Category Archives: Oh Canada!

I’m the one who’s in control here. Let me make it clear…


Back in 2005, Canadian post-Avril teen-pop bubblegrunger Fefe Dobson was set to put out her sophomore effort, Sunday Love, when Def Jam unexpectedly shelved it after releasing two singles, and unceremoniously dropped her from the label. It leaked, and was a surprisingly heady mix of guitars and grunge and disco and odd songs about hair dye and gender-play and lesbian flirtation and child molestation and aggressive female sexuality. Co-writers ostensibly included Tim Armstrong, Courtney Love, Cyndi Lauper, and Joan Jett. American Idol Jordin “No Air” Sparks just released a cover of the lead single on her new album, and the changes, lyrically and stylistically, are intriguing.

Don’t Let It Go to Your Head – Fefe Dobson

Embedding disabled, but the video is totally insane. Fishnets and guitars and broken toilets in heroin dens.

Don’t Let It Go to Your Head – Jordin Sparks

There’s a tendency in some strains of music writing to discredit R&B performers, remove their agency or suggest that pop music can’t be a setting in which strong, empowered women can exist. Suggestions to this effect are patently false, and I don’t want to be misread as making a broader statement about Jordin Sparks or R&B per se. (I quite like both!) That said, Jordin’s version softens the song, removes the guitars, and saps much of the desire and menace from it. The bridge in the original is all about Fefe’s ambiguity towards her own desire (had a porcelain doll / held onto it too tightly / but when it broke I swore / I’d never hold onto something so tightly again). While Jordin’s maintains a sense of agency and control, it’s a much more passive stance (well you think you can touch me / well I’m gonna let you). In media coverage of her early career, Dobson was very upfront about how as a woman of colour she felt pigeonholed by a set of expectations for her music and her image, grounded in both gendered and racial stereotypes – expectations that she consciously defied. Absent context, Jordin’s song is a passable pop power ballad. However, stacked up against the original, the softened, more submissive version backed by Stargate-esque drums feels like a surrender. Especially since four years on, Fefe’s career remains stalled.

Bonus: Take Me Away, Fefe’s only Billboard Top 100 charter.


Oh, Canada!

Over at Poptimists, we’re in the midst of a massive Best of the Decade POLL-a-thon. Conspicuously absent from most nominations are a bunch of songs that were inescapable back in the early days of the decade, when I was young and impressionable and listened to the radio a great deal. On reflection and a bit of research, I realized that CanCon is to blame for this.

Essentially, legislation exists in Canada to promote Canadian culture by mandating a certain percentage of music played on the radio must be home-grown talent. Of course, at the height of mass-produced pop music (late 90s/early 00s), this often resulted in the pimping of Canadian artists groomed to reproduce current American pop trends. Massively popular in Canada, but most never broke in the States. Thus, non-Canuck music aficionados of my generation remain blissfully unaware of its existence. Some of the music is terrible, but most is as alright/bad/weird as mainstream American pop at the time. As we poll forward through the decade, I feel as though there is a vague responsibility to dredge up these songs from the waste-bin of Canadian music history, dust them off, and expose them to the light, if only for three and a half minutes.

More substantive treatment of it later, as well as some genuinely good music, but for now, one of the most egregious offenses caused by CanCon (besides Nickelback, of course). Chuckle away. Dance. And cringe.

Get Down – B4-4 (1999)

They’ll make you come tonight. (Over to their house.)