In a year filled with disillusionment and uncertainty, Canadian recording artists in general kept things optimistic offering hope and assurance for a better future. The word utopia titled a Serena Ryder album and an Austra song. But besides future politics, there was also focus on the present, care of Now by Shania Twain and Everything Now by Arcade Fire. Recording artists also ensured we were reminded of the past thanks to The Weeknd‘s “Reminder” and Shawn Hook‘s “Reminding Me”.
The Singles That Sizzled Slid in Numbers
The domestic charts did not see the appearance of as much homegrown talent as in the past; many blamed this on streaming. Debut entries on the weekly Billboard Canadian Hot 100 dropped from 106 in 2016 to 72 in 2017, a 47% loss. Main artists represented in these were 40 last year and 32 this year. Artists who debuted on the chart for the first time slipped from 14 in 2016 to 11 this year (see below). The number of weekly Canadian artist entries (whether as the main or lone featured artist) averaged 26 in 2016 but only 16 in 2017. By the end of the year, the final Billboard Canadian Hot 100 weekly chart contained only 6 Canadian artist entries plus one with a featured Canuck, the lowest in the history of the chart. Whereas five songs involving Canadians reached the top in 2016, only one managed the feat this year, “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber. Peaking within the Top 40 were 47 Canadian artist songs in 2016 sliding to 34 this year.
The most successful maple glazed song according to the year-end Hot 100 was the aforementioned “Despacito” at #2. The Weeknd‘s “Starboy” was the most successful with a Canadian as the main artist. The song was #32 for 2016 and #6 for 2017. An impressive 32 entries representing 13 artists made the year-end chart of 2016 plummeting to a dreary 17 entries representing only 6 artists for 2017.
Before the streaming era, it was not uncommon for a French language Canadian song to appear on the weekly Hot 100. Times have changed; 2017 had none. Among those appearing on the year-end CKOI Top 50 were “Une p’tite bière by Anthony Gaudet (#21) and “J’pas stressée” by Roxane Bruneau (#24).
Smell What First-Time Charting Artists Cooked
While Eleven proved the coolest girl on television (Stranger Things), 11 Canadian artists made the Hot 100 for the first time through 2017. They were 88Glam, Aaron Goodvin, Baka Not Nice, Charlotte Cardin, James Barker Band, Jazz Cartier, Jessie Reyez, NAV, and Neon Dreams. Two Canadian actors enjoying a stint at singing joined them. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson spent eight weeks on the chart with “You’re Welcome” from animated feature film Moana. Rachel McAdams’ former beau Ryan Gosling made the chart for one week only c/o “City of Stars” from La La Land. “Some Way” by NAV featuring The Weeknd was the most successful of the new Canadian artist entries peaking at #31.
The Albums That Aced
The only Canadian artist album released in 2017 to be certified multiplatinum by the end of the year was Drake‘s More Life (double platinum) which was #3 on the year-end Billboard Canadian Albums chart. Twenty-six 2017 Canadian albums peaked in the weekly Top 10 through the year which is way down from 36 last year. Five of these made it to #1, down from eight in 2016.
The 2017 JUNO Awards gala, a 150-minute affair, celebrated 150 years since Confederation. The event held April 2 saw a sold-out crowd of 13,000, including the Governor General, in Ottawa, applaud recipients of awards and cheer on performances amidst visually stunning display panels. The event was co-hosted by international comedic superstar Russell Peters and diamond rocker Bryan Adams (“Brussell”), both filling in for the initially booked Michael Bublé who pulled out to take care of his son who is going through cancer. Most of the awards were doled out at the dinner and awards ceremony the previous evening.
The JUNO award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year went to Ruth B, Fan Choice Shawn Mendes, Single of the Year “Spirits” by The Strumbellas, Francophone Album of the Year XO by Laurence Nerbonne, and Adult Contemporary Album of the Year Wonderland by Sarah McLachlan who was inducted into the Music Hall of Fame. Kiss Me Quiet by Jess Moskaluke was named Country Album of the Year. Alessia Cara won Pop Album of the Year for Know It All. Leonard Cohen‘s You Want It Darker was declared Album of the Year.
The 2018 JUNO Awards recognizing the best of 2017 Canadian music will be held in Vancouver March 25, 2018.
Few JUNO galas go off without a controversial hitch. Following some criticism of this year’s affair, it was announced that CTV would no longer be broadcasting the event; the honours will now be done by the CBC.
