Bieber, Mendes, Drake, the Weeknd among Canadians topping charts in 2015

TORONTO -- There's no question Canada dominated the international music industry in 2015, with artists including Justin Bieber, the Weeknd and Drake delighting critics and commanding the charts, as well as streaming services.

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And the momentum seems set to continue next year, as those names continue to release singles and tour and other emerging Canadians could follow their leads.

"Hey, it's just our time," says Toronto's Director X, who helmed Drake's "Hotline Bling" viral video. "You've got all these kids out there making music and eventually something is going to bubble up.

"There's some real talent coming out of this place. This combination of different cultures all joining up in this country has brought something interesting."

The Canuck cataclysm became undeniable starting in September as the Weeknd, Bieber and Drake made history for Canadian artists by monopolizing the top three and then the top four spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where Canadians rarely hit No. 1.

The trend continued through the fall and winter. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated the week of Dec. 19, they and several other Canadians took up a whopping seven of the Top 10 spots.

Stratford, Ont.-raised Bieber was at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 7 with the pop earworms "Sorry," "What Do You Mean?" and "Love Yourself." Toronto native Drake (nee Aubrey Graham) was at No. 3 with his hip-hop dancing delight "Hotline Bling."

The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye of Toronto, had the No. 5 spot with ominous bass blaster "The Hills" from "Beauty Behind The Madness."

Vine star Shawn Mendes, also of Toronto, occupied No. 6 with the pop heartbreak tale "Stitches."

And rising star Alessia Cara of Brampton, Ont., announced she had arrived with "Here," which was at No. 8.

The only artist to beat them all? Adele, of course. She claimed No. 1 with "Hello" from her smash album "25."

But look closer and you'll even see the Maple Leaf on her album.

North Vancouver native Tobias Jesso Jr. co-wrote "When We Were Young" from "25"; Toronto native Charles Moniz was a recording engineer on the album's "All I Ask"; and Montreal filmmaker Xavier Dolan directed her video for "Hello."

Other sources of national pride this year: Rolling Stone crowned the Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" as its top song of 2015, and the Grammys gave him seven nominations. Several other Canadians also got Grammy nods, including Drake with five and Bieber with one.

Meanwhile on Spotify, Drake was the most streamed artist of the year globally, while the Weeknd's "Beauty Behind the Madness" was the most streamed album of 2015.

"I'm very proud of Canada," says Carly Rae Jepsen of Mission, B.C., who also delighted critics this year with her '80s-inspired album "Emotion." The record peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard album sales charts and the single "I Really Like You" reached No. 39 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"I think that it's an exciting time to see so many artists just killing it on the charts and just killing it in general with the quality of music that they're making."

Naturally, the trend is turning out to be a lucrative one for homegrown acts.

SOCAN, which represents the Canadian performing rights of songwriters and publishers and distributes royalties to them, estimates another record year for international revenue in 2015.

"We haven't closed out the year completely yet, but we're looking at over $60 million, probably close to $62 million," says Catharine Saxberg, vice president of international relations at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

"We did $55 million last year, so that is a significant improvement. Year upon year our numbers are getting better and better."

Another bonus to this wave of success: it's erasing the negative stereotype that's dogged Canadian music.

"These are all artists that have taken Canadian music to the next level, where no longer do you need to have that Canadian title with it," says Nira Arora, co-host of the morning show at 94.5 Virgin Radio Vancouver.

"Some people might find that offensive but I'm trying to say that that's actually a good thing. That means that we don't need to keep going, 'No, this is American music, no, this is Canadian music.' It's just music. Nobody is talking about Adele like 'English Adele' or 'London Adele' or 'British Adele.' It's just 'Adele.'

"So why do we always do that with Canadian music?"

Of course, Canada has a storied history of musical success internationally, through artists including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Celine Dion and Shania Twain, to name but a few.

But so many dominating in one year is unusual, as is such phenomenal Billboard success.

So, why this is happening now?

Composer-producer-writer Stephan Moccio, a St. Catharines, Ont., native who's nominated for several Grammys for his work with the Weeknd, points to a strong work ethic.

"We have to work harder to achieve more because we come from a country where there are less resources when it comes to music, and that's a plain old fact," Moccio says from Los Angeles, where he now lives.

"When we want to succeed in music -- or anything, for that matter -- we come down to wherever the action is, and in this case it happens to be Hollywood and Los Angeles. So we come down here with already a discipline that's built into us."

Arora notes Canadian artists are also collaborating with ace producers, and some like Mendes and Cara are savvy at using social media to get their music heard.

"I think it's just easier (now) for Canadian music to get out there," she says. "We have way more avenues to get out there because of social media."

Or maybe it's the Bieber effect.

"It could be as simple as, 'Wow, so Canada gave us Justin Bieber, what else do they have up there that we don't know what we're missing?"' says Canadian radio personality and music historian Alan Cross.

"And there has been a stampede by talent scouts, A&R people, record labels from the U.S. and other places."

The Canadian invasion may continue next year, as Bieber and the Weeknd tour the world and Michael Buble is due to release a new album.

Cross predicts 2016 will see more and more artists releasing individual songs, noting he thinks Adele's "25" "will be the last big retail event for the album (format)" as streaming changes the industry.

"And then who knows what else is lurking out there, because ... if we have these five or six artists, there are people everywhere looking to find out if there are six more."


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