13 Beats: Nostalgic Canadian Pop

13 Beats: Nostalgic Canadian Pop

In compliance with the standards of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, at least 35 percent of music on the nation’s radio stations must be Canadian. For many listeners who would prefer to hear acts such as the British Dua Lipa or the American Ariana Grande, this content often feels monotonous. Nonetheless, there is always a gem that holds its own against considerable foreign competition. Here are 13 songs that defined the good old days for a generation of Canada’s young adults:

1. Hand In My Pocket — Alanis Morissette (1995)

Full of quirky rhymes and oxymorons about staying optimistic, the Ottawa, Ontario-born Morissette’s vocals shine in this folk-rock tune. It recently resurged after a video by TikTok user @maxmith_ went viral for parodying Morissette’s signature intonation and lyricism. “I’m smart but I’m stupid, I’m gay but I’m straight, I crop-dust in Whole Foods, baby,” the TikToker sings.

2. As A Blonde — Fefe Dobson (2006)

Popularized through a cover on the 2009 Selena Gomez & The Scene album “Kiss and Tell,” “Blonde” was originally meant for Dobson’s scrapped sophomore punk record, leaked in 2006 and eventually released in 2012. “As a blonde / Will I get whatever I want / I’ll be ever so enticing / Cake a lot of icing / Never have to watch my weight,” Dobson ponders, as a woman not conforming to society’s standard for beauty.

3. Operator (A Girl Like Me) — Shiloh (2008)

“Without a doubt, I know what I’m about / I’m everything I’ll ever wanna be / A girl like me.” The familiarity of this pop-punk song about individuality is a testament to the influence of the Family Channel, which was once the sole Canadian licensee of Disney Channel programming. Since this was playing in the commercial breaks of Hannah Montana, it was guaranteed to be a hit.

4. Bucket — Carly Rae Jepsen (2008)

Four years before the whole world was listening to “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen was just another artist on the “beaver hour,” a satirical term for the often overlooked, government-mandated radio content. The folk-inspired “Bucket” was her first charting single, peaking at #36 on the Canadian Hot 100.

5. Wavin’ Flag — K’naan (2009)

This reggae fusion song by Somali-Canadian artist K’naan is well-known as Coca-Cola’s official song in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and also as a cover song by Young Artists for Haiti, a Canadian musical collective raising funds in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In either context, the lyrics “When I get older, I will be stronger / They’ll call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag” sing to the power of unity.

6. Hello — Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette (2009)

One of several collaborations between the French DJ Solveig and Canadian synth band Dragonette, this pulsing earworm of an EDM song went on to sell over 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. and was featured in shows such as “90210,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl.”

7. Barbra Streisand — Duck Sauce (2010)

This house and disco-reminiscent track by the duo of​​ Armand van Helden and A-Trak is memorable for most of its lyrics being simply: “Barbra Streisand.” While it peaked at only #89 on the American Hot 100, the fanatic response from attendees of A-Trak’s 2022 Springfest performance proved its cross-border impact. 

8. Jet Lag — Simple Plan & Natasha Bedingfeld (2011)

This joint effort between Commonwealth talent, a Canadian rock band and a British pop star, is an ode to long-distance relationships. “You say good morning when it’s midnight / Going out of my head, alone in this bed / I wake up to your sunset / And it’s driving me mad, I miss you so bad,” the vocalists sing. French and Mandarin Chinese remixes of the track also exist, which is fitting, given these are among the nation’s most-spoken languages. 

9. Shut Up and Dance — Victoria Duffield (2012)

Hailing from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Duffield achieved instant fame among Canadian children as a finalist on “The Next Star,” a reality competition series searching for the nation’s best singer under 15 years old. Despite not winning the show, Duffield, billed as “Canada’s Britney Spears,” emerged as her season’s biggest product. This electronic dance-pop song, pleasantly evocative of Spears’ “Femme Fatale” album, earned a platinum certification domestically.

10. Closer — Tegan and Sara (2012)

Originating from Calgary, Alberta, lesbian identical twin sister duo Tegan and Sara Quin are some of Canada’s trailblazers in LGBTQ+ representation. While the synth and dance-inspired song was massive back home, it did not peak above #90 on the American Hot 100. This was enough, however, for it to be immortalized as a “Glee Cast Version” in the show’s fourth season.

11. Red Hands — Walk Off the Earth (2012)

Rock band “Walk Off the Earth” soared to online fame making cross-genre and multi-instrumental covers of hits such as “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye before releasing original music. “That gun is loaded / But it’s not in my hand,” sings the layered-vocal hook over a marching, indie-rock beat. If the vibe of the great Canadian outdoors was a song, it would be this one.

12. Kiss Goodnight — Tyler Shaw (2012)

Shaw got his start after winning a contest held by TV station MuchMusic, releasing this romantic and mellow pop-rock ballad as his debut single. It was newly featured in the Apple TV+ documentary “Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me,” as Gomez and a group of Kenyan schoolchildren sing it during a jam session. Shaw opened for Gomez on the Canadian leg of her “Revival” tour in 2016.

13. Catch — Allie X (2014)

“Thought you got away with murder / Left me at a loss for the words / Just wait until I catch my breath,” croons Allie X over a slick synthpop instrumental. In addition to finding success on Canadian radio, the Oakville, Ontario-born artist has also written songs for the likes of Troye Sivan and BTS.