While 2016 lost a number of A-list recording artists, including those who bear the maple leaf, it was a year that saw the Canadian invasion of the globe reach new heights. To cite one impressive feat, Justin Bieber became the first artist in history to hold the #1, #2, and #3 spots simultaneously on the UK’s official singles chart. His labelmate Carly Rae Jepsen became the 9th artist, 3rd female, 2nd Canadian, and first British Columbian to receive a diamond single award from the RIAA in the United States. Alessia Cara, Drake, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and the Weeknd were names all over global music charts and nominated for international awards. Drake’s “One Dance” topped the year-end British charts, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” the U.S. chart, and, tipping its tuque to renowned tendencies for giving polite apologies, Canada put The Biebs at #1 of the year for his song “Sorry”. Canadian country artists, still struggling to break out internationally, won a few small victories. (More on that later.) At home, Dallas Smith reached #1 at country radio with “Autograph”, and Jess Moskaluke became the first female country soloist from Saskatchewan in all history to achieve platinum status.
Domestically, 14 new artists debuted on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100, most notably Edmonton’s Ruth B who scored triple platinum single “Lost Boy”. The music industry’s infrastructure was given fresh support. Calgary opened the National Music Centre and Nunavut its first record label. British Columbia, not quite the powerful music hub it once was, received a hearty government grant in the hopes the BC Music Fund rekindles the province’s clout. For the first time, Canada received a seat on the IFPI board, and Music Canada’s Gold and Platinum Program introduced new branding badges to certified music and the new single award which includes streaming data in certifying tracks.
Canadians proved admirably resilient in dealing with tragedy. A massive Fire Aid concert was held in Alberta to raise funds for the Fort McMurray fires. Among the long list of performers were Nickelback and Blue Rodeo. Gord Downie, frontman of diamond band The Tragically Hip, was diagnosed with cancer. The band went on a final cross country tour. When large numbers of tickets were bought by profiteers for scalping purposes, the CBC helped out by airing a show on national television. Gord himself released a solo album in his Secret Path project to address Canada’s historical mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples in residential schools. Ill heath also struck the Bublé family, as one of Michael’s children was diagnosed with cancer. Michael had been slated to host both the 2017 JUNO awards as well as the BRIT awards in the UK.
A bright spot of the year was Canada Day. A concert on Parliament Hill featured the diverse lineup of Alex Cuba, Alex Nevsky, Coeur de Pirate, Coleman Hell, Metric, Les Hay Babies, and Indian City.
Most Successful Singles
For the first time since Alanis Morrisette in 1996, a Canadian artist had the #1 and #2 songs of the year. Justin Bieber topped the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 with “Sorry” and “Love Yourself”. Both singles were certified at 7x platinum by the end of the year. Up from 21 last year, 32 of the top 100 songs of the year were by or featured Canadian artists, a new record in Canadian chart history. On the weekly charts, five songs involving Canadians reached #1: the aforementioned pair from Justin Bieber as well as Major Lazer’s “Cold Water” which features him, “One Dance” by Drake as well as Rihanna’s “Work” which features him, and The Weeknd’s “Starboy”. The most successful (and only) Franco song to make the Hot 100 through the year was Céline Dion’s “Encore un soir” which peaked at #92. Les Cowboys Fringants’ “Marine marchande” was the top Franco song on CKOI’s year-end Top 50, at #6 overall.
On the weekly charts, 106 songs involving 43 unique Canadian artists debuted on the Hot 100. Of these, 47 reached the Top 40, nine the Top 10, and four #1. Regarding songs that reached their peak chart position by the end of 2016 (which includes songs that debuted in 2015 and songs which may achieve new peaks in 2017), 49 made the top 40, ten the Top 10, and five #1. By the end of the year, 7 of these 49 songs were awarded multiplatinum certification at Music Canada. Additionally, 10 of them made platinum, and 5 are at gold.
Canadian Songs Slay Abroad
Drake, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and Shawn Mendes were #1, #2, #7, and #9 on Billboard USA’s year-end Hot 100 artists chart. The top 4 songs on their year-end Hot 100 involved Canadian artists: #1 – “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber, #2 – “Sorry” by Bieber, #3 – “One Dance” by Drake, and #4 – Rihanna’s “Work” featuring Drake. Twenty-six entries on that chart involved Canadian artists. In Japan, the world’s second largest music market, but a non-English language one, four songs from Canadians made the year-end Top 100, two from Bieber and two from Carly Rae Jepsen. In the world’s third biggest market, the United Kingdom, Drake’s “One Dance” topped the year-end chart in addition to 15 more Canadian artist entries.
Most Successful Albums
The only Canadian artist album released in 2016 to be certified multiplatinum by the end of the year was Céline Dion’s Encore un soir. The year-end Billboard Canada albums chart has as the top Canadian artist album Justin Bieber’s Purpose (released in 2015) at #2. The top 2016 album from a Canadian on the chart was Drake’s Views at #3. Eight 2016 Canadian albums topped the weekly albums chart through the year. On the year-end Top 50, 13 albums were Canadian, only three of which were released in 2016. Thirty-six Canadian albums peaked in the weekly Top 10 through the year: 18 from Ontario artists, 12 from Quebec artists, 2 from BC artists, 1 from Nova Scotia, 1 from Alberta, 1 from Saskatchewan, and 1 from New Brunswick. By the end of the year, 1 of these albums went multiplatinum (as mentioned above), 3 platinum, and 4 gold.
