The rock and snowball have been rolling in Atlantic Canada. Part of the reason is Antigonish, Nova Scotia’s The Trews, an all-male, four-member rock band that recorded its first EP way back in 1997. Since then, five JUNO nominations and two gold-certified albums garnish the achievements platter. These lads stand out for a number of reasons, not the least of which is excellent songwriting. Latest album, a self-titled work, is an ample demonstration of that, an iTunes Top 10 placement. Multiplatinum singer Serena Ryder is featured in outstanding track “In the Morning”. Delicious angst-replete “What’s Fair Is Fair” is an instant classic. You can watch its lyric MV here. The whole album is pretty solid which is always a difficult task to fulfill. Great Canadian rock album. iTunes
As mainstream pop and rock was being taken over by contestants of Canadian Idol and Star Academie, artists who signed with record labels directly began to produce music that was on the fringes—either ultra-soft or ultra-hard. This resulted in a polarization of music. On the soft side was David Foster-produced jazz-singing virtuoso Michael Bublé, the biggest new star to arise in the middle of the decade. Folky Ariane Moffatt, Mes Aïeux, and Gregory Charles were other stars on the mellow side of the spectrum. On the hard side were grungy Nickelback copycat bands like Simple Plan, Billy Talent, and Three Days Grace. Heavily-tattooed Canadian Idol contestant, Jacob Hoggard, who finished 3rd in the second season, became the lead singer of grunge outfit Hedley. The only prominent artist, outside of the talent shows, to stand in the comfortable middle was Ontario’s Fefe Dobson.
Across the river from Quebec City, pianist-guitarist, singer-songwriter, Juno and Felix award winner Ariane Moffatt hit the airwaves. Her 2002 debut release, Aquanaute, was certified platinum due in large part to the hits “Pointe de Mire” and “Poussière d’ange”. Five of her singles were to be nominated for the Felix Song of the Year award, “Je veux tout” winning such a prize at the 2008 gala. The album on which the song appeared, Tous les Sans won the Juno for Francophone Album of the Year. Another female voice emerged this year, coming from Toronto’s former suburb of Scarborough. She was a beautiful model of mixed English, French, Aboriginal, and Jamaican ancestry. The singer-songwriter scored her first of three Top 10 hits, “Bye Bye Boyfriend”, her debut , self-titled, album attaining platinum sales. Her name was Fefe Dobson. Andrée Watters, from the northeastern Quebec City borough of Charlesbourg, released her first of three Felix song of the year nominees, “Si exceptionnel”. She won the Felix for best rock album of the year. Sadly, her brother Patrick was killed in a 2007 helicopter crash near Fort McMurray, AB, while combatting a forest fire.
The most significant male artist to debut this year was a multi-talented Vaughan, ON native with Portuguese roots named Shawn Desman. His “Shook” made it to #3 on the charts. His 2005 album Back for More won the Juno for best R&B release. Besides singing, he plays the piano, produces, dances, and does choreography.
From Mississauga, ON, high school band Pezz transformed itself into Billy Talent, signing with Warner Music. Sales of their first (self-titled) heavy metal release under the major label, reached triple platinum status and won the Juno for album of the year. Their song “Try Honesty” was nominated for a song of the year Juno.
Outside the country, the biggest Canadian hits this year were Avril Lavigne’s gorgeous power ballad “I’m with You”, Shania Twain’s soothing “Forever and For Always”, and Nickelback’s grungy “Someday”. Within the country, Celine Dion revamped Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” (originally written for Roy Orbison) and topped the charts. Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm’s “Something More” was also a #1 hit. Despite being a French song, “Meme Les Anges” made it to #2 on the charts due to Audrey De Montigny’s high-profile exposure on Canadian Idol. Celine Dion’s “Tout l’or des hommes” was as successful. Nicola Ciccone’s beautiful “J’t’aime tout court” was song of the year in French Canada and Nelly Furtado’s fusion piece “Powerless” in English Canada.
There were three albums released this year that sold half a million copies: Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow, Nickelback’s The Long Road, and the compilation Star Academie (featuring songs sung by the various contestants of the show).
