The day The Guess Who accepted an invitation to visit The White House in 1970, the Canadian group was riding a wave of success on both sides of the border with its ironically titled hit single, American Woman.
The moment — brought to attention thanks to an astute Tricia Nixon, daughter of the late U.S. president Richard Nixon — likely helped dispel some of the common American impressions of our country as filled with igloos, ice hockey and a musical compendium featuring the dulcet tones of Anne Murray, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
So with news that the soon-to-be 44th U.S. president will make Canada the destination of his first international visit sometime after his Jan. 20 inauguration, there’s a good chance Barack Obama will want to learn more about our country through the power of music. And there is plenty to learn about.
Sure, the easiest thing would be to load up an iPod filled with the entire catalogue of Tragically Hip, Celine Dion or Shania Twain albums. But let’s give the 47-year-old Obama, a man who seems to emanate some hip credibility, the benefit of the doubt and fill that same iPod with musical talent that truly represent the various Canadian regions in this day and age:
• Representing Atlantic Canada: The Joel Plaskett Emergency. Insightful singer-songwriter who helped usher in the Halifax pop explosion of the ’90s as leader of alt-rockers Thrush Hermit and maintains senses of identity and humour plus a thoughtful world view through his solo work.
• Representing Quebec: (English) Arcade Fire. The Montreal-based ensemble performed a select number of free concerts in support of Obama’s campaign early in 2008. Also helps that David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen have taken a liking to the Juno- and Grammy-nominated group.
• Representing Ontario: Broken Social Scene. The Toronto supergroup not only creates whispery noise-fuelled indie rock in its own right, but many of its members — including Metric’s Emily Haines and Jimmy Shaw, k-os, Stars’ Amy Millan and Feist —have spun off fine works away from the collective.
• Representing Prairies: Tegan and Sara. These Juno-nominated twin sisters from Calgary sure know how to conjure up cutting-edge melodic rock about love, betrayal and longing. The duo record for Neil Young’s Vapor Records label. In 2005, The White Stripes covered the Sara-penned Walking With A Ghost for an EP.
• Representing British Columbia: The New Pornographers. This Vancouver-based super group, and Polaris nominee, has attracted artists as diverse as alt-country siren Neko Case, A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar (Destroyer) to fulfill the void of power pop reminiscent of The Cars and Cheap Trick.
• Representing the Arctic: Tanya Tagaq Gillis. Throat-singing femme from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, was first brought to the attention of Björk for her 2004 album Medúlla.