First-Time Charting Artists
In 2016, 14 artists made the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 for the first time. They are Jonathan Roy, Sleepy Tom, The Strumbellas, Lucky Rose, Yan Etchevary, Bit Funk, Ruth B, PartyNextDoor, Kai, Delaney Jane, Shaun Frank, Michelle Treacy, Leonard Cohen, and Bobby Bazini. As mentioned, Edomton’s Ruth B went triple platinum with “Lost Boy”. Toronto’s Kai, featured in Flume’s “Never Be Like You” struck double platinum and is up for a Grammy Award. Roots group The Strumbellas went Platinum with “Spirits”. “Be Right There”, Sleepy Tom’s collaboration with Diplo, became a Top 10 hit in Britain and went gold there.
The ADISQ Félix Awards honouring the best mainly in Canada’s Francophone music released in 2015-2016 were held in the fall in Montréal. Safia Nolin was named Best New Artist. Song of the Year went to Marc Dupré for “Ton depart” and Pop Album of the Year went to 2Frères for Nous autres.
The 2016 JUNO awards were held April 3 at Calgary’s Saddledome to recognize the best in 2015 music. The event was hosted by Calgarian recording artist Jann Arden and Olympic gold medalist (skeleton) Jon Montgomery from Manitoba. Brampton, Ontario teen star Alessia Cara won Breakthrough Artist of the Year. As of this writing, she has two triple platinum singles. Guess Who frontman and successful soloist Burton Cummings was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame. The Weeknd won Single of the Year for “Can’t Feel My Face” and Album of the Year for Beauty Behind the Madness. The 2017 JUNO Awards recognizing the best of 2016 Canadian music will be held in Ottawa April 2, 2017 in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
Canadian Artists Nab International Trophies
Canadian artists won awards at international galas like the People’s Choice Awards. Justin Bieber won his first Grammy award (USA) for Best Dance Recording while The Weeknd was given trophies for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best R&B Performance. Justin Bieber won the BRIT award (UK) for Best International Male. At the Billboard Music Awards, The Weeknd won eight, Bieber two, and Drake one. Céline Dion was given the Icon Award. At the MTV Video Music Awards, Drake won Best Hip Hop Video for “Hotline Bling” from Canada’s Director X, the latter’s “Work from Home” by Fifth Harmony and Ty Dolla Sign winning Best Collaboration Video. At the European MTV Awards, Bieber won three, Shawn Mendes two, Drake one, and The Weeknd one. At the American Music Awards, where Canadians were nominated for a whopping 23 awards, Drake and Justin Bieber won four awards each.
Unsung Canadian Heroes
Canadian songwriters and producers were behind some of the most successful works from international recording artists. The best-selling album of 2016 in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. was Adele’s 25. The music video for lead single “Hello” was directed by Canada’s Xavier Dolan and popular track “When We Were Young” was co-written by North Vancouver’s Tobias Jesso Jr. Another best-seller of the year was Rihanna’s Anti which had writing and production duties handled by a number of Canadians including Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, Boi-1da, Noah “40” Shebib, and Frank Dukes. Canada’s Nikhil Seetharam, T-Minus, and the aforementioned Tobias Jesso Jr. worked on another big album this year, Sia’s This Is Acting. Canada’s Director X was behind two of the year’s biggest music video’s – Rihanna’s “Work” featuring Drake and Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home”.
In the field of country music, Canada’s Steven Lee Olsen co-wrote Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Colour”, one of the biggest hits of the year in the genre. Blake Shelton’s, “Came Here To Forget” was co-written by Canada’s Deric Ruttan. “Sleep Without You” by Brett Young was co-written by Canuck Kelly Archer. Joey Moi from The Yukon is a producer for Florida Georgia Line who had another stellar year.
The biggest news stories of the year, in the minds of some, concerned the large number of A-list celebrities who passed away, many of them being untimely deaths secondary to organ damage from drug use and alcoholism and in some cases gun violence. The prominent Canadian music related stars did a bit better, coasting into their 70s and 80s but still left empty voids and broken hearted fans after remarkable careers. In January, Céline Dion’s husband and manager René Angélil, one of Canada’s most successful music producers, succumbed to throat cancer. He was 73. In June, early 60s rock-a-ballad superstar Bobby Curtola died, also at the age of 73. Shortly after releasing a new album, world-famous bard-musician Leonard Cohen passed away at age 82.
The Year’s Best Music
While magazines, as usual, were listing their best albums of the year based on which artists were endorsers of the brands that paid the magazines the most for advertising, the Canadian Music Blog, untouchable from such interests, revealed its favourite EPs (10), albums (25), songs (25), and music videos (15) of 2016. The CMB named Lexi Strate’s Waves as EP of the Year, Alexe Gaudreault’s self-titled LP as Album of the Year, Bobby Bazini’s “C’est La Vie” as Song of the Year, and Jason Bajada’s “Demain vendredi” as Music Video of the Year.
And that’s a wrap. It’s time for 2017.