The Quebec music industry awards where the bulk of Canada’s musique francophone receives honours took place in the fall. Klô Pelgag was the big winner winning Critics’ Choice Album of the Year, Alternative Album of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year (L’Étoile thoracique). Daniel Bélanger took Pop Album of the Year (Paloma). Patrice Michaud‘s “Kamikaze” was named Song of the Year.
♦ The biggest, though underreported, news story of the year was that Canada became the world’s sixth largest music industry/market surpassing its commonwealth cousin Australia. Out of close to 200 countries, Canada can now boast more clout than all but The United States, Japan, The United Kingdom, Germany, and France.
♦ Alanis Morissette‘s former manager admitted to stealing over 5 million dollars from her and more than a million dollars from other celebrities. By pleading guilty to the charges, he expected to serve less jail time.
♦ Carly Rae Jepsen performed the National Anthem at the 62nd annual all-star game of the National Hockey League. During the weekend’s festivities, Robin Thicke honoured his Canadian father actor Alan Thicke who had recently passed away.
♦ Speaking of Carly, Billboard magazine awarded her song “Call Me Maybe” as having the #1 greatest chorus of all songs in the 21st century. The Top 100 ranking included maple glazed entries Celine Dion’s “That’s the Way It is” at 80th; Avril Lavigne‘s “Girlfriend” at #62 and “Sk8er Boi” at #22; Justin Bieber’s “Baby” was 55th. The “Call Me Maybe” music video sped past 1 billion views on YouTube in 2017. The Biebs also climbed up to a new plateau securing 100 million followers on Twitter.
♦ Alessia Cara hosted the February 4th Saturday Night Live show and later in the year was nominated for four Grammy Awards in the States.
♦ HMV shut down all operations in Canada leaving many without a nearby record store. Sunrise Records trotted in to the rescue opening locations nationwide including many spaces formerly occupied by HMV.
♦ Drake became the first Canadian artist in history to score a diamond single. The gold/platinum program at Music Canada awarded “One Dance” diamond certification which is equivalent to 10x platinum or 800,000 units. The units are determined by the sale of digital downloads and streaming at the rate of 150 streams equivalent to 1 unit. “One Dance” is not an original composition but a reworking of “Do You Mind” by Crazy Cousinz and Kyla.
♦ One diamond certification was awarded to a Canadian artist album in 2017, albeit an older work. The Tragically Hip‘s Road Apples (1991) became the group’s third album to chalk the milestone joining already diamond-certified discs Up to Here and Fully Completely.
♦ Frontman of The Tragically Hip Gord Downie succumbed to glioblastoma (brain cancer). He was 53.
♦ Another loss was Patrick Bourgeois, singer of multiplatinum Canadian band Les BB who passed away from cancer at 55.
♦ Attracting 50% of the vote among the four finalists, 24-year-old Ludovick Bourgeois of Lorraine, QC was crowned the 2017 winner of The Voice, Season 5.
♦ The flagship Canada Day concert took place as usual on Parliament Hill with the impressive lineup of Alessia Cara, Cirque du Soleil, Dean Brody, Gordon Lightfoot, Kelly Bado, Kinnie Star, Lisa Leblanc, Louis-Jean Cormier, Marie-Mai, Mike Tompkins, Serena Ryder, and Walk Off the Earth.
♦ Canada’s largest record label Universal Music came under fire for its exclusion of French-language music in its Canada 150 compilation and issued an apology which was not well received.
♦ 2017 saw the uncovering of a scandalous profiteering scheme by 30-year-old Montrealer Julien Lavallee who employs high-tech means in growing his now multimillion-dollar empire to scoop up hundreds of concert tickets at lightning speed to big names like Adele, Ed Sheeran and Drake and then resell them to reap massive profits.
♦ Among this year’s inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame was musical legend Stompin’ Tom Connors. Recording artist Shawn Hook was named recipient of the Allan Slaight award which “recognizes young, inspirational Canadians who have achieved international success in the music industry.”
♦ Shania Twain became the first homegrown artist in four years to headline the Grey Cup Halftime show. The game was played during an Ottawa snowstorm and Shania was whisked to the stage with a real dog sled team.
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 (30), and music videos (10) of 2017. The CMB named Ralph‘s Ralph as EP of the Year, Louise Burns‘ Young Mopes as Album of the Year, Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Cut to the Feeling” as Song of the Year, and Grimes‘ “Venus Fly” as Music Video of the Year.