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Québec’s “surprise” album (and singer) of the summer (#335)
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Country music = Québec.
In that post, I explained how Québec’s music roots have always been connected to a genre of French-language country music.
A couple of people I know (who are from Montréal) said I was nuts when I wrote that post. They told me nobody listens to (French) country music (or any country music). My response: “Perhaps you’re right if you live downtown Montréal, and if you base your entire life around downtown Montréal”.
I told them to just wait for a few months, perhaps a year or so. I told them with the uptick in French-language country singers and it’s resonance / ties with traditional French Canadian music, that I would bet my bottom dollar that we’d see a virtually unknown French-language country artist come to the fore and top the album charts in Québec.
They thought I was crazy…
Well… the writing was on the wall — and guess what! It just happened!
The reality (in Québec an elsewhere) is that
- many people in Québec listen to French-language country music, and
- there can often be a HUGE disconnect between our largest cities and all the rest. You get the sense that this disconnect becomes as wide as the Pacific when it comes to lifestyles and concerns lived by people who reside in the downtown cores of our larger cities, and all the rest (even the suburbs for that matter).
As usual, the rest of Québec, and the rest of Canada do not all live in downtown Montréal, Toronto, or Vancouver (on that note, one federal party leader in particular better learn this little factoid very fast, or his party will be heading straight down the tubes in October – ok, ok… no more political commentaries, I’ll behave now).
This post will make my point, and will emphasize just how wide that gulf can be (between the city – particularly the city cores — and all the rest).
Guylaine Tanguay is a French-language country singer, from the Saguenay region in Québec – particularly from Dolbeau (I actually wrote a post on her hometown last winter, which you can read by clicking HERE… (Boy… even I am surprised that I wrote a post on Dolbeau! I guess I have covered some territory with his blog after all).
Her new album, Inspiration, was one of the best-selling albums in Québec of the entire summer!
Yet, ask someone in Montréal (particularly downtown Montréal), or downtown Québec City, or downtown Ottawa (which I consider within the “Québec urban sphere of influence”) who she is, and you’ll just get blank stares.
But go elsewhere, such as the smaller cities around the province, and you’ll find a good deal of people who know who she is (you don’t even have to go very far… sometimes just as far as the suburbs such as St-Eustache, Gatineau, or Beauport).
Her fifth country music album, Inspiration Country, came out on June 16th,
All Tanguay has done was a little advertising on television, given a few concerts, and the crowds AND SALES came’a flock’in!
Here is the TV advertisement for her latest album:
Province-wide, her album has even bumped out the “Clique’s Montréal’s downtown darlings”, such as Jean Leloup and Yoan, from the top spots.
This little whirlwind named Guylaine Tanguay has the (sometimes quite stuffy) “downtown Montréal cultural class” (informally known as the “Clique du Plateau”) scratching their heads in disbelief (and me shaking my head at their disconnect from the rest of the province). I actually wrote a post on the Clique du Plateau way back when (click the link).
Whether or not you think a true media Clique exists (ie: media which all beats the same drum in central Montréal), is a question of debate, impressions, and person viewpoints. Regardless of my own viewpoints, it’s not for me to categorically say if it does or doesn’t exist (there are people with opinions all over the place, and grey comes in all shades).
However, if the Clique were to describe a general “downtown attitude” in any big city, then you could perhaps say it’s a snobby attitude, in the sense that if related media feels “their own” media circles were not the ones to launch or promote someone’s career, or if “they” were not the ones to invite an artist to their TV or downtown radio programs, then it the music must be crap (sigh x 10).
Guylaine Tanguay is one person who could be said to have proved them wrong – and in no small way.
You can check out her website at http://www.guylainetanguay.ca/
Here is an article by a “shocked” and baffled Radio-Canada (hahaha!! Love it!!!) — Click HERE.
Here is an article by the Courier de Laval (from the suburbs of Montréal, so it comes with less shock and horror than articles written from downtown Montréal – hahaha!!!). Click HERE.
