My recent trip to Vancouver, Canada had me channeling all my favorite jams to play for my Northern friends. After digging through my youth and iTunes to find songs that I could play for my #VanCity DJ gig, I stumbled upon some all time greats from Canadians. Below you will find a list (in no particular order) of my TOP 12 FAVORITE JAMS FROM CANADIAN ARTISTS. Although Drake and Justin Bieber are chart-topping hit masters, you will not find them on this list…to give space…you know…for the other Canadians!
1. Esthero – “Heaven Sent”
Before Nelly Furtado (whom I love), there was Esthero who hails from Stratford, Ontario. In 1998, Canadian singer-songwriter Jenny-Bea Englishman debuted her studio album “Breath From Another” under the artist name Esthero (which refers to herself as well as the duo of her and producer Doc McKinney). Her sound was so unique; a blend of trip hop, experimental rock, jazz and electronica. I remember seeing this video on MTV in the late 90’s, but like so many artists ahead of their time (and especially non-American ones) this Esthero moment in the U.S. was sadly a short one (which will resound with many of the other artists on this list). Although, Esthero has continued to be a successful recording artist (even lending vocals for Kanye on “Street Lights” and inspiring a pre-The Black Eyed Peas to add a female singer after Esthero’s sick feature on “Weekends” in 2000).
2. Snow – “Anything For You” Remix featuring Nadine Sutherland, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Terror Fabulous & Louie Culture
Hailing from Toronto, Ontario – Darrin Kenneth O’Brien aka Snow is a white reggae recording artist who hit the scene in 1993 with his infamous hit “Informer”. Nicknamed “Snow” or “Snow White” by the neighboring Jamaican Families he grew up with, they also inspired his interest in reggae music. From what I can remember as a kid, the reception of his debut was a split one – while he was burning up the charts, a lot of people viewed him as a joke (he was even parodied on “In Living Color” by then cast-member Jim Carrey). Snow continued to collaborate with real deal reggae artists like Nadine Sutherland and Buju Banton. All I know is that this man had hits and although most people were confused by a white dude singing reggae style, it was clearly a nod to how diverse his hometown of Toronto was and still is. NOTE: Snow was also featured on my blog as a “School Girl Crush”.
3. Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”
Originally a teen star on the 80’s Canadian Show “You Can’t Do That On Television”, Alanis became majorly famous worldwide in 1995 for belting out her angry feelings all girls have for their exe’s. The funny part about this is that – her ex happened to be the very famous Canadian actor and comedian, Dave Coulier aka “Joey” from the 90’s show “Full House”. This Ottawa Native went on to have even bigger hits like “Ironic” and “Hand In My Pocket”.
4. The Weeknd – “Belong To The World”
When my buddy Josh Madden put me on to The Weeknd’s mixtape “House Of Balloons”, I rejoiced. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a sucker for R&B despite the fact that most R&B lyrics don’t connect with me – but, the The Weeknd was revolutionary R&B for our generation, singing about things that resonate with the now. Anyways…The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, is of Ethiopian heritage and a native of Scarborough, Ontario. NOTE: Anyone else notice that the drum beat on this track is a sped up version of Portishead’s “Machine Gun”?
5. Neil Young – “Hey Hey My My”
I received a scholarship to a prestigious Catholic All-Girls School and despite the fact that it offered a top-notch education (ie: a chance out of the hood) I learned more from the white girls I befriended at the school than with the books I read. One of the best things they turned me on to, was other music; Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead & Neil Young. I just found out that Neil Young is from Toronto. One of my favorite songs from this folk rock god is “Hey Hey My My” in which he discusses his possible irrelevance in the face of an ever-changing musical landscape with the rise of then new-wave and punk. It’s a question of whether to make similar music (“burn out”) or to “fade away” as some viewed John Lydon’s decision to leave The Sex Pistols and his persona of Johnny Rotten.
6. Shania Twain – “Man I Feel Like A Woman”
Country Pop Sensation, Shania Twain, was born Eilleen Regina Edwards in Windsor Ontario. Shortly after signing her first record deal in 1993, she changed her name to “Shania” which is said to be an Ojibwa (Native Tribe) word meaning “on my way”. Shania was often confused for being of Ojibwa descent due to her step-father’s Ojibwa ancestry, but she is actually of Cree (Native Tribe), Irish, French-Canadian and English descent. Shania’s crossover into Pop Music was an easy one, with sassy song-writing, rock-dance beats and funny videos – she made for a lovable star!
7. Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi”
Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Fort Macleod Alberta, Canada she is better known for her stage name – Joni Mitchell. I think I stumbled upon Miss Joni after Janet Jackson’s song “Got Til’ It’s Gone” (produced by The Ummah, composed of Q-Tip, J Dilla, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad) sampled “Big Yellow Taxi”. The original song written by Mitchell in the 70’s is incredibly beautiful and playfully discusses serious environmental issues that still remain relevant.
