БƗƗҚ.19 // March Badness returns...in April

Celebrating Canadian music in bracket form

Early last year, three friends and I embarked on a journey called March Badness, a non-competitive listening tournament celebrating the purple reign of His Royal Badness, Prince Rogers Nelson. We had spent a good chunk of February pulling together a bracket of 64 Prince songs, and we were all really looking forward to getting together on weekends to listen to Prince together. That last part didn’t work out so well, but March Badness persisted over FaceTime and we had a great time familiarizing ourselves with the depths of Prince’s canon. We each filled out a bracket on our own and then compared results to try and determine an overall winner. I think that I Would Die 4 U ended up winning, but honestly I don’t remember and winning really wasn’t the point.

One year later we are still stuck in our homes, but we decided to give March Badness another go with a new subject, the songs of our northern neighbors. The constraints we imposed on ourselves were minimal: 64 Canadian songs by 64 Canadian artists, with at least one song from each Canadian province and territory and a play-in round for whichever four artists we had the hardest time agreeing on a single song for. With that, we proudly present: La Folie de Eh-pril / Eh-pril Madness.

Download your own copy of the #MarchBadness bracket. (Bracket design by James H. Kallestad III)

How to Play:

This year, the challenge was figuring out whether we could capture something as broad as Canadian music in a format as limiting as a 64 song bracket. And the short answer is no, of course we couldn’t. But what we could do was wade through a list of Canadian artists, reminisce on our favorite tunes of yore, stumble across a few new bangers, and create a highly subjective game that broadened each of our horizons on Canadian music if only just a little. But first we had to remind ourselves who was Canadian. 

We were of course aware of Drake and Céline Dion, but our hope was to do more than highlight music that was obviously Canadian and reach the songs that happened to be Canadian. To put it another way, one of the primary goals of Eh-pril Madness is to elicit as many “I didn’t know they were Canadians!” as possible. The twin Wikipedia tomes of bands from Canada and Canadian musicians proved to be too enormous to be useful, so I compiled a shorter-yet-still-large list of Canadian artists, scraping data from Canadian and U.S. award shows (e.g. Polaris shortlist nominees, top Juno Award winners, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees, Canadian Grammy Winners), a number of critics lists (e.g. Chart Attack, CBC, Bob Mersereau’s 2007 book) and popular opinion (e.g. Rate Your Music’s top Canadian albums, Canadian Billboard #1s, popular Canadian Spotify playlists). I also did a little research into First Nations and Quebecois music as well as Canadian hiphop, as those genres seemed otherwise unrepresented by the results of my methodology. All of this work led to a far more manageable list of about 350 Canadian musical artists that we reviewed:

