Yeah, work was grand fun today. Thanks for asking.
It's Canada Day! I've got tickets for the Jose Gonzalez concert tonight, so I'd better hurry up and get ready to go to that, but first things first -- I had promised you all (or, more accurately, warned you) that a special Canada Day post was forthcoming, and I intend to have it come forth whether it's a good idea or not.
You'll recall my library misadventures from a couple of weeks ago, their end result being a bag of interesting borrowed CDs adorning my bedroom floor. One such CD is of particular notice, today of all days:
Things are hunky-dory across our fine country these days, or at least as hunky-dory as they ever get -- but to fully understand a piece of music such as this one, we would obviously be best served to consider the environment that it was written in. A music student in Montreal and a writer-slash-shirt-salesman in Ontario got together in the fall of 1994, a month after the Parti Quebecois rose to power and a year before the Referendum, to write a song extolling the virtues of Canadian unity and the boundless opportunity available for our hitherto-unbroken federation.
You can see from the inset notes above that the song was visualized as a compliment to O Canada, similar to God Bless America complimenting the anthem of the United States. (You'll note that God Bless America was penned by legendary composer Irving Berlin, and... well... Irving Berlin these guys ain't.) The song was recorded in March of 1995, released to radio shortly afterwards, and no doubt was the critical contribution that singlehandedly saved our beloved and beautiful nation from the ignominious threat of Quebec separatism.
Ha ha, no, I'm making that last part up. The 1995 Referendum came down to a single percentage point's difference, sovereigntist leader Jacques Parizeau blaming the successful No swing on "money and the ethnic vote" (I love the idea that it got its own Wikipedia page for this) -- and I wouldn't doubt for a second that some dudes in Quebec might have voted Yes just so they'd never hear this song again.
I might be exaggerating, but if I am it's only slightly. The CD has six versions of the same song on it, but I bet you're not going to make it all the way through one! Behold as I beheld, our God Bless America:
James Levac and Calvin Preddie - This is Our Canada [English Original] (This is our Canada / Canada c'est notre pays, 1995)
[buy | library info]
Piano flourishes! They're what's for dinner!
I crack up laughing right when the vocals start. Every time. You can hear how hard this dude is trying to sell these lyrics, and oh boy it ain't workin' out for him. The female vocalist on the track does a bit better, initially, but once they're feeding her lines like "This is our land of opportunity" she does no better with them than, well, than anyone would.
Wondering what the lyrics are, incidentally? Of course you are! Don't worry, we've got you covered:
Even when I'm reading along and I know what's coming, I can't keep myself from laughing heartily at the delivery of the lyrics. "WEEEEEEE-ARE a feeed-er-at-ion... of PEOPLES AND PROVINCES!"
wait what the hell is a line from o canada doing in here
They aren't resting on their musical laurels, of course; it's at the three minute and ten second mark that the song completely loses its mind. The next fourty seconds after that are this bizarre and disconnected segment of instrumental tension, like they smushed a Red Rider instrumental together with the Undersea Palace music from Chrono Trigger and went "Yes! Music! Brilliant!" Then they remembered what they were supposed to be doing, and the song just awkwardly leaps back into the overproduced ballad it started with.
The song closes by repeating the chorus underneath the lines "We will find our strength in unity / Together we will reach the heights we can achieve", for the slower members of the audience who haven't figured out yet what the song is up to.
These people all meant well, of course, and I'm not knocking them for lack of effort; even with the possibility that the one guy might just have been in it to sell some t-shirts, I'm sure this was a project that everybody involved worked very hard on and put a lot of themselves into. It's just, well... an important lesson that we all must learn at some point is that you can throw your very heart and soul into something, giving it your undivided attention with the full scope of your talents, and it still might come out in the end as being sort of rubbish.
Still, though -- don't you feel better having just heard this? More patriotic? More, uh... inspired? Anything, really? Fine, whatever! The important thing here is that it's historically relevant, not that it's any good.