Blake Shelton), Dann Huff, Fergie, Ian Kirkpatrick (Jason Derulo, Selena Gomez), Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland), Julia Michaels (Mötley Crüe), Ryan Tedder (One Republic), Shania Twain, and Stephan Moccio (Nikki Yanofsky, Miley Cyrus).
The Launch’s format involved the introduction of a new original song composed by a hit songwriter in each episode. Five aspiring recording artists auditioned. Two were selected whom the mentors felt had the most potential and worked over the next 48 hours to record their version of it. The two contestants then performed their rendition before a live audience and one was chosen. The resulting digital single was launched that night.
♦ Beloved platinum recording artist Victoria Duffield returned as an independent artist after releasing a pair of albums through Warner Music Canada. She shared her story on social media and in interviews provided some fascinating insights into some of the challenges she had faced when signed to the major label. Hooking up with a new production team, she graced 2018 with new singles, the first of which was savory pop song “Wow”.
♦ La Voix (The Voice) Season 6 crowned throaty singer Yama Laurent as the victor, finalist of team Garou. The other coaches (and their finalists) this year were Lara Fabian (Miriam Baghdassarian), Éric Lapointe (Jonathan Freeman), and Alex Nevsky (Yann Brassard). Winners of the first five season of the show are Valérie Carpentier, Yoan Garneau, Kevin Bazinet, Stéphanie St-Jean, and Ludovick Bourgeois.
♦ Exhibit Biebs decked the halls in Justin Bieber‘s hometown of Stratford, Ontario. From boy busker to global pop superstar, the Biebs was honoured with the opening of a dedicated exhibit at Stratford’s Perth Museum. Later in the year, Justin tied the knot with model and television personality Hailey Baldwin, daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin.
♦ After multiplatinum albums and singles and multiple JUNO awards, one of Canada’s most successful bands of the 21st century, Hedley, fell from grace. In mid-February, members of the band were anonymously accused of sexual misconduct including with girls as young as 14. The band mutually agreed with CARAS on pulling out of the 2018 JUNO Awards both in terms of a scheduled performance and nominations for trophies. On social media, the band called the accusations “unsubstantiated”. In the midst of a cross-Canada tour, the group announced it would go on an indefinite hiatus following the shows. Opening acts for the tour pulled out, Hedley was dropped by its management team, radio stations suspended spins of their songs, and fans were split on whether, before any legal proceedings, the band should be considered guilty of the accusations, as Twitter hashtags #outhedley2k18 jostled with #IStandWithHedley. The plot thickened when an Ottawa woman accused lead singer Jacob Hoggard of sexual assault. In July, he was charged with one count of sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm.
♦ Drake‘s 2018 album Scorpion broke many records, including Spotify and Apple Music’s one-day global streaming tallies. Drake surpassed Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, and Usher to become the sixth artist with the most consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard US Hot 100. He is now the male soloist with the most number one singles on the chart (33 of them) and the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10. He ranks 1st overall in the most Top 10 debuts (17), the most Top 40 singles (94), and the most consecutive weeks on the chart (431). Drake ranks second overall for having the most Hot 100 hits (192). He now holds the record for the most entries in the Hot 100 during a one-week period, with 27. Drake is the only artist to have a number-one debut replace another number-one debut. He did this April 21, 2018, when “Nice For What” replaced “God’s Plan” at the summit, after the latter had spent eleven weeks on top. On July 14, 2018, Drake set the record for the most songs in the top ten at once, with seven. The Beatles had previously held the record, since 1964, with five entries.
The Year’s Best Music
There seemed to be little agreement on the best albums of 2018, be they Canadian or international works. Canadian Music Blog revealed its favourite EPs (7), albums (15), tracks (30), and music videos (10) of 2018. Avril Lavigne‘s “Head Above Water” was named Music Video of the Year, The CMB named Éric Charland‘s singer-songwriter disc La tristesse n’est qu’une saison as EP of the Year, Diversion‘s EDM LP Connection as Album of the Year, and Lindsay Ell‘s country tune “Criminal” as Song of the Year.