First and foremost this year was Vancouver’s Michael Bublé. He debuted last year with his self-titled album, and, thanks to the blockbuster film Spider-Man, he scored his first big hit in 2004. Buble was discovered by David Foster while singing at the wedding of Caroline Mulroney, daughter of the former Prime Minister. Initially Foster was reluctant to sign him because he was unsure how the market would react to Michael’s brand of music—traditional pop and big band jazz. With the support of Paul Anka, David eventually agreed. It turned out to be a wise decision because Buble’s albums have sold 35 million copies worldwide.
In Britain, a Canadian artist scored three Top 10 hits. But in his own country, he was not as noticed. The Canadian music industry, in the interests of commercialism, has tagged along with its southern neighbours and become a blacks-and-whites only club, largely closing its doors to recording artists of Asian descent, who represent a much greater population in the country than those with African roots. Because of this racialism, artists of any and every visible minority, in order to flourish, have, rather than creating a style of rock music they can call their own, reverted to adopting African American styles of R&B and rap. This was true of Indian-Albertan Raghav. (He did sneak in some Indian-style rhythms).
Rap-R&B singer Jérôme Philippe scored a Felix-nominated song, “Pour le ghetto”. Kevin Brereton, known as k-os, grew up in Toronto and delivered the beautifully-arranged Juno song of the year, “Crabbuckit”, somewhat of an alternative reggae piece. He has managed two platinum albums and a couple of Top 20 hits.
Several new bands hit the airwaves this year, most of them dabbling in various combinations of grunge, punk, and metal. The most successful of all of them was 8-time Juno nominee, Montreal quintet Simple Plan. Recording since 2002, they enjoyed their first big hit this year, “Perfect” (not to be confused with Hedley’s song of the same name). Oddly, the lead singer Pierre Bouvier has chosen to sing with an American rather than Canadian accent. The band’s second album, Still Not Getting Any, went 4x Platinum, making it the third most successful Canadian album released this year (after Shania Twain’s Greatest Hits and Avriil Lavigne’s Under My Skin).
Drummondville, Quebec’s Les Trois Accords paid homage to Saskatchewan in their Felix-nominated song. After releasing a platinum album, they scored a couple more hits through the decade. Finger Eleven, from Burlington, ON, gave the world the international acoustic guitar hit “One Thing”. Besides Avril Lavigne, the band was the only Canadian act to appear on the U.S. Billboard year-end chart. The Scott Anderson-led group scored an even bigger hit in 2007—the grungy “Paralyzer”.
Toronto’s independent punk label Underground Operations signed Closet Monster and Hostage Life who churned out the hits “We Re-Built This City” and “Sing for the Enemy” respectively. The Trews, originally from Antigonish, NS, enjoyed a Juno-nominated song, “Not Ready to Go”. Winnipeg’s The Waking Eyes had the Top 10 hit, “Watch Your Money”.
Uruguayan-Swiss Quebecer, Carole Facal, after dabbling with snowboarding in B.C., teamed up with Dorianne Fabreg to form the duo DobaCaracol, complete with dreadlocks. Later, as a soloist, Facal, under the stage name, Caracol, scored the hit “Le Mépris”. Montréal’s Marie-Chantal Toupin came out with the power-ballad “Naître” and enjoyed two platinum albums in the decade.
Three bands broke up in the new millennium and members formed a new outfit in St. Catharines called Alexisonfire. A platinum album released this year helped them garner the Juno for New Group of the Year in 2005. At the end of the decade, member Dallas Green announced his departure. He went solo under the name City and Colour.
Big hits this year from previously profiled artists included two top fives from Avril Lavigne: the rock masterpiece “My Happy Ending” and her first Top 5 hit at home: “Don’t Tell Me”. “A prophet knows no honour in her own country?” Although her singles did better elsewhere, her albums sold better at home than abroad. Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter had the #1 “Awake in a Dream” which became the best-selling single of all time in Canada (8x Platinum). Star Academie’s Marie Elanie Thibert had the second best-selling single of all-time, “Toi L’inoubliable”. Shania Twain’s “Party for Two” fittingly made it to #2. The Felix song of the year was “Les Étoiles filantes” by Les Cowboys Fringants.
