There will always be a special subset of songs you won’t remember until you hear them, only to realize “wait! I know every word to this song!” and only to think “I really wish I didn’t!”
This is a list of those songs. They are a reflection of a different era spanning the years pre-Y2K to the mid-noughties. They are in many respects answers to American trends; weird Canadian commentaries of a time when our industry was booming at its commercial peak as a borrower of culture. They run the gamut stylistically, from nu-metal to skater-pop to sex-soaked R&Ballads. But most of all, they’re going to be stuck in your head for a really, really long time.
Wave – California
Two dudes hanging out on an empty stretch of freeway crooning (to each other?) about sipping whiskey and going to California. And that’s about it, really.
BTK – Peppyrock
Not at all named after the serial killer, this Canadian quintet stormed the charts with this song, which sounded like the most marketable parts of Smash Mouth and Korn. The video is still great, though.
Joée – Ariba
Canada’s answer to the question nobody asked: what if we had our own Ricky Martin? Funny story, though — this song’s hype man (and original dread-dread) worked full time at CAA with my grandmother. Cancon, everybody!
Snow – Plum Song
Everyone remembers “Informer,” but what about Snow’s huge comeback single? With its initial boom-bap and reggae gibberish fans expected a return to form from everyone’s favourite pandering MC. Instead, we got an era of weird, sappy adult contemporary by some dude who wears turtlenecks. What the hell, right?
Kazzer – Pedal to the Metal
Basically a b-boy’s answer to Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff,” Kazzer’s “Pedal to the Metal” features an adrenaline filled video filled with bucket-hats, backflips, breakdance fights and this little move:
Skye Sweetnam – Billy S.
Skye Sweetnam is all grown up and into pleather and goth-rock now, but back in 2003 she was just the sassy and sweet teenager aping Avril Lavigne and totally, like, hating having to study Shakespeare. Side note: this song’s B-Side was a Cat Stevens cover.
The Hamster Dance
A meme before we knew what one was, the Hamster Dance was originally just an irritating website with a cutesy soundbite and rotating little cartoon character when somebody decided to add a techno back beat and submit it to radio stations across the country. Even Crazy Frog was likely irritated by this one.
LiveOnRelease – I’m Afraid of Britney Spears
Falling somewhere between Avril, The Donnas, and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer background band at the Bronze, Vancouver’s LiveOnRelease saw huge success when this zippy song found its way onto the Dude, Where’s My Car soundtrack. Ironically, the song seemed to be criticizing kids for following trends when, well… you figure out where we’re going with this.
Sky – Love Song
This isn’t Savage Garden.
D-Cru Feat Craig Smart – I Will Be Waiting
What a silly video this was, right? Kind of like Boyz II Men meet Lit, this video featured Craig Smart’s face projected on a white woman’s stomach. Also: why is she wearing a cowboy hat?
One Ton – Supersexworld
Has anything so French Canadian ever been produced? Also, when I searched this video the top result was from a user named MariahCareySucks. So there’s that.
Bif Naked – Spaceman (Boomtang Boys Remix)
The Boomtang Boys were turning out remixes like this long before the Venga bus ever showed up. Could this have been Bif Naked’s biggest hit? No, probably not. But it actually kind of worked. (If not this song then “Popcorn,” which when paired with the right Nokia 5190 faceplate was the perfect cool guy ringtone to be the hit of the lunch room).
2 Rude feat. Latoya & Miranda – Thinkin’ About You
If it would have been released a few years earlier, this could have been Canada’s answer to “No Diggity.”
Lillix – It’s About Time
People in the mid-noughties sure loved striped shirts and leaning on cars. Also: wallet chains, dress shirts under sweaters, and sugary hooks that have, like, guitars and stuff. Basically, this is the exact same song as Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” BUT BONUS FACT: that is Canadian indie-darling Louise Burns rocking the bass.
Remy Shand – Take A Message
Lots of songs on this list are guilty of being Canadian answers to American trends, but Remy Shand? We’re not quite sure. But in spite of his doofy sunglasses, paper boy hats and crotch-curling falsetto, “Take A Message” has pretty much held its own in the niche world of elevator soul.
Serial Joe – Mistake
Serial Joe wasn’t a dude but instead the Ryan Dennis fronted teen-rock band that peddled angst the authentic way to tens of hundreds of Canadian kids across the country. And by authentic, we mean Dennis’ mom co-wrote the lyrics.