You can purchase her hit album online at Archambeault at the following link: http://boutique.archambault.ca/divertissement/Guylaine-Tanguay
If you wish to purchase single songs off her album (on platforms such as iTunes), they are
- Jusqu’au bout du monde
- Crazy Arms / Dans tes brasIsland In the Stream (avec Mario Pelchat)
- Thank God I’m a Country Girl
- Je voudrais être Madelinot
- Que la lune est belle ce soir (avec Julie Daraîche)
- Me and Bobby McGee
- La fête en AcadieCrazy
- Je voudrais voir la mer (avec Michel Rivard)
- Embarque ma belle (avec Christian-Marc Gendron)
- You Are My Sunshine (avec Camille Tanguay)
P.S. Although my roots are from rural areas (I’m just as comfortable in a pair of shit-kickers as I am sneakers), I have nonetheless lived in some of the largest cities around the world and Canada. I certainly like many aspects of the larger city “downtown” lifestyles (otherwise I wouldn’t live on a subway line with a direct connection downtown). But as you can see from the above post, sometimes the snobby “downtown attitude” irks me. I have spent a LOT of time in and around Montréal’s downtown. It’s where many friends live. But like any city, Montréal’s downtown core also has its fair share of this attitude I’m referring to. Yet, like anything in life, you take the good with the bad – and there is still far more good than bad 🙂
Nanette Workman (#201)
This post is for the Americans out there who are following along.
(I’m going to keep this one simple because I have an 8:00 am, 4-hour flight flight to Saskatchewan in a few minutes.
Ironically, Québec’s French-language “Disco Queen”, from the tale-end of the disco movement in late 1970s, was actually not Francophone… she was not even Canadian or Québécoise. Rather she was an Anglophone American!
Her name was Nanette Workman, from Mississippi. But I believe she now has dual Canadian / American citizenship (although I get the impression she lives back-and-forth between both countries).
Despite being huge in the late 1970s & early 1980s, her career began in the 1960s, and she it is still going strong with regular concerts. We have seen her as a regular feature on TV many times over the past couple of decades.
I would label some of her songs as the later French-language “Disco hits” of Québec, because some of her biggest hits came at the tail-end of the disco movement. However, her style of music was much wider than, say, Donna Summers’. Some of her best known earlier music was a mix of disco-meets-early-1980s. Regardless, she gave Montréal its own boogie-night fever! Still today, her hits of the era are just as big as ever today.
What I can’t believe is that, despite a very public career going back as far as 1975, she has never really let up (kind of like Tina Turner in that sense). Many of her songs are now classics.
In the same way that Anglophones regularly hear old songs by Madonna, Cher, Freddie Mercury, the Eagles, and Bon Jovi on the radio – to the point that their songs have never become “old” — we (in Francophone Canada & Québec) hear Nanette Workman’s French songs. I’ve heard them my whole life – and it would be very strange to think of a world without them or her.
Her career has mostly centred on Québec, but she also spent significant time building her career in France, and she developed aspects of her career back in her native United States (the governor of her home state of Mississippi has even given her a state award).
When people think of Nanette Workman, they often associate her with some of the other greatest-of-the-great Québec musicians & songwriters with whom she has worked closely with over the years (Claude Dubois, Luc Plamondon – who is also largely responsible for many of Celine Dion’s greatest hits, Robert Charlebois, and Serge Fiori).
Workman has never really stopped pumping out the albums (her last one was in 2012, and there must have been 20 or so since the 1960s, through the 70s, 80, 90s and 2000s).
Her musical style changed quite significantly in the 1980s and into the 1990s… with more a folk-country-rock-soul beat, but strangely with a Tina Turner type of vibe. It’s very difficult to explain. Her style is quite unique, and it is as contemporary as it is timeless (I love it!). You’ll have to listen to it to understand what I mean. Needless to say, it’s the type of music that sits well with everyone.
She also has had numerous Montréwood acting rolls in French-language movies over the past few decades, including some of Québec’s & Canada’s most successful movies, like Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
I just checked her official website, and I can’t believe she’s giving so many regular concerts after all these years (her 2015 winter / spring concert line-up has her giving two or three concerts a week across Québec and into Ottawa). I had no idea she was still going this hard!
Check out her website. After opening her website, leave it open for a half an hour or so to listen to her latest songs… it automatically streams some of her more contemporary songs: http://nanetteworkman.com/
From her official website’s music, you’ll notice she also sings in English, but I’m not sure that her English songs are as well known in Québec as her classic French songs (the vast majority of her career has been in French). If you leave her website open for any length of time, the French songs will start to automatically stream after about 20 minutes.
