The Power Of Music
FOR DECADES NOW, CANADA HAS BEEN CHURNING OUT SOME OF THE GREATEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD. EVERYTHING FROM FOLK TO FUNK, ACOUSTIC TO AMBIENT, AND HIP HOP TO HAIR METAL HAS MADE ITS IMPACT. AT FIRST GLANCE, THIS LIST OF MELODIOUS PERFORMERS WHO ARE SHAPING THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE IN MAJOR WAYS INCLUDES A FEW USUAL SUSPECTS, A COUPLE OF SURPRISES, AND ONE CLASSIC GUITARIST WHO KEEPS ON ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD. HERE, POWER PLAYERS FROM THE 6IX DRIVING CANADIAN MUSIC INTO INTERNATIONAL AIRWAYS.
- By Jason Gorber
With number one tracks on the Billboard chart, multiple Grammy and Juno award wins and adoration from around the world, Mr. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (better known as The Weeknd) has crafted a unique brand of R&B and hip hop that’s lit the music world on fire. Raised in Scarborough, the suburb of East Toronto that for decades has been home to Toronto’s most interesting musical exports, he first caught attention at a UK show with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.” In addition to the likes of MJ and Prince, The Weeknd also draws upon the sounds of his parents’ native Ethiopia, bringing in East African vocal inflections and cadences. Mixing these elements along with aspects of EDM, punk, new wave and even ‘80s pop, his sound is as original as it is inviting. Plus, he’s now Oscar-nominated with his track “Earned It” written for the film Fifty Shades of Grey.
Power Tracks: I Can’t Feel My Face, Starboy (w/ Daft Punk), Live For (w/ Drake)
Hailing from Nova Scotia and raised in Calgary prior to becoming a major member of Toronto’s Broken Social Scene, the indie darling has made her mark with a mix of punky, new-wavey and acoustic numbers. Leslie Feist’s biggest success was in 2008 with the catchy “1234” that was featured in an Apple commercial and went on to win single of the year at the Juno awards. Her eclecticism is a key to her success – she did a double single with prog-metal maestros Mastodon on the one hand, and then did a track for one of the Twilight films. With her sixth album Pleasure already exciting critics and fans alike, Canada’s sweetheart is primed for even more success ahead. And we can’t wait to hear it.
Power Tracks: Mushaboom, My Moon My Man, I Feel It All
Once upon a time, Aubrey Drake Graham was more than a mononymic musican; he was part of the legacy of Canadian television that is Degrassi. After giving acting a chance, the Jewish/African Canadian dropped the other two parts of his name, channelled Jay-Z on a couple mixtapes, and soon caught the attention of superstars like Lil Wayne. Since then, the singer has seen an epic rise (to quote 2013’s Nothing Was The Same, “Started from the bottom now we’re here”). He’s a fixture at Raptors games courtside, is building a $25 million dollar home in his hometown and has almost single-handedly put the music of this city on the map for the current generation. With Toronto’s area codes 416 and 647, and the half dozen boroughs that make up the megacity, he’s even principally responsible for the city being known as the 6ix. Who needs a key to the city when you already have the power to change its very name? Power Tracks: Hotline Bling, 5AM In Toronto, Over, The Motto
A Tribe Called Red
They may not have the dollars rolling compared to some on this list but the effect this band is having on the world stage is no less impressive. Their mix of First Nations music with Jamaican, American, African and other timbres results in an intoxicating brew of influences that’s intense and highly musical. Politically astute, their music hearkens back to the likes of Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash, where the message was just as important as the music. By fusing the indigenous music of this country with beats from all over the world, they exemplify the best of what it is to be from Canada, with a specific identity but still one that welcomes outside influences. Like their namesake A Tribe Called Quest, they’re not scaling the ladder of superstardom, but they’ve got something far harder to earn – deep respect all over the world for their music.
Power Tracks: Electric Pow Wow Drum, MoombaWow, Sisters (feat. Northern Voice)
Scoff all you want, but at the youthful age of just twenty three, the Biebs has crammed more life (and more trouble) into the last decade than most people do in a lifetime. Along the way, the kid from Stratford, Ontario who started out posting YouTube videos for fun has engendered a veritable army of fans, along with millions of social media followers entertained daily by his musings. To put his power in perspective, he’s got 70 million more Twitter followers than the Tweeter-in-Chief at the Whitehouse). Yet behind the headlines, there’s actual music fueling the stardom, everything from adolescent pop and hard hip hop to more sultry tunes and quiet acoustic numbers. As he grows from teen heartthrob to adult artist, his challenge will surely be to bring his army of followers along with him while building upon the remarkable success he’s already earned. Our only wish? That the Biebs himself watches Popstar and can appreciate the deep life lessons buried in the film.
Power Tracks: Sorry, Baby, Boyfriend