Music

21 songs turning 20 this year, from Glenn Lewis, Nelly Furtado, Nickelback, and more

'The Hamster Dance' to 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk': let's travel back to 2001

'The Hamster Dance' to 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk': let's travel back to 2001

We're revisiting some hit Canadian songs turning 20 in 2021. (From left: Kevin Winter (Getty Images); George de Sota (Hulton Archives/Getty Images))

We love a chance to look back, and what better opportunity than having just rung in a new year? 

Twenty years ago, Canada was at a curious precipice: the brief, dizzying highs of homegrown boy bands were already on the come down; hard rock and punk-pop were on the come up; R&B was holding it down with reliable, overlooked excellence; and indie rock was just starting to make some noise. 

CBC Music producers travelled back to that strange brink and remembered a lot of songs they loved, rediscovered some forgotten gems, and unearthed a few things that, let's face it, might have best been left in the past. But it wouldn't be a trip back to 2001 without at least one regret, right? 


'No Means No,' Ricky J

Even when this 20-year-old bop was released, consent wasn't a new topic, but it's still a trip to hear it addressed so explicitly in song. The narrator is ignoring his subject's "no" and his coercive tactics are relentless. As the verses progress, he shames her for her lack of sexual experience, and gets more toxic and abusive in his attempts to turn her "no" into a "yes" but she never ever wavers. Obviously it would be a much more satisfying experience to hear the song from her perspective, but as it stands, this track is fascinating in the context of 2001 and its refrain — "No Means No" — is one for the ages. — Andrea Warner


'Money (Part 1),' Jelleestone

Earning money is hard, and rapper Jelleestone details all of that on his hit single "Money (Part 1)," but most people will likely just remember the joyful chorus: "Money can't buy me happiness/ but I'm happiest when I can buy what I want, anytime that I want/ get high when I want." It's an irresistible tune that stands the test of time, even getting a shout-out from Drake on his 2018 track "Weston Road Flows." — Melody Lau 


'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk,' Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright packed a lot of poetry into this oddball folk-pop song about indulging in vices. "Everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger, a little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me," he sings in the opening verse, drawing on Tin Pan Alley, cabaret and klezmer influences — a mixture that's both satisfying and a bit twisted, like the song title itself. (Incidentally, in 2001, you could still smoke in Canadian bars and restaurants, except in Vancouver, an early adopter of anti-tobacco legislation.) — Robert Rowat


'Life,' Our Lady Peace 

We'll never be certain how many early-2000s back tattoos of Chinese characters Our Lady Peace and its "Life" video were responsible for, but we can only imagine it was many. Churning out multi-platinum albums since its inception in 1994, OLP's fourth album, Spiritual Machines, was the band's first millennium release, and one made popular by this cheesily uplifting anthem. If somehow this single made it past you in 2001, we can almost guarantee that Canrock heartthrob Raine Maida's memorable "doo, doo, doo" interlude will ring some bells.  — Jess Huddleston


'California,' Wave 

While no one's goin' to California anytime soon, we can dream of those carefree 2001 days, right? This sunny, self-pitying number introduced us to the Ontario pop-rock duo, and garnered a Juno nomination for best single in 2002. Sadly, "California" would lose that title to Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" (while also up against Amanda Marshall's "Everybody's got a Story," Our Lady Peace's "Life" and Sloan's "If it Feels Good, do It"). But the band wasn't long for this world, either: Wave would break up two years later. — Holly Gordon


'How you Remind Me,' Nickelback

The soaring, sing-along chorus hits the hard-rock sweet spot of genuine feelings cloaked in revved-engine guitar riffs and lead singer-songwriter Chad Kroeger's wounded, growling vocal. "This. Is. How. You. Remind. Me." He spits out the words with a deliberation that conveys both resentment and regret. The self-loathing that chases the narrator over the broken promises and addiction and heartbreak is palpable. It's also a really catchy song that's as sticky as it is abrasive, which is why it's a song everyone knows the words to, even if they pretend they don't. — AW 


'Days Like That,' Sugar Jones

Before American Idol became the de facto singing competition series of the 2000s, there was the worldwide phenomenon of the reality show Popstars. The franchise, which served as the inspiration for Simon Fuller's Idol series, aired in more than 50 countries and while the groups that emerged only experienced short spurts of success, many Canadian pop fans continue to have fond memories of its first season winners, Sugar Jones, and the group's R&B-inspired hit "Days Like That" (which was actually a cover of a song by U.K. girl group Fierce). — ML


'Perfect,' Maren Ord 

On the heels of the wildly successful late-'90s Lilith Fair era, which lifted up the prose and talents of artists like Sarah McLachlan and Jewel, in the millennium, record labels appeared to want exactly that — but younger, and with a little more Top 40 sparkle. Enter singer-songwriters like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton and Edmonton's very own Maren Ord, whose ballads "All I Want" and "Perfect" pulled on the nation's heartstrings, earning her a best new artist Juno nomination (a category now called breakthrough artist of the year) and a spot on the Crazy/Beautiful soundtrack. While it doesn't get more 2001 than that, one can only imagine the success Ord would have had if her popular Canadian debut had been given a splashy international release. — JH


'If it Feels Good, do It,' Sloan

The raucous energy in this Sloan single is freeing, though an early part of the Canadian version of the video doesn't age that well ("It's about freedom; the odd chick," says the third fan to give their thoughts on what rock 'n' roll is about, spliced throughout the performance). The lead single from the Halifax band's sixth studio album, Pretty Together, the anthemic "If it Feels Good, do It" nabbed a Juno nomination for best single, and won for best cinematography at the 2002 MuchMusic Video Awards. Fun fact: it also appeared on the soundtrack for the 2004 Elisha Cuthbert-starring rom-com The Girl Next Door. — HG