Anglophones and Francophones know her for two different songs.
- Anglophones know her best for her 1975 song “Lady Marmalade”; the “Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi” song.
- But Francophones by far know Nanette Workman best for her iconic French song DONNE DONNE (you can easily find this one online, videos n’all – check it out – you’ll love it!). We still hear it often on the radio, in the clubs and in bars. Running into a Francophone who does not know Donne Donne is like running into an American who does not know “Hotel California” (totally different genre, but this puts it in perspective).
Other classic songs she is very well known for (which are still heard quite often) are
- Danser Danser from 1975,
- Ce Soir On Danse à Naziland from 1980 (Horrible name for a song!! Boy, have times changed).
“Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of her earlier English songs, from 1972 (it has a flower-power feel to it).
Here is a song which perfectly shows how flexible her voice is: “I lost my baby” (it’s a French-language song from the 1990s, but here Workman has a Patricia Kass type of range and depth – it’s amazing! — you’ll for sure be able to find videos of it).
If you truly want to add a “big dose” of hard-core Québec & Francophone music culture in your life, consider purchasing Nanette Workman’s music (en français, bien sûr!). She’s our favorite American Québécoise!! (Hats off to all my American friends! You did great thing by lending her to us. We owe you – big time!!)
And if you’re wondering, her French is very good… she has our accent to go with it!
(Please stick to official websites when searching for her music and videos and do not pirate. Our artists are part of our cultural heritage).
Fanny Bloom (#177)
In the course of my blog posts which have related to individual singers, one thing you may have noticed is that most of the popular Francophone pop-star singers in Québec hail from small communities. The long list also includes many (if not most) of the biggest names who go on to international stardom.
If you were to also look closer at Canada’s most popular Anglophone pop-star singers, they too also come from smaller communities – and these also includes Canada’s best known international stars.
You don’t believe me? Then here’s the test. Take a look at all of the Québec singers featured on this blog. Other than the fact that I selected to write a post on them only owing to the fact that they are popular singers, my decision regarding who to write a post about was completely random. Thus, randomly select five of them, and see where they’re from. Most, if not all, are from communities with smaller populations. If you’re still not convinced, make yourself a list of Canada’s top 10 or 20 best known Anglophone singing sensations over the past few years (spread it out a bit over different musical genres, i.e. don’t restrict it to rap or electronic music). See where they’re originally from… and I think you’ll find a very similar pattern (it’s a cultural particularity which Anglophone and Francophone Canada both share in common).
I have a couple of pet theories as to why this may be.
For starters, start-up bands and singers in smaller communities and rural areas probably have less competition for “bar-stage” timeslots and have less entry-level obstacles at rural or small-town music festivals. Their overhead is lower, and they have the opportunity to sing and play their music much more often, in many more venues, all at a lower cost – factors which increase their chances of being seen, heard, and scouted.
But what is perhaps just as important, if not more important, is that their music genre stays true to what a local, stable population desires. Populations in smaller communities are much more stable, less transient, and the mix of musical genre is not as wide (it has not been diluted by competing genres, or overcrowded by as many outside influences as what exists in larger cities). What I mean by this is that start-up musicians in larger cities could have more difficulty finding a genre which appeals to everyone simply because there are so many different musical styles in large cities – all competing for a finite population size. Yet musicians from smaller communities focus in on music which appeals to local tastes right from the beginning (they’re not looking to find some new-age, retro-contemporary earth-tone high-octave-oboe-e-double-flat musical niche). It’s just a theory – I could be wrong, but considering such a large portion of Québec’s and Canada’s musicians do hail from rural areas, I could also be right 😉 . What are your thoughts?
It makes one wonder if the few dollars that are out there for Arts & Culture funding should flow a bit more towards rural regions, both across Québec and across Canada – doesn’t it?
(As an aside: I’ve always been of the opinion that our smaller communities have an important role to play as national cultural vanguards, just as large cities also play an important role in this respect. Whereas most focus is on large cities, smaller communities should also be supported in this sense, both on the cultural front, but also with strong economic policies which favour industrial growth and expansion in rural regions. Anyway, enough about that and back to the main subject of this post.)
One such musician with rural roots who has had a few number one and top ten hits in the last couple of years is Fanny Bloom.
