It’s been one year since the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, oh, how things have changed. Virtual and drive-through concerts are now a thing we all accept as a decent replacement for the sweaty, smoke-fuelled concerts of yesterday. The world has changed over the past year, but so has the music industry—and Canadian musicians had a huge part to play.
As we were getting used to our at-home offices and signing up on TikTok. The iHeart Living Room Concert was broadcast in Canada. The show was hosted by Elton John and included performances by the Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Camilla Cabello and more! This was one of the first times we saw artists perform from their homes with their cell phones, cameras and make shift set ups. Little did we know that this was just the beginning of the new normal for artists and their fans.
The concert paid tribute to frontline workers, and viewers were encouraged to support the Canadian Red Cross COVID-19 response. More than $440,000 was raised as a result of the broadcast.
In April, Canadian artists banded together to help bring food to those in need. The all-Canadian special, Stronger Together, received 140,000 donations from people across the country, raising $6-million for the Food Banks Canada network. During the event, ArtistsCAN premiered their single, Lean On Me, to more than 6-million viewers. The charity single included Canadian heavyweights Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Fefe Dobson, Serena Ryder and Walk Off The Earth.
“Although we have always known that Canadians are amongst the kindest people on earth and we hoped and planned for our neighbours’ generosity, we were brought to our knees with gratitude by the overwhelming caring of our communities across Canada,” said Chris Hatch, Chief Executive Officer, Food Banks Canada. Donations topped more than $8-million.
After the world witnessed the horrifying murder of George Floyd, musicians lent their voices, influence and pocket books to support causes fighting for racial equality. The Weeknd donated $500,000 to the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and National Bail Out. The Canadian superstar followed up his donation with a tweet challenging Universal Music Group, Warner Music, Sony Entertainment, Apple and Spotify to “go big and go public” with their donations to the movement. He said, “No one profits off black music more than the labels and streaming services. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us.”
A month after people took to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement continued to gain traction. This month Advance was launched, a Canadian Black music business collective, hoping to combat anti-Black racism in the music industry.
They tweeted, “At the heart of the Canadian music industry lives brilliant artists, passionate creators and a vibrant mosaic of Black voices that have launched the biggest talents in the world. Today, more than ever, these voices need to be amplified…”
Advance would go on to announce a three-year partnership between Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Universal Music Canada, and Warner Music Canada.
Jessie Reyez makes history, becoming the first artist ever to sing the American and Canadian national anthems from the CN Tower Edgewalk during a Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets NBA Playoff game. We honestly can’t believe she beat Drake to it!
Ahead of Round 1, Game 1, the Toronto singer performed 116 stories above ground for the internationally televised moment.
JUNO-award winning rock band The Dirty Nil launch an awesome marketing stunt for their track, “Doom Boy.” Using the app Cameo they solicited 16 videos from celebrities reacting to their music video. Major names included, David Hasselhoff, Cheap Trick’s Tick Nielsen, Gilbert Gottfried and Perez Hilton.
A week after releasing their highly anticipated album Sophomore Slump, JUNO nominees and CCMA winners, The Reklaws, announced that they would be embarking on a digital tour. The tour kicked off in Vancouver, and ventured off to seven cities across Canada, where concert goers had the chance to hear The Reklaws perform tracks from their new album for the first time. The concert featured special guests and even allowed fans to participate in a Q&A! The interactive experience was received wonderfully by fans who were grateful to have the opportunity for such an engaging experience.
Canadian pop star Johnny Orlando takes home a 2020 MTV Europe Music Award for Best Canadian Act! This was the second year in a row that he received this award. The pop star first gained recognition on social media by posting covers of popular songs by Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
Canadian musicians showed up and showed out on Spotify’s “2020 Wrapped” list of the world’s top artists, albums, songs and playlists! Drake took home second place on the most-streamed artists of the year, and The Weeknd came in fifth.
This one’s not Canadian, but we had to mention it! This was the month that Disney star, Olivia Rodrigo released the song, “Drivers License.” This song was everywhere! In its first week, Drivers License gained over 107 million global streams.
Part of the intrigue around the song that took the world by storm was the romantic melodrama that played out in the lyrics, that had fans speculating if it was about her supposed former boyfriend and co-star on High School Musical: The Musical Series, Joshua Bassett.
The Weeknd becomes the first-ever Canadian artist to solo headline The Super Bowl. The R&B artist made history with a performance that put emphasis on the songs and his craft. The 12-minute show was broadcast live and watched by socially-distanced fans at Florida’s Raymond James Stadium.
The Weeknd spent $7 million of his own money on the production and made the artistic decision to let the music speak for itself - the performance was moving and unlike any other Super Bowl performance, we’ve ever seen.
The virtual Grammy ceremony went off without a hitch. After the 2018 Grammys, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow memorably said “Women need to step up.” While the statement is the worst, the 2021 nominee list was loaded with awesome female artists.
For the first time, categories for Best Rock Performance and Best Country Album were entirely comprised of women nominees. Best Record, Best Album, and Song of the Year were all awarded to female artists. While the statement by Portnow in 2018 was so insulting and ridiculous, we couldn’t help but feel vindicated watching acts like Haim, Doja Cat, Lido Pimienta, and of course, Cardi B with Megan Thee Stallion perform.
Back at home, we had reason to celebrate, with Montreal’s Kaytranada winning two Grammys and Justin Bieber winning one. Kaytranada picked up the awards for Best Dance/Electronic Album and Best Dance Recording, while Bieber took home Best Country Duo/ Group Performance.