That Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau song: Six things you might be wondering about

Is Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau’s song any good? And where did that come from? What you need to know about her performance

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau sings a song at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.

Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau sings a song at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. (Rogers Ottawa)

Earlier Monday, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau broke into song at an event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with an original composition she says she wrote for her daughter. Naturally, the cynics descended, of both the partisan and nonpartisan variety, on a prominent woman daring to sing out loud, on a white woman singing a personal song about her family at an event celebrating a black civil rights icon, on the Prime Minister’s wife appearing unscripted and whimsical. But let’s try to be objective here, and figure out what just happened.

1. Wait, so she sings?

We did know that Sophie studied classical flute and guitar, and also loves to move: ballet, jazz, African dance. Everyone was surprised to hear her sing like this, however.

2. Is she good?

Clearly influenced by gospel and R&B—with the requisite “mmm-hmmms” and stuttering syllables (“no-no-no-no-no”)—Grégoire-Trudeau’s voice is surprisingly strong, and miles ahead of our expectations after hearing her earnest “Jingle Bells” duet with her husband, which they sang at the prompting of P.K. Subban for the #CanadaCarols campaign, associated with pediatric hospitals across the country, just before Christmas.

Grégoire-Trudeau, who also teaches yoga, has a bit of Sarah McLachlan in her, making melodic jumps of a fifth interval on the same syllable.

3. Why is this only the second time we’ve heard her sing?

That we can’t say. Sophie has mused about making an album one day, and she is very good friends with Chantal Kreviazuk—solo artist and songwriter for Drake, Kelly Clarkson, Josh Groban and many others—with whom Grégoire-Trudeau recently had a mom’s getaway weekend in the Caribbean.

4. How’s the song?

It’s fine, but probably not designed as an a cappella piece: there are some chord changes implied underneath the melody that might not be apparent to the untrained ear—or anyone unfamiliar with the song (i.e. everyone). There is also what appears to be a key change in the last half, coming out of the bridge—presumably intentional.

5. Has this kind of thing happened before?

If you mean the wife of a Canadian prime minister breaking into song, it’s not unheard of in the Trudeau family. Justin’s mother, Margaret, once serenaded a 1976 state dinner in Venezuela with a “song of love” inspired the charity of work of that country’s first lady.

If you’re referring to the mixing of politics and song—my, what short memory you have. It was only in 2009 that then-prime minister Stephen Harper stunned a National Arts Centre gala by singing the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” accompanied by his hobbyist backing band and international superstar cellist Yo Yo Ma. Jack Layton and Bob Rae have also been known to sing for their supporters. But to the best of our knowledge, not since Margaret Trudeau has a prime minister’s spouse been heard singing in public. (We welcome your corrections here.)

6. Oh, yes, how does it compare to Stephen Harper’s voice and/or piano playing?

At the risk of inciting partisan wrath—come on, no contest here. Harper is a flat, uninteresting singer—small wonder he chose to debut with a Ringo Starr song, setting the bar low. (As a singer, of course, Starr is a fantastic drummer.) Harper’s piano playing is also rudimentary: most of his choice of material (the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” the Proclaimers’ “I’m On My Way”) requires him to do little else but play plonky quarter notes. It’s possible Grégoire-Trudeau’s skills as a flautist are as clunky as Harper’s ivory tickling, but she is classically trained, and there’s no question she’s the superior singer. Put her in front of a band and let’s see what happens.

Michael Barclay has written about Canadian music for 25 years, is a Polaris Music Prize juror and is co-author of the book Have Not Been the Same.


That Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau song: Six things you might be wondering about

  1. Hey to borrow a phrase (coined for Rob Ford’s gaffs), this is “wind in the PMs sails”. Those that like it will be pleased by the attention. Those that don’t will get their nickers in a knot trying to complain without getting personal. A win win for Trudeau.

  2. I don’t see Madonna as having anything to worry about ..What’s next Margaret Trudeau singing ” Love is a many splendored Thing”…

    • Madonna? Are you kidding? A singer she is not. Every single song she ever recorded has her voice so processed and overdubbed as to be laughable. Ms. Trudeau, on the other hand, sang accapella, and brilliantly so. So much so that we wondered why she had not pursued a singing career. She is fantastic.

  3. Holy wow what an incredible voice…. and what a beautiful tribute.

  4. actually the incredible acapella display and range changes were that of an accomplished singer, guess you don’t really know that much about singing.

  5. Oh, the sweetness of the voice… like pure cotton candy.
    I’m putting Maclean’s on notice. If I develop a case of diabetes from the steady diet of the copious amounts of sugar and honey that you’ve been feeding me constantly for the past several months in the name of the Trudeau First Family, I plan to sue the Magazine.