??, 3 Inches of Blood, 54-40, 54.4, A Foot In Cold Water, A.C. Newman, Aerialists, Alanis Morissette, Alannah Myles, Alexander "Skip" Spence, Alexander Spence, Alexisonfire, Amon Tobin, Andy Kim, Anne Murray, Annihilator, Anvil, Apostle of Hustle, April Wine, Arcade Fire, Augury, Avril Lavigne, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Backxwash, Barenaked Ladies, Basia Bulat, Beau Dommage, Bedouin Soundclash, Bell Orchestre, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Big Sugar, Big Wreck, Billy Talent, Black Mountain, Blood Ceremony, Blue Rodeo, Bob Ezrin, Bob Rock, Born Ruffians, BRAIDS, Bran Van 3000, Brendan Canning, Broken Social Scene, Bruce Cockburn, Bruce Fairbairn, Bruce McCulloch, Bryan Adams, Buck 65, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Buried Inside, Burton Cummings, Cadence Weapon, Caribou, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cartel Madras, Céline Dion, Chad VanGaalen, Chilliwack, City and Colour, Coeur de pirate (Beatrice Martin), Colin James, Colin Stetson, Colter Wall, Constantines, Corey Hart, Cowboy Junkies, Crash Test Dummies, Crowbar, Cryptopsy, Crystal Castles, Cursed, D.O.A., Dan Hill, Dan Mangan, Daniel Bélanger, Daniel Lanois, Daniel Powter, David Foster, Dayglo Abortions, Deadmau5, Deborah Cox, Death From Above 1979, Delerium, Destroyer, Devin Townsend, Diane Dufresne, Do Make Say Think, Drake, Dream Warriors, Dumas, Econoline Crush, Emily Haines, Eric's Trip, Feist, Final Fantasy, Finger Eleven, FM, François Pérusse, Frog Eyes, Frozen Ghost, Fucked Up, Gino Vannelli, Glass Tiger, Glenn Gould, Glenn Lewis, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gordon Lightfoot, Gorguts, Gowan, Great Big Sea, Great Lake Swimmers, Grimes, GrimSkunk, Gris, Guy Lombardo, Oscar Peterson, Handsome Furs, Hank Snow, Harmonium, Haviah Mighty, Hawksley Workman, Hayden, Headstones, Hey Rosetta!, Hildegard Westerkamp, Holy Fuck, Honeymoon Suite, Hot Hot Heat, Howard Shore, I Mother Earth, Ian & Sylvia, Ian and Sylvia, Ian Tyson, Into Eternity, Islands, Jack Scott, Jann Arden, Japandroids, Jason Collett, Jean Leclerc, Jean Leloup, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Jeremy Dutcher, Jerry Alfred, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Joel Plaskett, Joni Mitchell, Julie Doiron, Junior Boys, Justin Bieber, K-OS, k.d. lang, K'NAAN, Kardinal Offishall, Karkwa, Kataklysm, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Kathleen Edwards, Kaytranada, Kevin Drew, Kid Koala, Kim Mitchell, King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar, Korb Lund, Leela Gilday, LEN, Leonard Cohen, Les Breastfeeders, Les Colocs, Les Cowboys fringants, Lhasa de Sela, Lhasa, Lido Pimienta, Lighthouse, Loco Locass, Loreena McKennitt, Lorne Greene, Loverboy, Luc Plamondon, Maestro Fresh Wes, Magic!, Main Source, Malajube, Manitoba, Martha & The Muffins, Martha Wainwright, Martyr, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Matthew Good Band, Matthew Good, Maureen Forrester, Max Webster, Men Without Hats, Metric, Miracle Fortress, Misery Signals, Mitochondrion, Moist, Moneen, Mononc' Serge, Moxy Früvous, MSTRKRFT, Nadja, Neil Young, Nelly Furtado, Neuraxis, Neverending White Lights, Nick Gilder, Nickelback, Nickleback, NoMeansNo, ohGr, Oscar Peterson, Our Lady Peace, Owen Pallett, Patrick Watson, Paul Anka, Payolas, Peaches, Percy Faith, Pierre Lapointe, Pink Mountaintops, Plants and Animals, Platinum Blonde, Priestess, Prism, Propagandhi, Protest the Hero, Quo Vadis, R. Murray Schafer, Raffi, Rascalz, Razor, Red Rider, Rheostatics, Richard Desjardins, Richard Reed Perry, Robbie Robertson, Robert Charlebois, Ron Hynes, Ron Sexsmith, Rough Trade, Rufus Wainwright, Rum Ragged, Rush, Sacrifice, Saga, Sam Roberts Band, Sam Roberts, Sarah Harmer, Sarah McLachlan, Sarah Slean, Set Fire to Flames, Shad, Shania Twain, Shawn Mendes, Sheriff, Simply Saucer, Skinny Puppy, Sloan, Snow, Spirit Of The West, Spoons, Stampeders, Stan Rogers, Stars, Steppenwolf, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Strange Advance, Strapping Young Lad, Sum 41, Sunset Rubdown, Tal Bachman, Tamia, Tanya Tagaq, Teenage Head, Tegan and Sara, Terry Jacks, The Band, The Barr Brothers, The Be Good Tanyas, The Besnard Lakes, The Canadian Brass, The Constantines, The Crew-Cuts, The Diamonds, The Four Lads, The Deadly Snakes, The Dears, The Grapes of Wrath, The Guess Who, The Hidden Cameras, The Jeff Healey Band, The Jerry Cans, The Kings, The Lowest of the Low, The New Pornographers, The Northern Pikes, The Organ, The Parachute Club, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Sadies, The Spoons, The Stampeders, The Stills, The Tea Party, The Tear Garden, The Tragically Hip, The Ugly Ducklings, The Unicorns, The Wailin’ Jennys, The Weakerthans, The Weather Station, The Weeknd, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Thrush Hermit, Tim Hecker, Timber Timbre, Tokyo Police Club, Tom Cochrane, Treble Charger, Triumph, Trooper, Unexpect, Valaire, Venetian Snares, Vincent Vallières, Voivod, Vulgaires Machins, Wilf Carter, William Shatner, Willie P. Bennett, Wintersleep, Wolf Parade, Women.

From here, we each nominated about 20 songs for consideration (with some input from our unpaid, non-voting consultant), and we were pleasantly surprised to see that we had zero duplicate songs and only seven duplicate artists: Céline Dion, Feist, Arcade Fire, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nelly Furtado, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. We did some bargaining, narrowed down Carly Rae, Nelly, and Joni to a single song, and finalized the list with a play-in round for the four remaining duplicate artists. 

In the end, about half of the songs in our bracket are by artists from Ontario, followed by eight from Quebec, six each from Alberta and British Columbia, three from Manitoba, and one each from the remaining provinces and territories. Drilling down further, we can report that there is a very strong positive correlation between the number of March Badness songs and both provincial/territorial population (r=0.96) and number of seats in the House of Commons (r=0.95). There is less of a correlation between songs and Senate seats (by design) and almost no correlation between number of songs and land area (#Nunavut).

Finally, we had to devise a way to seed the songs beyond each of us just ranking our favorites, as we wanted to minimize the extent to which the tournament feels like we are competing against one another. (What are we competing against? Well, for starters, American exceptionalism, loneliness, the epistemological underpinnings of top 10 lists, gender binaries, wasteful consumption, clickbait, and Reagan/Thatcher conservatism). We decided that Spotify play count was an objective enough measure of a song’s popularity, and so we seeded songs accordingly, ranging from Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” with 1.4 billion listens to Leela Gilday’s “Dene Love Song” with 1,954 listens at the time of writing.

With the seeding in place, we finalized in the bracket, creating a beautiful tapestry of sound with some extremely difficult first round match ups. How do you compare Nelly Furtado and The Jerry Cans? Raffi and Japandroids? Deborah Cox and Broken Social Scene? Peaches and Stompin’ Tom Conners? It makes one wonder: “What makes a strong song?” “What do I want a song to do for me?” These are questions for you to decide for yourself, song versus song, in the World Series of Canadian music.

Don’t like the songs we chose? Take off and create your own!

March Badness is presented by Jamie 🎸, Malia 🌲, Katherine 🛶, and Grif 🦫. We hope you enjoy it! Thanks to Genc, Ramzi, and Syl for help translating.