'I Love Myself Today,' Bif Naked

Long before "self-care" was a category in every pull-down menu, it was this declarative statement song from the one-and-only Bif Naked. That the punk-pop singer-songwriter who spent the '90s providing catharsis one song at a time — helping to normalize everything from abortion to body dysmorphia to talking about sexual assault — also gave us this enduring self-esteem anthem? Well, all we can do is say thank you and keep believing in ourselves. — AW


'In too Deep,' Sum 41

Ajax, Ont., band Sum 41 was divisive among critics — remember their pseudo rapping on "Fat Lip"? — but "In too Deep," the second single off their debut album, is an undeniable pop-punk staple. Reportedly the track was originally meant to be a reggae/pop-punk number featuring Snow (which also sounds amazing), but instead "In too Deep" became a straightforward rock anthem complete with an upbeat sing/shout-along chorus and a short but satisfying guitar solo. As Kerrang once described it, the song is a "pop-punk SAD lamp." — ML


'Wasting my Time,' Default

One simply cannot reflect on the year 2001 without remembering the great power rock ballad that was "Wasting my Time" — a song unsurprisingly produced by Chad Kroeger, that would usher in a new, post-'90s alt-rock era of groups who would fleetingly rule the MuchMusic countdown. A bonus fun fact for all Canadian country fans out there: fronting Default was where chart-topper Dallas Smith got his start, belting out this angsty chorus to the collective swoon of teenage girls everywhere. — JH


'Ol' Time Killin',' Kardinal Offishall

Kardinal Offishall was one of the leaders of Canadian hip hop in the early 2000s thanks to hits like "BaKardi Slang" and its 2001 followup, "Ol' Time Killin'." The latter, a bouncing reggae-sampling track featuring Jully Black, Wio-K, Korry Deez, Black Cat and Allistair, helped Offishall land on the radars of Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Pharrell. (Offishall later lent a verse to the remix of the Clipse hit, "Grindin'.") Busta Rhymes even makes an appearance on a remix of the hit song. — ML


'Astounded,' Bran Van 3000 

A previously unused Curtis Mayfield vocal; a sample from the Doobie Brothers' "Rockin' Down the Highway;" a video cameo by Benicio del Toro. Montreal's Bran Van 3000 used all the ingredients for a powerhouse single in "Astounded," which was released on the band's aptly titled sophomore album, Discosis — and 20 years later, in a time when disco is making a healthy comeback, it stands up. — HG


'Don't you Forget It,' Glenn Lewis 

The production is pretty clearly dated to 2001, but Glenn Lewis's beautiful voice on this smooth, soulful number gives "Don't you Forget It" a timeless quality. There's a warmth to his tone — be it his freestyling vocals or his phrasing on line after line of uplifting, encouraging lyrics — that's effortlessly mesmerizing. Try to listen to it only once. It's impossible. — AW


'Turn off the Light,' Nelly Furtado 

Nelly Furtado's Grammy-nominated debut album, 2000's Whoa Nelly!, served up a lot of gold, but second single "Turn off the Light" made sure no one would forget the genre-hopping hitmaker when it was officially released on the radio a year later. Following up "I'm Like a Bird," "Turn off the Light" cemented Furtado's status as an early aughts' pop hook queen — before she'd go on to show off her folk roots (2003's Folklore), her hip-hop prowess (2006's Loose) and her collaborative shine (2007's "Give it to Me" with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, with whom she'd first worked with on Loose). Nelly Furtado was unstoppable in the aughts. — HG


'Never Mind,' Jann Arden

2001's Greatest Hurts: The Best of Jann Arden was a gift in many ways — the obvious being that it compiled all of Arden's romantic gems in one place (a true luxury, pre-streaming service), but also that it gave us two new singles, including this underrated beauty. If you didn't pick up this compilation at the time, you might have first discovered "Never Mind" nestled within the Women & Songs 6 instalment, where it glimmered as a timeless empowerment anthem. — JH


'Fuel Injected,' Swollen Members

B.C. rap duo Swollen Members was floating somewhat under the radar until this second single off its sophomore album skyrocketed them into the limelight and onto the charts. Members Madchild and Prevail, and frequent collaborator Moka Only, tapped into the bubbling 2000s party rap trend via equal parts catchy and sinister, Nate Dogg-meets-D12 bangers. While the group would go on to nab multiple Junos and MuchMusic Video Awards, and link with then-rising star Nelly Furtado on hits like "Breathe," by the mid-aughts — with the departure of Moka Only from the picture — Swollen Members had a hard time recapturing that formula from their earlier success. — JH


'Everybody's got a Story,' Amanda Marshall

"Everybody's got a story that'll break your heart." If it wasn't Amanda Marshall's universal lyric that lodged this song in your memory banks, those la-la-la-las probably did the trick. (Or maybe it was the satisfaction of incredulously singing along to "Who drinks a cherry coke??") Either way, you'll likely find that you remember even the bridge to this title track off her third, and platinum, album. — HG


'Alone in the Universe,' David Usher

His second solo venture outside of fronting the band Moist, Usher's 2001 album Morning Orbit featured a few distinctly 2001 things: a cameo from rapper Snow; a cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car;" placement on a Big Shiny Tunes compilation; and co-production from the Tea Party's Jeff Martin. But it was this lead single, U2-reminiscent in its melodic guitar line, that indicated it wouldn't be a solo effort that would fall short of expectations — in fact, it would go on to win best pop album at the 2002 Junos.  — JH


'The Hamster Dance,' Hampton the Hamster

Canadians did this to themselves as this CBC Arts oral history explains. The song was actually released in 2000, but it charted in Canada in 2001 and was, officially and undeniably and inexplicably, a hit. — AW


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