Canada Listens 2021: Day 3 highlights
5 celebrity panelists debate the question: what one album does Canada need to hear?
Welcome to Day 3 of Canada Listens, CBC Music's great music debate hosted by Saroja Coelho.
We started on Day 1 with five sensational Canadian records defended by five prominent Canadians. Today, we resume the debate with two albums eliminated and three still in the running.
Which album will be the next to go?
The debate on Day 3 focused on lyrics, and which songwriter's words have had the biggest and most lasting impact.
Alicia Elliott, defending The Con by Tegan and Sara, opened the conversation by talking about the song "Nineteen," and how the power in the Quin twins' lyrics comes from their ability to so succinctly encapsulate the emotions of a relationship.
"What I think is so incredible about Tegan and Sara's songs lyrically is that they take us on an emotional journey back to those feelings of nostalgia, wonder, almost crazy-making attraction," Elliott said. "But then, as the Quin twins do so well, they use one line to turn the song.... That sharp juxtaposition of giddy, wondrous feelings of first meeting someone you instantly like, to the pared-down regret of breaking up, is storytelling," she said.
There were few critical thoughts on these lyrics, with panellist Kathleen Newman-Bremang admitting, "Even though we're in a competition, I have nothing bad to say about those lyrics. They're beautiful, they hit, they take you back to that teen angst and love."
The focus then shifted to Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 by Kardinal Offishall and the lyrics from the song "Man by Choice."
Overall this song is about what it's like to walk through life as a Black man, and no matter what you do you have no choice over the fact that non-Black people in white institutions will dehumanize you.- Kathleen Newman-Bremang on Kardinal Offishall's "Man by Choice"
"I feel every bar in my bones," said album defender Newman-Bremang. "Overall this song is about what it's like to walk through life as a Black man, and no matter what you do you have no choice over the fact that non-Black people in white institutions will dehumanize you. The N-word has been used to strip Black people of their humanity so when he says, 'I'm a man by choice,' he is saying he has no control over those dehumanizing perceptions."
Free agent Andrew Phung weighed in, musing on the difference between hearing the album first as a youth and now as an adult. "Hearing this album when I was 16, I was probably too ignorant and lacked the understanding to know how powerful and honest these words and lyrics were," he said. "It hits you in a completely different way all these years later and it's so relevant to what's happening in the world. I think now listening back to this album ... I take away two things: influence and truth. Kathleen has talked about the influence of this album on Toronto hip hop, and hip hop as a whole in this country, but then the truth of what this man is talking about is undeniable."
Finally, the conversation turned to "God is Alive, Magic is Afoot," the first track from Illuminations by Buffy Sainte-Marie, which takes its lyrics from a passage in Beautiful Losers, a Leonard Cohen novel.
Referring to the lyric "Many men drove magic/ but magic stayed behind," album defender Carolyn Taylor interpreted the words to mean, "You can try and capture magic, but it is not capturable."
"I love Buffy choosing this," Taylor said. "[Being] a great artist doesn't mean you have to write all your lyrics and create every element of your album."
Referring to Beautiful Losers, Elliott said, "It's actually a very problematic novel in that it's all about the sexualizing of Indigenous women."
"The fact that Buffy Sainte-Marie is taking the lyrics from that book and turning it as an Indigenous woman I think is an important context that we should maybe take into consideration here, because she is very purposeful in what she's doing," she added.
"But I do agree that these lyrics are very powerful and in fact I think more powerful considering where she pulled them and what she was doing politically with them."
Thus concluded Day 3 on what was our most thought-provoking day of debate yet.
After hearing the remaining three panellists give their last-ditch pitches, one more album was eliminated. And remember, the panellists whose albums are voted out stay at the table and are free agents for the rest of the week, taking part in the conversation and the voting each day.
Tune in tomorrow to hear the final day 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.