It is fitting that I follow up a post about my own birthday with a one about Canada’s as the True North strong and free celebrates the day after KRISmas (which has always served me well once I became 19 and got acquainted with Corona). July 1st, Canada Day means a lot of things to me; first, it is the day after my birthday, which as I mentioned is a time to recover from the night before, and is the suspected date of birth of my beloved deceased dog Kyser. July 1st is also a day to remember soldiers from Newfoundland on what we call Memorial Day and I always remember laying a wreath for my great grandfather, even though he fought in WWII. Last but not least, July 1st is Canada’s birthday; a country I have studied and loved and continue to do so as it grows and matures.
Music has been one of the reasons I have loved Canada. We have an interesting perspective when it comes to entertainment in Canada. There is no doubt that we are influenced by our neighbors to the south but there is also something that makes us unique. Part of that might be our music. That’s not to say that artists who have managed to “crossover” are really any distinguishable from their American, British or other peers but I have always had a little sense of pride when one of our own “makes it”. “They’re Canadian,” I’d say when a song by a Canadian artist would come on the radio or a wrestler from Canada makes it to the WWE.
With Canada’s 150th birthday approaching, I decided to create a playlist of fifteen songs celebrating Canadian music and Canadian artists for everyone to enjoy this upcoming Canada Day:
- The Guess Who- American Woman
As I mentioned, we are influenced by our American cousins and given their current political and social landscape, I’d also be saying “Stay away from me”. To be fair, I’m more familiar with Lenny Kravitz’s cover of this song but that is because I love Austin Powers (shout out to Mike Myers who I will make mention of again later). This song was released in 1970 and has been around for nearly fifty years!
- Blue Rodeo- Head Over Heels
Blue Rodeo are Canadian music royalty and they must be honorary Newfoundlanders by now? It seems they visit the province at least once a year and will be doing so again during this summer’s George Street Festival. I can remember being a kid and thinking the lyrics were “tossing and turning like whales in the sea” and picturing two orcas (I was big into Free Willy) frolicking in the ocean.
- Barenaked Ladies- One Week
Arguably the song of the summer in 1998; you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it en route to the ball field in Whitbourne to American Pie, and it has managed to sort of stick around ever since. Hands down, the biggest song by Barenaked Ladies, “One Week” features all of the pop culture references and even gives a shout out to one of Canada’s most notorious dining establishments, Swiss Chalet.
- Alanis Morissette- You Learn
Choosing which Alanis song makes this list must be exactly what Sophie’s Choice must feel like. I love this woman and Jagged Little Pill is one of my all-time favorite albums. I decided to go with “You Learn” because, if I remember correctly, it was Alanis’ first number one in the US. I can remember the weekend that it reached the top of the charts on the Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 and how my dad’s cousin’s wife joked that she would now start walking around naked in her living room in celebration. (This, to my knowledge, did not happen). As corny as it may sound, I can remember feeling a lot of Canadian pride for Alanis and her accomplishment. Also, anyone remember this version?
- Shania Twain- That Don’t Impress Me Much
Like Alanis, Shania’s discography offers a lot of worthy potential contenders for this list. Let me state that as a general rule I completely despise country music and find it uninspired, and cringe-worthy (which is a phrase that I also hate and never use but feel it totally describes this genre). Every now and then a genre-bending artist emerges and Shania Twain is definitely one of those artists. Pretty much every single track from Come On Over was released as a single and it was definitely an album I spun in my Discman back in the day. I decided on “That Don’t Impress Me Much” because I remember my dad saying “She should win an award for this song,” which was the Neil Smith stamp of approval. I do take issue with her criticism of carrying a comb up your sleeve “just in case”. Girl clearly you haven’t tried to have slick hair in windy Newfoundland…
- Céline Dion- I Drove All Night
I’m sure you were expecting a Céline power ballad here but I’m trying to keep the playlist a little light and celebratory. Plus, this song plays a part in a movie that I actually quite enjoy but the world pretty much despises; The Love Guru. I’m sorry but I really enjoy Mike Myers (See? Told you he’d be back!) and the movie is pretty Canadian, showcasing the Toronto Maple Leafs and my boy Justin Timberlake as a French Canadian goalie with a suggestive nickname and affinity for the musical stylings of Ms. Dion. (Props to the actress playing Céline here; she got the aggressive arm movements down pat).