She grew up in a village of 700 people in the Estrie (Eastern Townships) region of Québec, and did her high school in the rural region city of Sherbrooke, Québec. While in college (in 2008), she was part of a band and played gigs. A bit later she went on her own, participated in music festivals, was discovered, and the rest is history.
With some #1 hits behind her in 2013 and 2014, her name is now known to anyone who listens to contemporary international-style pop in Québec. Just this month, her music is still chart topping in the top 10.
Two songs which have made it to #1 on several radio stations are:
- Danse , and
- Piscine (the music video for Piscine is very simple, but very popular, with repeated showings on MusicPlus, the Montréwood equivalent of Toronto’s Much Music, similar to the U.S.A.’s MTV)
Some other songs which you might want to check out are
- Shit (yup… That’s really the name of the song)
- Tes bijoux
- Je t’achèverai
- Parfait Parfait
If you’d like to catch an online video of an interview with Fanny Bloom, NRJ FM Montréal’s official YouTube channel has one such interview. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2-Y2DAJRUg
Véronic DiCaire – Who is that singing? (#167)
Véronic DiCaire has become a singing sensation on two fronts, both here on the homefront as well as abroad. She has a career as a singer, with a couple of really good albums to her name. But she has become wildly famous for being able to impersonate over 50 celebrities (you would swear she is actually Céline Dion if you were to listen to her sing with your eyes shut… I’ll provide a link to her official YouTube channel below).
A couple of nights ago, I happend to see her in a whole new light, which is prompting me to write this post. I’ll get to this a bit later. But first, let’s begin from the end (the big stuff), and then quickly work backwards.
DiCaire has become a star who had a permanent show in Vegas (at least until it was no longer permanent), doing her singing impersonations. She has been a coach/judge on France’s X-Factor, and she has had numerous televised specials in Francophone Switzerland, in France, and here at home, in Montréwood.
How she came to this point is a bit of an interesting story… (un alignement fortuit des astres en sortes, if you’re looking for a new expression in French).
First, Véronic DiCaire is not from Québec. She is Franco-Ontarienne (or Ontaroise as Franco-Ontariens are now being called more-and-more) from the community of Embrun, not far from Ottawa, in the francophone region of Eastern Ontario. However much of her career has centred around Montréwood, where she found some of her big breaks.
DiCaire performed in numerous stage musicals from the time she was a young lady in the early 2000s, performing in Montréal, as well as in Paris. It introduced her to some of the larger names in Montréwood’s pop-culture industry and resulted in an album which brought her more attention as a Felix nominee in 2005.
Things moved quite fast and she became an opening act for Céline Dion’s Taking Chances tour around 2008, doing singing impersonations of other celebrities. René Angélil was won over and he sent her on tour as as star in her own right, across Québec, France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Her impersonation talents and hit performances have since made her a household name in Francophone Canada, across Francophone Europe, and with many Anglophones. It’s safe to say she has pop-star status.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned I just saw her in a whole new light. Véronic DiCaire just finished hosting SNL Québec (Québec’s version of Saturday Night Live) – and she was amazing!! I have never seen her in this light before and her acting talents are just as good as her voice. When I watched her introduction at the start of the show, the way she was carrying herself and the way she joked immediately reminded me of the type of charm Cameron Diaz radiates. Check it out and see if I’m wrong. You can watch the episode yourself on Télé-Québec’s website here: http://zonevideo.telequebec.tv/media/19936/veronic-dicaire/snl-quebec.
Something else which is kind of interesting… she shared the stage in SNL with Katherine Levac who is also Ontaroise, from a community just down the road from where DiCaire grew up.
Véronic DiCaire’s official website is http://veronicdicaire.com/
Official videos can be viewed on her on her YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuKhv2Zf2Fo&feature=youtu.be
If you’re in France, Eastern Ontario, Belgium, Québec, or Switzerland over the next few months, see if you can catch one of her shows.
Please stick to official sites and do not pirate. Our artists are part of our cultural heritage.
DiCaire just annonced she will be doing pan-Canadian tours in English for Anglophones and also in French for Francophones in Western Canada, Ontario and Acadia. Refer to her official website in the coming months for dates, locations and tickets.
Mario Pelchat – Dolbeau-Mistassini’s “native son” — Part 4 (#160)
Since we’re still in the series of posts which talks about Dolbeau-Mistassini, let’s talk about one of the city’s native sons: Mario Pelchat. Pelchat was born in Dolbeau-Mistassini. He moved away as a child, but still grew up in the region not far from Dolbeau-Mistassini.
