Arts

Why there’s reason for optimism

Darren Sharp | Fulcrum Staff

BIEBERMANIA EXCEPTED, CANADIAN pop music has been suffering in recent years. Canada’s indie scene has been an embarrassment of riches since the turn of the millennium, churning out critical darlings like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene at a staggering rate. At the same time, however, the country has been producing a disturbing lack of Top 40 pop talent, with all of its attempts to do so falling on deaf Northern ears. Remember Keshia Chante, Canada’s supposed answer to Rihanna? Or how about Skye Sweetnam, who was advertised as the next Avril? How many times does Fefe Dobson show up on your iPod these days?

Thankfully, there is reason for optimism, and not just because Bieber has another album out—which, it should be noted, is amazing (but we’ll get to that later). You may have heard this song titled “Call Me Maybe” once or twice this summer. Carly Rae Jepsen stumbled upon the secret to international success for Canadian pop stars: make good music.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that what all musicians are trying to do? The surprising answer to that question is “no.” Too often, such as in the aforementioned cases of Keshia Chante and Skye Sweetnam, record labels appeared to be trying to make cheap knock-offs of popular sounds. This resulted in the odd hit and a lot of bland, bland pop music. It’s how a can’t miss superstar like Eva Avila—the season four winner of the now defunct Canadian Idol series, with the voice of an angel and the looks to match—ended up flaming out after two forgettable albums and nary a hit to her name. For far too long, Canada was getting it all wrong.

Then “Call Me Maybe” came along, a song so unequivocally great that everyone from your little sister to your grandpa to your high school football team could be caught singing it. Carly’s formula was simple: make a great tune that’s catchy and original and then watch the dominoes fall. It took a while, but eventually the song spread from Canada to the United States to the world. Now Ms. Jepsen is a few weeks away from releasing a blockbuster album filled with writing credits from the best pop producers on the planet.

At the same time, Canada is finally starting to get it right with other artists as well. After scoring a hit with the ultra-catchy “Shut Up And Dance”, British Columbia’s Victoria Duffield has just released an album filled with potential singles and international promotion on the horizon. The debut album of Ottawa’s own Kristina Maria, Tell The World—which came out in April—spawned three gold-certified singles in Canada and is filled with sparkling, sexy dance-pop produced by some top notch names in the business. Justin Bieber’s new record, Believe, shows a maturing pop star who isn’t afraid to take risks; while he’s already achieved world domination, he now has the music to back it up.

All of this is to say that the Canadian pop scene may finally be coming into its own. By focusing on making music that is modern and viable in today’s market rather than always being a step behind, some progress is being made. New names are taking centre stage, and older stars like Nelly Furtado and Avril Lavigne are on their way back as well. Soon enough, “Call Me Maybe” may have other ubiquitous singles from Canadian pop stars replacing it at the top of the international charts.