8. Nelly Furtado – “Turn Off The Light”
Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and of Portuguese descent – Nelly Furtado debuted in 2000 with her hit song “I’m Like A Bird”. I really liked her style and her sound (I also couldn’t help but notice an uncanny resemblance to Courtney Cox when I looked at her). Years later, she has blessed us with more and more hits; like “Promiscuous”, “Maneater” and more.
9. Avril Lavigne – “Nobody’s Home”
Avril Lavigne burst onto the scene in 2002 with her hit song “Complicated”. Born in Belleville, Ontario, but having spent most of her youth in the town of Napanee – Avril got a recording deal at the tender age of 17. She may have been slightly “teeny-bopper” but she was a refreshing face with a rocker/skate style. She went on to have more hits like “Skater Boi” and “I’m With You”. My favorite from her is “Nobody’s Home” because I love the song and the video (directed by Diane Martel) is heart-breaking and beautiful.
10. Celine Dion – “If You Ask Me To”
I just HAD to add her. I remember the sense while growing up that part of the reason Canada had a bad rap in America was for reasons like Celine Dion…but, let’s face it – she was a chart-topping beast. Born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Celine’s career started at age 12 after she recorded a demo and sent it to Rene Angelil whom she later married. This story continues to freak me out, because the story goes that Celine was 12 when she met the 38 year old Rene. 7 years later they started dating and then at age 23 she married him?! Maybe I shouldn’t judge because they are still married and now with children, but then that also freaked me out because she went forever and ever without cutting her first son’s hair. His hair might still being more gorgeous and flowing than Gisele Bundchen’s, but you be the judge.
Anyways, she is incredibly talented and hard-working and I give it up to her for that!
11. Feist – “1,2,3,4”
Leslie Feist is an indie-pop singer born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada to artist parents (Harold Feist/American-Canadian abstract expressionist painter & Lyn Feist/student of ceramics from Saskatchewan). Feist first got her start in music at age 15 in 1991 when she founded and became lead vocalist for a Calgary punk band called Placebo. After a period of recovering from vocal chord damage, in 1999 she moved in with friend Merrill Nisker (who was performing as electro punk musician Peaches, also on this list). In 2007, her song “1,2,3,4,” was everywhere accompanied by an adorable music video.
12. Peaches – “AA XXX”
Where do I begin with Peaches?! If you ask me, she forged this wave of electro-punk-rap in early 2000 which is extremely popular right now (making her 13 years ahead of the game). I couldn’t listen to early M.I.A. or other elecro artists without hearing her influence (Peaches and M.I.A. were friends and Peaches inspired her to use the same digital equipment she was using to make music). I can even hear in Frank Ocean’s “Sierra Leone” his dragged down verse “tidbits of intuition…” inspired by Peaches’ song “AA XXX” when she says “consider my suspicion let’s see if my intuition…”. You just have to take a listen to both (I have a terrible memory, but I’m spot on when it comes to melody borrowing)!
Peaches (born Merrill Beth Nisker in Toronto, Ontario) is not credited enough for her incredible body of work, if you ask me – she is majorly underrated. Not only are her songs and melodies genius yet sexually explicit (“I’m only double A feeling XXX”) but she is also a great gender-bending performance artist. Check her out…her early work is my favorite!
Oh wait, I also forgot to add this one…I can’t believe I forgot!
K-OS – “Superstarr, Pt. Zero”
Kevin Brereton was born to Trinidadian Parents (which makes it worse that I forgot to add him) and grew up in Toronto. He grew up loving musicians like; New Order, Depeche Mode, RX Bandits, Michael Jackson, Boogie Down Productions, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Beatles. He started making music in the 90’s, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I caught wind of him with his catchy track “Superstarr, Pt. Zero”. The video featured a circle of sick dancers and the beat was just infectious.
I also loved his song “Heaven Only Knows” remix.
Oh…and duh…my friends…
Chromeo – “Needy Girl”
This duo, composed of P-Thugg (real name Patrick Gemayel, born in Lebanon) on keyboards, synthesizers, and talk box, and Dave 1 (real name David Macklovitch) on guitar and lead vocals started off as childhood friends. They jokingly describe themselves as “the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture.” I first came to love them when I heard “Needy Girl” in 2004, which I still play on heavy rotation. Their sound is another one that was ahead of it’s time, now becoming prominent in the music world. Fast forward to now and I have become friends with Dave 1 who is a very sweet a humble guy. Also worth mentioning, A-Trak and Dave 1 are actual brothers and it was Dave 1 who convinced A-Trak to start DJ’ing as a youngin’ (Their parents must have some incredible musical DNA!).
Melanie Fiona – “Give It To Me Right”
Born to Guyanese Immigrant Parents, Melanie Fiona Hallim was born and raised in Toronto. I had the honor of meeting her when she performed at me and Q-Tip’s party “Open” in 2009 where she blew the roof off the Santos. This song was a major debut of hers and still one of my favorites years later!
Who are your favorite Canadian Artists and Songs? As always, share in the comment section. If I’ve forgotten others I loved and you remind me, I’ll update this bad boy and give you credit! Thanks ya’ll. Aye.