One of the biggest international hits of the decade came out this year from a Vernon, BC lad named Daniel Powter. He was bullied as a child for studying the violin (since when is there something wrong with the violin?). He switched to piano but struggled with dyslexia. “Bad Day” was released first in the U.K. where it made it to #2. At home, it was a Top 10 hit. But in 2006 the song not only made it to #1, it was the biggest song of the year in the United States. “Voyager vers toi” was a hit in Quebec for Marc Dupré. Hamilton’s Tomi Swick scored a radio hit called “A Night Like This” which helped him win the Juno for New Artist of the Year in 2006.
Third-place finalist of Canadian Idol, Jacob Hoggard, formed the successful Abbotsford, BC rock band Hedley who enjoyed six Top 10 hits through the decade, two double-platinum albums, and, until now, 15 Juno nominations. From the same city as Les Trois Accords, folk band Kaïn scored subsequent hits “Embarque ma belle” and “Mexico”. Ska band Bedouin Soundclash won the Juno for best new group and “When the Night Feels My Song” was nominated for best song. In 2007, they scored the Top 10 hit “Walls Fall Down”.
Brandon, Manitoba’s country singer Amanda Stott crossed over onto the pop charts with the #1 hit song, “Paper Rain”.
There were not too many hit songs this year from Canadian artists. The only other big hit, besides those mentioned above, was chart-topping “Alive” from Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil who incidentally (and refreshingly) is half Chinese. Star Academie contestant Annie Blanchard won the Felix song of the year award with “Évangéline” and Michael Buble’s “Home” won the equivalent Juno award.
Hit albums this year were Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons (7x Platinum), Michael Bublé’s album of the year Juno winner It’s Time, and Céline Dion’s On ne change pas.
Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kroeger started his own record label called 604 Records. It signed the Vancouver band Marianas Trench whose song “Say Anything” was a #3 hit. The Adam Gontier-fronted outfit Three Days Grace from Norwood, ON recorded the double-platinum Juno-nominated album One-X but did not manage any big hit singles. Speaking of double-platinum albums, Mes Aïeux achieved one and also won the Felix song of the year for folk hit “Dégénérations”. They have been named Group of the Year three times at the Felix galas. Combining male-female lead vocals, pop group Alfa Rococo enjoyed a few big hits in Québec, including “Les Jours de pluie” this year. Stabilo, a rock band from Maple Ridge, BC, scored the raio hit “Flawed Design”. Montreal’s alternative rock band Mobile won a Juno for New Group of the Year in 2007 thanks to their debut album released this year, Tomorrow Starts Today.
Sherbrooke, Quebec’s Vincent Vallières had been around since 1999 but began scoring some hits, like “Je pars à pied”. Retired hockey player Étienne Drapeau turned to singing and enjoyed the hit “Je l’ai jamais dit à personne”. Montreal’s Gregory Charles, of Trinidadian origin, had a very popular debut album, the triple-platinum I Think of You. Dumas’ “Au gré des saisons” was popular this year.
Exotic Indian-Irish-Italian beauty Cindy Daniel had a very big hit, “Sous une pluie d’étoiles” and Egypt-born Chantal Chamandy had the platinum-selling hit single “Feels Like Love”.
Nelly Furtado scored three Top 10 international hits this year and two more next year with her 5x Platinum album Loose which won the album of the year Juno. Her song “Promiscuous” was named song of the year. Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila topped the charts performing in American R&B style for her song “Meant to Fly”. Nickelback scored three big hits this year.
Coming up are mini-profiles on semi-major artists Billy Talent, Gregory Charles, Fefe Dobson, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Finger Eleven, Shawn Desman, Mes Aïeux, and Marianas Trench. Following that will be features on major artists Michael Bublé, Hedley, Simple Plan, Raghav, and Ariane Moffatt.
Copyright 2011 by the Canadian Music Blog