It was a banner year for Canadian musicians on the charts: at one point in October, Canadians owned the top four spots on the chart, the first time in history that has happened. By all accounts, it looks like pop music is developing a Northern touch.
The ringleader? Drake. While postponing his much-teased new album, Drake dropped the “mixtape” If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and the EP What a Time to Be Alive—and found massive chart success with them too, with nearly every song on If You’re Reading charting, allowing Drake to break the Beatles’ record of 14 simultaneous songs on the Billboard Hot 100. He notched his 100th Billboard Hot 100 hit this year, achieving what only three other artists have done. And he topped off a resounding victory in a spat over ghostwriting allegations by dad-dancing all over Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill’s combusted career in Hotline Bling’s eminently GIF-able video.
Then there’s The Weeknd, whose brooding style of druggy R&B became the genre’s most popular sound. On Beauty Behind the Madness, he worked with pop’s top producers, but did that rarest of things: he moulded their sound into his own complex image. His huge smash, Can’t Feel My Face, is not-so-subtly a song about cocaine.
Justin Bieber, meanwhile, returned with a new album, Purpose, armed with an overt redemption narrative to atone for his boorish sins, and a new snaky, electronic sound. One of his trio of singles, What Do You Mean, was his first-ever Billboard-topping hit.
Toronto’s Shawn Mendes continued his teen idol warpath, with the hit Stitches going platinum; Alessia Cara stormed the scene with her introvert’s anthem Here, an achievement she could only legally toast in Canada a few months ago. Carly Rae Jepsen released E-MO-TION, a favourite of critics if not sales; 2015’s top-selling Canadian releases were albums by the Weeknd and Quebec-only stars Jean Leloup and Yoan.
How long will this last? Other countries have had their time in the sun; after all, remember that Swedish group Ace of Base was once the world’s most popular band. But with a half-dozen stars squarely in the limelight, at least we can hedge our bets.