Honestly, I don’t recall a more exhausting year than 2020. From the ongoing struggle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, to the battle to overcome systemic racism and inequality, it’s been a year of upheaval and unrest. It would be fantastic to say that it’s unnecessary, but unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. People have time on their hands, and priorities have been refocused. and people have the time and energy to make strides to make the world a better place. And while songs can be light, airy and fun, they can also come packed to the gills with emotion and important messaging. Most of these songs have given pause to the issues at hand, and hopefully help to uplift and unite, while also opening the eyes of people who haven’t been paying much attention. So press play, and let these great tracks wash over you.
Owen O’Sound Lee – “Listen”
While 2020 has largely been a dumpster fire of unprecedented proportions, there have been some very important movements afoot. Black Lives Matter has been shining a spotlight on the blatant racism that many people have had to ensure and experience for nothing more than the color of their skin, and while there have been movements in the past speaking about the inequality and injustice, not much has come of it. 2020 has given people the time, opportunity, and the voice to push hard for change. Many artists have been putting pen to paper and recording anthems to rally people to action, but few have created as powerful and potent a song as Owen O’Sound Lee has with “Listen”. The uplifting, hopeful tone shines bright, and while the anger and frustration are present here, this is an anthem to unite people and will hopefully help to spark meaningful change.
Rich Aucoin – “Walls”
Rich has always been known for innovative and creative music videos and “Walls” is no exception. This is a video that is every bit as great as the song it is featuring. There are nods to Psy, Drake, Alanis Morissette, Weird Al, Ah-Ha, and MC Hammer throughout the video, and the way that he brings that disparate list of acts together is nothing short of genius. As much fun as the video is, the song is just pure ear candy. It’s easily one of our favourites of 2020, and the rest of United States is every bit as fantastic.
Backxwash – “Black Magic”
Ashanti Mutinta and her alter-ego Backxwash won the 2020 Polaris Prize for the fiery and deeply personal album God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It earlier this week. It’s an album that followed up 2019’s equally great (albeit less personal) album Deviancy, and deserved every accolade that has been bestowed upon it. A lot has been written about the way in which Backxwash has fused metal and hip-hop (and don’t confuse this with early ought’s nu-metal). I’ve even read her sound described as witch-hop, which I kind of dig. This is one of the tracks from this fantastic album, and you can hear how hard this hits. Few emcess have a flow that is this sharp and bombastic. Do yourself a favour and toss on Backxwash’s early 2020 album!
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – “The Warriors”
If there was any doubt about the inequality faced by Indigenous persons in this country, you didn’t have to look far to dispel any and all doubt. From the health care workers in Quebec taunting the ailing indigenous woman who eventually died with nary a shred of decency from those callous racist nurses, to the uproar on the Southwestern shore of Nova Scotia over the creation of an Indigenous fishery, it’s appalling and frankly, it’s unacceptable and embarrassing. We need to work together to mend the wounds that countless years and decades of systemic racism and abuse have caused. Snotty Nose Rez Kids have been making catchy infectious hip-hop tracks that act as trojan horses, where the beats laid down by DJ Kookum help hide the important messages included in tracks such as “The Warriors”. It shouldn’t be this much of a hullabaloo to establish an Indigenous fishery, as stated in the established treaties, but stand strong and keep fighting, so hopefully, that fight will no longer be necessary.