Canada’s music scene has had a rough puberty, but it seems it’s fulfilling the potential faithful fans always knew it had.
Canadians have traditionally bought music based on what’s hot in the United States, but bands like Arcade Fire, Metric, the Sheepdogs and Broken Social Scene are changing the status quo.
Take a look at some of Canada’s most popular bands. Nickelback took off after Creed already had platinum certifications in both the U.S. and Canada. Sum 41 hit it big years after Blink-182 popularized the pop-punk scene.
Even our beloved Neil Young first gained notoriety as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash. He revitalized his career in Canada and the States with the American-themed album Freedom.
And The Guess Who’s biggest single in both countries was “American Woman.”
Canadians have a sad history of supporting Canadian bands that have connections to America, or sound like popular American bands.
Rob Pinnock, a DJ on The Fox FM and a rock history teacher at the University of New Brunswick, thinks this is unavoidable.
“They’re our closest neighbour. Yes, we’re separated by a border, but it’s a relatively open border as far as neighbouring countries are concerned.”
He also pointed out musical centres in the U.S. (Detroit, Boston and New York) and Canada (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) are all near the border.
Despite America’s influence on our music, Pinnock believes Canada stands out.
“Canadian music has a unique identity. We are starting to tap out our own little corner of the global spotlight.”
Arcade Fire is the most notable example. They have certified albums in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. The Suburbs hit number one in six countries and won album of the year at the Grammy and Juno awards.
Pinnock credits the internet for helping the success of new Canadian creativity.
“Once the internet got involved it was like the wild frontier. It changed a lot of things.”
Besides commercial success, more Canadian acts are getting a spot on online end-of-year album lists. Areas throughout the country, particularly Montreal, are becoming musical hotspots. It remains to be seen if Canada’s music will continue rising internationally.
“We’re probably in a better position than we ever were as far as putting our own mark and stamp on it,” Pinnock said. “I think a lot of Canadians are glad they’re not Americans. It’s kind of cool up here.”
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