Leave it to my expat brother Alexi, who has been living in Toronto since the end of the last century, to set me straight and send me a list of key mainstream Canadian artists that I left out of my previous post. Some of them I’ve never heard of (Angela Hewitt? Ben Heppner? Canadian Brass? jacksoul?), which sort of makes me wonder what I’m missing out on. Crash course time!
Others I’m not terribly familiar with — or in love with — outside of a few singles or their glowing industry reps (Crash Test Dummies, Steppenwolf, Diana Krall, Deadmau5). Others (Barenaked Ladies, Nickelback, Michael Buble) don’t impress me much, to quote one act, Shania Twain, who did make it into my last post and, for me, epitomizes Canadian pop. And at least one — sorry, Avril Lavigne fans — I outright despise. Alexi on Avril: “She sings mostly about the sanctity of her pussy, and it’s annoying.” LMFAO!
I appreciate Paul Anka’s legendary status, but I prefer Pat Boone and Neil Sedaka, whom I’ve always seen as his sort of U.S. contemporary. As for Rufus Wainwright, who is actually only half-Canuck and was born in the U.S., I tried to get into his music after meeting him years ago in a New York City dive bar. Though his talent is undeniable, his music never quite reached essential status or entered heavy rotation on my CD player/iPod.
But at least four of the Canadians that my brother mentioned are right up there among my personal list of greats.
Leonard Cohen “Closing Time” I was a little late to the Cohen club, not arriving until college when his song “Suzanne” came on the radio while I was studying with a girl named Suzanne. Kismet? A few years later, in 1990, Concrete Blonde’s version of “Everybody Knows” as well as Cohen’s original were included in the film Pump Up the Volume, whose soundtrack is one of my five all-time favorites, despite including Concrete Blonde’s version and not Cohen’s. The following year, I’m Your Fan, a collection of Cohen covers by artists including R.E.M., the Pixies and Lloyd Cole, was released, followed the next year by Cohen’s own The Future, which included at least one song, this one, that I still listen to at least once a week.
Bob Rock Who knew that my brother, a big fan of classical music (see Hewitt and Heppner, mentioned above), had ever even heard of the man who produced some of my favorite rock albums by bands like the Cult, Motley Crue and Metallica? (Hey, Alexi, what about Sum 41?!)
Nelly Furtado “Say It Right” She’s 25 percent weird, 25 percent annoying, 25 percent sexy, 25 percent brilliant, and on this one song, 100 percent perfect. Along with Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” it’s the best thing to top Billboard’s Hot 100 in the last 10 years.
Jann Arden “Insensitive” A brilliant evisceration of Mr. Wrong. “Maybe you might have some advice to give on how to be insensitive.” If he does, Jann, please feel free to forward it this way.