- Baby Blue Soundcrew- Money Jane (feat. Jully Black, Kardinal Offishall & Sean Paul)
Canada can do posse cuts too. If you watched Much Music back in 2000 then this video was in heavy rotation. We were rapping long before Drake and Kardinal is an OG for sure. (I like to call him Canada’s JAY Z simply because he has been around for so long). Jully Black has an amazing voice and yes, that’s that Sean Paul which I did not remember four years later when “Get Busy” was a contender for song of the summer.
- Drake- Headlines
Speaking of Drake, you know he had to be on this list. This guy has shone a light on the rap scene in Toronto (and renamed the city to “The 6”) and because of this we now have artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tory Lanez and The Weeknd. Drake is the man right now when it comes to streaming platforms and solidified that with the release of More Life back in March. I decided to choose “Headlines” from 2011’s Take Care. You can see that this video is an homage to Toronto, a city I have visited multiple times and have a soft spot for. Watch Drake as he goes up the elevator at the CN Tower, a metaphor for the trajectory his career would take.
- The Weeknd- The Hills
If we didn’t have Drake would we have The Weeknd? Admittedly I was late to this party as I sort of ignored Abel’s work for a while until “Can’t Feel My Face” was everywhere. It was “The Hills” though that really solidified my fandom and I went back and discovered The Weeknd’s past offerings. Nobody does dirty, bump n’ grind music better than The Weeknd, and “The Hills” is a prime example.
- Nelly Furtado- Promiscuous (feat. Timbaland)
This along with Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” were not only my songs of the summer in 2006 (shout out to Club Etomik) but also the start of my late 2000’s love affair with all things Timbaland. I feel that Nelly Furtado is an extremely underrated singer and is definitely deserving of a spot in this playlist. The pairing between Furtado and Timbaland is a shining example of how NAFTA and an alliance between Canada and the US can work out so well. Did you know that most times when “Promiscuous” was performed live, Canadian rapper Saukrates.
- Carly Rae Jespsen- Run Away With Me
It hasn’t been tested out, but I’m fairly certain that the sugary sweet, feel-good tunes of Carly Rae Jepsen could facilitate world peace. I didn’t want to like her. “Call Me Maybe” was just so damn catchy, and “I Really Like You” had Tom freakin’ Hanks in the video but it was “Run Away With Me” that made me realize what an underrated talent Ms. Jepsen really is.
- Prozzäk– Strange Disease
The natural progression from the sugary sweet pop of Carly Rae would be the computerized animated pop of Prozzäk. Anyone remember in the late 90’s when you would see these guys all over Much Music? I feel that Prozzäk is very Canadian. Did anyone outside the country even know about these guys?
- Bryan Adams- Summer Of ‘69
I’ll leave the cartoon Canucks and go back to some Canadian rock. Bryan Adams has to make this list and he has so many worthy songs. I’d wager that “Summer Of ‘69” has to be one of Adams’ signature hits and definitely a favorite at Lottie’s.
- Our Lady Peace- As Fast As You Can
I’ve actually seen Our Lady Peace in concert as many times as I’ve seen U2 and my favorite show was on George Street on Canada Day 2013. Despite their extensive singles discography from the 90’s and 00’s, I chose a more recent one in “As Fast As You Can”. This song is pure ANTHEM and I liken it to something The Killers might sing. I love this song and it has become my favorite one by OLP. I can’t wait to see them again ASAP.
- The Tragically Hip- Ahead By A Century
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include something by this band. Truth be told, I never really got into The Hip and I can’t say I’m really a fan but I am aware of how beloved this band is across this great nation of ours. I decided to go with “Ahead By A Century” for a couple of reasons; primarily because this is the first song by the band I can remember (and I don’t think I liked it…but what did 9 year old Kris know? Since then I have come to appreciate the song’s simplistic beauty) and secondly because here we are as a country, halfway there to our second century.
There you have it, folks! Fifteen songs by Canadian artists to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday! We’ve come a long way in a century and a half and while there’s still a ways to go I think Canada is certainly on the right track, eh?
Did I remind you of a song you’d forgotten about? Do you think I left anyone out? Leave a comment and share your favorite Canadian tunes!