  6. If anyone actually thinks this was “spontaneous”……you’re fooling yourselves.

    This was probably planned well in advance, and it was probably the idea of the Liberal backroom.

    That being said…not bad.

  7. When is the voyeuristically obsessed Macleans magazine finally going to publish an article about Sophie and Justin’s intimate sex life ( but minus photographs, please). We just can’t seem to get enough details about our perfectly angelic first family. Prince William, Kate Middleton and family also look adorable, but how can Prince William’s sparse head of hair compare with Justin’s luxuriant manly locks?

  8. The audacity of her claiming that this was entirely impromptu, and then proceeding to hum the instrumental between lyrics, before closing with an operatic double handed blown kiss to those that she’s convinced are unspeakably mesmerized….
    What an entirely unbelievable overestimation of ones potential contribution to the room.
    That will sit with me for a while. A cold dark mist of uncontainable anger.

    • Katy,

      What you have just seen is the undeniable fact that Mrs. Trudeau is just as deluded as Mr. Trudeau. They both believe their own press; regardless of reality.

      They both think the entire world loves them…or should love them. If you don’t, then it’s because there must be something wrong with you.

      As I wrote first…anyone who thinks this “song” wasn’t planned well in advance, is deluding themselves. It was all for show…..just like everything else the Canadian royal couple does.

      • At least the ”Canadian Royal couple” has consideration for image and public media. Public image and public optimism won’t do any wrong in politics, don’t you think?

      • To complete my statement, politics is the art of shoving ideas down peoples throat and it’s better when the message is passed correctly.

  9. This article is trying “to figure out what happened”? How about questioning whether dropping a song about her daughter at a Martin Luther King Day celebration at Ottawa City was appropriate for remembrance of a black civil rights leader. Nevermind that the poster marketing the event did not prominently announce the presence of any black civil rights advocates. Only pictures of Clark and Grégoire-Trudeau adorned the poster. Not a single black face adorned the poster. Not even that of Martin Luther King himself.
    Who cares if her debut sounded nice or not. There are bigger issues at play here.

    • So you believe it was inappropriate to sing a song about love because she is white at a Martin Luther King celebration? Martin Luther King was not just a black man speaking out for black people, he loved all races and wanted “Equality” for all, he did not want special privileges and I highly doubt he would have an objection to a white woman singing a lovely song at his event.

      • I agree Diane….Martin Luther King would not have disagreed about the singing of this song at his event…..however,

        If you think Ms. Trudeau sang this song for anyone but her and her hubby’s celebrity, you would be wrong.

        This was just more publicity for the “royal Canadian couple” as opposed to being sung for anyone else. As I wrote earlier, I am assuming this was planned weeks in advance, and included many many hours of practice beforehand.

        There was NOTHING authentic about it.

  10. When I heard Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau on the 6 O’clock news. I was impressed with her voice.

    On a side note: I am in favor of eliminating anonymous posts on all comments boards, even twitter. In my experience the majority of anonymous comments are filled with hatred especially CBC.ca!!! Check out Ricks Rant from the Rick Mercer Report on January 19, 2016.

  11. Justin and Sophie live “in their own private Idaho.”

  12. She’s got a pretty good voice and it was a nice gesture. I thought it would be embarrassing when I heard about it on the news, but it’s touching. Maybe she could do a duet with President Obama when the Trudeaus visit the White House: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

  13. Isn’t every school teacher’s wife required to sing? It’s a prerequisite.

  14. You just couldn’t resist it could you? It’s amazing to me how hard it is for Liberals to just stand all by themselves on their own merits, without needing to draw a comparison to Stephen Harper and cast him in a bad light. It’s like allowing the Conservatives to define who the Liberals really are. It’s not enough to talk about Sophie’s singing for what it is; no, there has to be a little barb in there towards the Conservatives so that the underlying message is: this is not about celebrating what is; this is a competition and the Liberals really need to win it, or else they’ll be insecure, etc. Well, go ahead and make the comparison, but it’s like comparing oranges and apples. Make that dried up oranges and bruised apples. Neither performance was stellar, and in fact, Sophie’s song seemed bizarrely unconnected to the theme of the gathering – what on earth did it have to do with Martin Luther King, and how does a white rich young lady know anything about the suffering arising from black slavery in America? More to the point- is there any reason to NOT think she just used this as an opportunity to showcase her singing at the expense of those who truly wanted to honour Martin Luther King? i’d really like to know because I’m really hoping there’s a good answer to that question.

Sign in to comment.