Here are the biggest Canadian music stories that shaped 2018

The good, the bad and the ugly: here are all the biggest stories of 2018.
From Drake's hit album to Alessia Cara's history-making Grammy win, these were the biggest Canadian music stories of 2018. (Natasha Ramoutar)

Welcome to the end of another long, exhausting — but hopefully not entirely demolished — year.

The past 12 months have had their fill of big moments, from the usual award show standouts to breakout news stories. To cap off 2018, let's take a look back at the biggest Canadian music stories of the year.

Jan. 28: Alessia Cara wins best new artist Grammy, faces online backlash

This year, Brampton's Alessia Cara became the first Canadian-born artist to ever win the best new artist Grammy. While this was an incredible feat worthy of praise, many on the internet were outraged that she beat out fellow nominees Julia Michaels, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert and, possibly most of all, R&B artist SZA. Cara, who wasn't immune to seeing these online messages, responded the following day with an Instagram post defending her own win.

"I am not going to be upset about something I've wanted since I was a kid, not to mention have worked really hard for," she wrote. "I will not let everything I've worked for be diminished by people taking offence to my accomplishments and feeling the need to tell me how much I suck."

These feelings of being bullied by people online seemed to stick with the pop star throughout 2018. In November, when Cara was getting ready to drop her sophomore album, The Pains of Growing, she announced that she was going to step away from social media because of the overwhelming negativity she experiences there.

"I don't think people really realize the gravity of words because of the separation of the screen, and when you're looking at someone who's on TV or on the radio, you think it's OK to say these things," she said in an Instagram live video. The social media break didn't last long, though, as she returned the following day, admitting that she didn't want to disappear in a time when she has to promote her new record. It is great to see Cara, and other young stars, open up about the effects of social media vitriol though, because it ties to wider conversations about artists and mental health — and it's a conversation we'd like to see continue in 2019.

Feb. 13: Hedley's Jacob Hoggard is accused of sexual misconduct

Canadian pop-rock group Hedley made headlines early this year when frontman Jacob Hoggard was accused of sexual misconduct with fans, specifically preying on young girls. What started off as anonymous accounts of "creepy" Hedley stories quickly produced the hashtag #outHedley2k18, urging people to boycott the band's music. The Juno Awards responded by cancelling the band's scheduled performance and removing Hedley's 2018 nominations. Then, the band was dropped by its management. In the midst of this, Hedley released a statement applauding the #MeToo movement but also defended Hoggard, adding that any bad, but not criminal, behaviour they've displayed in the past was credited to "rock and roll clichés."

On Feb. 25, CBC published an interview with a woman who came forward with her own story about Hoggard. In the story, she details her short but traumatic relationship with the singer, which ended in an incident in a Toronto hotel room where she says Hoggard raped her. Other stories continued to emerge and, three days later, Hedley announced an indefinite hiatus. In a personal statement posted on Twitter, Hoggard wrote that he would complete his band's tour and then "seek guidance from family and continue to grow and learn from the amazing women in my life."

On July 23, Hoggard was arrested and charged with sexual interference and two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm. Although Hoggard was scheduled to appear in court later that month, his case continues to be delayed because Hoggard has yet to show up. His next court date is set for Dec. 19.

Feb. 15: Metropolitan Opera moves up Yannick Nézet-Séguin's start date

In 2016, New York's Metropolitan Opera announced that Montreal conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin would be taking on the role of music director in its 2020–2021 season. But due to recent controversy surrounding the suspension of director James Levine over sexual abuse allegations, the Met made a surprise announcement regarding Nézet-Séguin's start date: he would begin his tenure two years early, starting with the 2018–2019 season, becoming just the third music director in the Met's history.

Nézet-Séguin's first season as music director includes conducting three operas and two Met Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall in each of those seasons. In an interview with CBC's The National in December, days before marking his debut as music director, Nézet-Séguin said, "I'm living my dream."

March 25: Original members of Barenaked Ladies reunite at the Juno Awards

One of the most anticipated performances at this year's Juno Awards was Barenaked Ladies with a one-time special appearance from original band member Steven Page. The band was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame and celebrated by performing two of their biggest hits: "One Week" and "If I Had $1,000,000". It was a joyous moment and definitely a highlight of the evening, especially when guests like Northern Touch All-Stars (who also reunited at this year's Junos), the Jerry Cans, Jim Cuddy and more joined the band onstage at the end to lead a big sing-along of "If I Had $1,000,000".

Stay tuned to CBC Music to find out who will perform at next year's Juno Awards.

Barenaked Ladies perform "One Week" and "If I had $1000000" in a special reunion performance at the 2018 Juno Awards. 7:53

May 5: Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill musical opens

A Jagged Little Pill-inspired musical has been in the works since 2013, but it finally opened to audiences this year at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The musical, which features music and lyrics by Morissette and Glen Ballard, with an accompanying book written by Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody, transforms one of the most successful Canadian records of the '90s into a family drama that touches on issues of gender identity and addiction. The New York Times said it was "very much of the present, and may just be the most woke musical since Hair." With lots of praise behind it, hopefully this production can expand into other cities in 2019.

May 7: Grimes and Elon Musk make their debut at the Met Gala

This year featured some pretty unexpected couples: Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande, Chris Martin and Dakota Johnson, FKA Twigs and Shia LaBeouf. One of the strangest duos is definitely the pairing of Canadian electro-pop star Grimes and multi-billionaire Elon Musk. The two made their relationship public at the 2018 Met Gala when Grimes showed up in a dress designed by Musk, complete with a Tesla choker necklace. This relationship has been interesting, to say the least, as fans watched Grimes defend Musk over his company's firing of employees who were trying to unionize, as well as his monetary ties to the Republican party. There was also a very confusing feud with rapper Azealia Banks who claimed that she was stuck in Musk's house for days waiting to work with Grimes.