Perhaps one of the best ways to describe him is by saying he’s possibly Québec’s own version of “Michael Bolton”. I suppose there are a number of comparisons to be made.
- Both sing very similar styles of music – “pop rock ballads”.
- Both were huge in the 1990s and saw a good deal of career success in the 1980s (and they’re still both very famous to this day).
- Both garnered international fame (Mario Pelchat became quite famous in many Francophone countries, such as France, Switzerland, Lebanon and Belgium, whereas Michael Bolton became quite famous in Anglophone countries, such as Canada, the UK and Australia).
- Both began their careers quite young (Pelchat was a star at a much younger age when he was in his late teens and early 20’s, capturing a solid fan base of an entire generation).
- And just like Michael Bolton, Mario Pelchat has the ability to sell out concert halls everywhere he goes (even to this day).
Actually, if you’re learning French, perhaps MarioPelchat’s song would be perfect to help with your studies. Because he sings pop rock “ballads”, his songs and the pace of the lyrics are quite slow and well enunciated. They just might be the type of lyrics which are conducive to learning French.
Here’s an interesting personal anecdote I have which involved Mario Pelchat… When I lived and worked for a couple years in Lebanon, I quickly came to realize that everyone of a certain generation there knows Mario Pelchat (at least it seemed that way). He spent a good deal of time performing in Lebanon in the 1990s (the post civil-war years), and many Lebanese associate him with the “good times” the country went through as the war finished and they began to rebuild. It’s kind of funny actually… when people in Lebanon of a particular generation found out I was Canadian, they’d often ask me three things:
- Are you from Montréal? (to which I finally started to lie and simply said yes, because it was just too complicated to say I was from another part of the country! You have to keep in mind that everyone in Lebanon seemingly has at least one relative or friend in Montréal – and for them, Canada pretty much has no other cities),
- Is your French accent the same as Celine Dion’s? (always an awkward question – I’d just get blank stares if I said “actually, my accent has a bit more of an Alberta twinge to it” – hahaha), and
- Do you know Mario Pelchat?
It’s funny to find out what first comes to mind when people around the world think of your country – and those impressions certainly are not static, and tend vary from place to place. In Lebanon, Mario Pelchat is definitely one of the first Canadian subjects people think of – go figure!
He is also associated with the biggest of the big music names in Québec and in the French world (he’s certainly part of that small inner circle of the biggest names), many of whom have already been featured in this blog.
Suffice to say, I could write quite a bit. Pelchat has had his fair share of career ups and downs (but I’d say far more ups than downs). But instead of going on, I’ll simply refer you to the Wikipedia articles if you want to know more (the French article is particularly comprehensive):
- French Wikipedia article: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Pelchat
- English Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Pelchat
You would have to search far and wide to find someone in Québec or Francophone Canada who does not know Mario Pelchat. He has been on our TV screens and on the radio for the past 30 years.
The song I know him best for (and which I think most people in Québec and most Francophones across know word-for-word) would be:
- Je ne t’aime plus
Other songs which are well known include
- Perdu l’envie d’aimer
- Quand on y croit (a bit older)
- Pleurs dans la pluie
- Les femmes
- Reste-là (an older hit from the 1980s)
- Voyager sans toi
- Le Semeur
- Noël à Jerusalem
Pelchat has also sung a good number of French country songs (you may recall the earlier post on Québec country music which I wrote. Click here for it). One of his more popular country songs (a duet with Paul Daraîche) is Rosalie.
Anyway, check out his songs and videos… particularly Je ne t’aime plus. His work is available for sale through various venues. Please stick to official sites and do not pirate (our artists are part of our cultural fabric).
SERIES: THE WORST CITIES?? SERIOUSLY?? DON’T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE!! (5 POSTS):
- The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 1: Introduction (#157)
- Dolbeau-Mistassini – The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 2 (#158)
- Port-Alberni – Les pires villes? — Ne soyez pas si prompt à « appuyer sur la détente » — Partie 3 (#159) (in French)
- Mario Pelchat – Dolbeau-Mistassini’s “native son” — Part 4 (#160)
- Rick Hansen – de Port-Alberni — Part 5 (#161) (in French)