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Thursday, September 10, 9:00am - 10:00am (Roundtable)

“I’m an Adult Now”: Growing up with CanCon in Canada–A Focused Roundtable 



Roundtable Description

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000) once said that “being neighbours with the US is like being in bed with an elephant.” Canadians are constantly bombarded with American culture but the reverse is not true. Unless you came of age in Canada, you probably didn’t grow up watching Sook-Yin Lee on MuchMusic, revering The Hip, or singing along to “Let Your Backbone Slide.” This roundtable looks at the specifically Canadian musical engagements of young people, for young people, and by young people. Just as Stan Klees’s MAPL system seeks to hold space on the airwaves for a certain percentage (40% since 1999!) of Canadian content against the elephant of US cultural imperialism, so too will this panel inject a bit of CanCon into PopCon. Each participant will speak briefly about a specific aspect of youth music from the Great White North.

We kick the conversation off in the 1960s and 1970s. Carl Wilson tells the tall tale of how Canadian hippies became key catalysts for the modern children’s music industry. He demonstrates that, unlike the global marketing juggernaut it is now, kids’ music was an uncool niche that America largely neglected, allowing Canada—or, as Homer Simpson put it, “America Junior”—to punch above its weight. Continuing with the theme of cultural imperialism, Emily Gale looks at the widely celebrated Innocence and Despair, 2001 re-release of pop songs recorded in 1976 in a British Columbia gymnasium by Hans Fenger and the kids of The Langley Schools Music Project. She focuses on critical questions about neo-colonialist music pedagogy and the myth of multiculturalism.

Turning to the 1980s, Steacy Easton focuses on the youth New Wave scene in Toronto—bands like Platinum Blonde, Martha and the Muffins, and Parachute Club—paying particular attention to the queer slippages and cultural signs in Carole Pope’s 1980 track “High School Confidential.” Toronto also provides the backdrop for Del Cowie’s consideration of the second generation hip-hop movement in the mid 1990s. He shows how Fresh Arts gave Toronto hip-hop a Northern touch; the unlikely convergence of arts funding, provincial politics, and local reverberations of the 1992 Los Angeles rebellion lead to an abundance of creativity of the city’s marginalized youth.

A banger of a hit brings us to our current decade. Andrea Warner situates Carly Rae Jepsen within the teen pop scene of 2012, arguing that Jepsen was the teen pop star that never was and that “Call Me Maybe” served as a sonic equivalent of the fountain of youth. Erin MacLeod rounds things out in her discussion of how artists like Alaclair Ensemble and Small Talk reference multiple languages, ethnicities, and cultures to provide insight into the intimate spaces of Montréal: recognizing, speaking, and responding to Quebecois culture through musical expression opens up opportunities for connections as well as narratives of what it means to grow up and be a Quebecker.

In addition, our 90-minute roundtable addresses themes of legitimacy and insecurity, youth empowerment, especially in First Nations, the eternal adolescence of fame in Canada, and maybe even hockey.