All of that thankfully culminated in new music from Grimes in November, though: the artificial intelligence anthem "We Appreciate Power". Funny enough: an AI joke is what Grimes and Musk first bonded over.

May 25: Rapper Pusha T's album release reignites feud with Drake

Hip-hop fans may know that Bronx rapper Pusha T and Toronto's very own Drake haven't gotten along in years. It's a feud that's been ongoing since Pusha's group Clipse first dissed Drake's mentor Lil Wayne for stealing their style back in 2006. So when Pusha returned with Daytona, his first album in three years, it wasn't entirely surprising to see a lyric aimed at Drake. On the album's final track, "Infrared", Pusha references Drake and his rumoured ghostwriter, Quentin Miller: "It was written like Nas but it came from Quentin."

Drake, who is no stranger to rap beefs, quickly responded (on the day of Daytona's release!) with a diss track of his own called "Duppy Freestyle", where he goes after Pusha's friends and collaborators, but also his longtime girlfriend, even naming her on the track. This prompted Pusha to respond with "The Story of Adidon", what many consider to be the biggest blow to Drake's otherwise successful year. In "The Story of Adidon", Pusha reveals that Drake is "hiding a child" and calls him a "deadbeat" dad for not telling everyone about his son. He also takes a shot at Drake's producer Noah "40" Shebib, who has multiple sclerosis. Drake later opened up about his son on his own album, Scorpion, but by then it was too late — Pusha jumped ahead of this story and many deemed him victorious.

Drake never responded to the track, but has since talked a bit about Pusha in an interview with LeBron James. And in the fall, Pusha's sold-out Toronto show erupted in violence, with some blaming Drake, or Drake's fans, for causing the show to be cut short. Is this the end of the Pusha T/Drake saga? Only time will tell.

June 29: Drake drops Scorpion, breaks all of the records

Drake followed up his feud with Pusha T by releasing his fifth studio album, Scorpion. While many agreed that the Toronto star suffered a blow from "The Story of Adidon", that didn't stop Scorpion from smashing many records, including Spotify and Apple Music's one-day global streaming records. Even though the album received mixed reviews, fans listened to the album so much that it soon broke even more records as the months went by, surpassing Michael Jackson as the male artist with the most Hot 100 top 10s, and beating out the Beatles for two longstanding Billboard records: most songs in the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 chart and most top 10 singles in one year. Whether you loved or hated the album, we can't deny that Drake has become one of the world's biggest artists — and Scorpion sealed the deal for the rapper this year.

Sept. 17: Jeremy Dutcher wins the 2018 Polaris Music Prize

This year's Polaris Music Prize short list brought in a lot of newcomers, from francophone noisemaker Hubert Lenoir to stoner rock duo Partner. But it was ultimately the classically trained Jeremy Dutcher who took home the night's big award with his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. Dutcher's debut album uses 100-year-old wax cylinder recordings of traditional Wolastoq songs, a language that is now fluently spoken by fewer than 100 people.

In his acceptance speech, Dutcher highlighted the rise of Indigenous artists in the Canadian music landscape, including fellow Polaris nominees Snotty Nose Rez Kids. "I do this work to honour those who have gone before and I lay the footprints for those yet to come," Dutcher told the audience. "Canada, you are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance. Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?" In 2018, Canada continued to make big steps towards embracing and highlighting Indigenous art, and Dutcher was one of the year's brightest stars.

Jeremy Dutcher's 'Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa', is awarded the 2018 Polaris Music Prize. 8:53

Sept. 24: Céline Dion announces the end of her Vegas residency

After an eight-year run at the Colosseum, Canadian legend Céline Dion announced this year that she is finally ending her residency in Las Vegas. The final leg of her shows will kick off next year and end in June 2019. Prior to this, Dion had another residency in Vegas from 2003 to 2007. Altogether, Dion has played more than 1,000 shows but, with a new album potentially in the works, it looks like Dion is set on retiring from the stage and returning to the studio. So buy your tickets and book your trips to Vegas now before it's too late!

Oct. 11: Leonard Cohen poem goes after Kanye West

Leonard Cohen's posthumous book, The Flame: Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings, was released this year and one particular poem of his caught the internet's attention. Titled Kanye West is not Picasso, this poem, which Cohen penned in 2015, takes aim at the popular rappers Kanye West and Jay Z. "Kanye West is not Picasso; I am Picasso. Kanye West is not Edison; I am Edison," Cohen wrote. This definitely wins for the strangest diss of the year. Bonus: hearing actor Michael Shannon read Kanye West is Not Picasso is incredibly satisfying.

Nov. 24: Justin Bieber confirms marriage to Hailey Baldwin

After a years-long on-again, off-again relationship with Selena Gomez, pop star Justin Bieber reunited with ex-girlfriend Hailey Baldwin this past June and, soon after, announced their engagement in July. Since then, tabloids were on constant wedding watch. Some suspected the two married back in September, but in a belated Thanksgiving post on his Instagram on Nov. 24, Bieber confirmed that he and Baldwin did quietly get married, though he didn't reveal the exact date of the private ceremony. "First thanksgiving as a married man," he wrote.

Dec. 3: Holiday classic 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' sparks debate, gets pulled from radio stations

People have long debated the appropriateness of the holiday song "Baby, It's Cold Outside", but this year, a Cleveland radio station decided to pull the song from the airwaves because it was "no longer appropriate," especially in the era of #MeToo. (Many argue the song's lyrics imply that the male singer is pressuring the female singer into staying overnight at the man's house, even though she says she needs to go.) This motivated other stations to follow suit, including Canadian broadcasters Bell Media, Rogers and CBC. A week later, CBC reinstated the song. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.