Canada Listens 2021: Day 2 highlights
5 celebrity panelists debate the question: what one album does Canada need to hear?
Welcome to Day 2 of Canada Listens, CBC Music's great music debate hosted by Saroja Coelho.
Our panel of celebrity Canadians spent yesterday arguing over the cohesiveness of each album, and then eliminated the first of 5 albums in their quest to find the one album that Canada needs to hear.
A second album was eliminated today.
This time, the debate was focused on how each album sounds upon first listen, with host Coelho asking the panellists: Does your album leave a powerful impression?
After hitting play on "Emcee Murdah," the first cut from Joyful Rebellion by k-os, album defender Andrew Phung opened the debate by saying, "It's an album that is void of ego and endlessly relatable. No need to travel back in time, because this album has stayed relevant the entire time."
Panellist Kathleen Newman-Bremang then weighed in, noting the album's easy acceptance by the Canadian music industry and audience. "Overall, this album does mean a lot to me. My biggest knock against it is the industry's reaction to it, and how acceptable it was deemed by a lot of Canadian hip-hop reviewers and the Canadian music industry. It won Junos, it was shortlisted for a Polaris Prize. It was exalted by the same industry that ignored and disrespected Kardinal Offishall because his album doesn't have guitars on it. This is an alternative record, and it's in closer proximity to the genres that the Canadian music elite see as white and respectable."
Each song shows the genius storytelling and continued political power of The Con by not only abashedly exploring the ins and outs of queer love and life but universalizing them.- Alicia Elliott defending Tegan and Sara's The Con
The conversation then moved on to "I Was Married," the opening track from Tegan and Sara's The Con, with album defender Alicia Elliott describing it as "a beautiful yet defiant start to a sneakily revolutionary album. Each song shows the genius storytelling and continued political power of The Con by not only abashedly exploring the ins and outs of queer love and life but universalizing them."
Panellist Miguel Rivas disputed the album's timelessness, saying, "I feel like the production is so 2007. I think a lot of the instruments sound similar to one another which can be sort of impenetrable. The messaging and the politics and the emotional experience behind the album are its strongest sells, for sure. You can really connect with it but I feel like it demands study to get to that point a little bit [because] some of it is obscured by the poetry."
Attention then turned to Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 by Kardinal Offishall, and its opening song "BaKardi Slang." Album defender Newman-Bremang opened her argument by calling it "an eternal bop."
"This song harkens back to a Negro spiritual. It is our oral record of the fact that Toronto slang is deeply connected to Blackness," she said.
Panellist Carolyn Taylor acknowledged the album's significance. "The messages embedded in this album are ones that need to be heard across the country," she said, but also mused whether it had left a deeper impression on the panellists who grew up with it, calling it "Toronto-centric," and adding, "I think there is a lot of nostalgia happening here."
The debate then turned to "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot," the first song from Illuminations by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Album defender Taylor kicked off her defence of the album by saying it was "taking new strides in electronic music along with folk and marrying them together and still keeping this cohesive, organic, tripped-out sound that continues to build throughout the album."
Newman-Bremang said that she had nothing negative to say about the pick, but added, "If I had to dig deep and say anything about the electronics or the music it's that sometimes being the first doesn't mean you are the best."
After this lively debate, Day 2 concluded with the panellists voting off another album, leaving three albums in the running.
Remember, the panellist whose album is voted out stays at the table and is a free agent for the rest of the week, taking part in the conversation and the voting each day.
Tune in tomorrow to hear Day 3 of the debates on CBC Music at 8 a.m., with a 5 p.m. repeat airing.
The Canada Listens 2021 champions and their chosen albums are:
- Actor, improviser and comedian Andrew Phung of Kim's Convenience champions Joyful Rebellion by k-os.
- Award-winning writer and author Alicia Elliott champions The Con by Tegan and Sara
- Writer, podcaster and Refinery29 senior editor Kathleen Newman-Bremang champions Quest For Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 by Kardinal Offishall.
- Comedian, actor and The Beaverton co-anchor Miguel Rivas champions Freudian by Daniel Caesar.
- Actor and comedian Carolyn Taylor of Baroness Von Sketch champions Illuminations by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Here's how you can tune in to Canada Listens 2021:
Online: If you missed today's debate, you can stream it on demand at CBC Listen.