Music News Digest, July 30, 2020

Choir! Choir! Choir!, Rufus Wainwright and 1,500 singers create an epic video (pictured), Sarah Harmer boosts Care Not Profits campaign, and Drake sets a monumental new record. Also in the news are Barenaked Ladies, Rough Trade, CES, Wavelength 800, Scott Helman, Tory Lanez, SaskMusic, Jesse Wente, Selci, DJ Agile, Create Music Group, Sarah Slean, CityFolk, Shania Twain, Jenny Mitchell, OKAN, Justin Bieber, Duo Concertante, and farewell Denise Johnson.

Music News Digest, July 30, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Back in May, we reported that Toronto's Choir! Choir! Choir! and Rufus Wainwright had invited singers from around the world to help create an epic live video of the Beatles classic, Across The Universe. The submissions were edited together into a piece featuring Wainwright on lead vocals, and the results, featuring 1,500 singers, are now captured in a new truly global video.

– Care Not Profits is a long-term care advocacy project with three unions (SEIU, Unifor, and CUPE) that is demanding change to the dire state of Ontario’s Long-Term Care facilities, specifically those run as for-profit enterprises. Musicians are rallying to support the cause, including Sarah Harmer, who has an online performance today (July 30) at 8 pm via Facebook to raise awareness. On Aug 4, a number of artists will post a campaign video (below) on socials in support of the cause and to push fans/citizens to sign a petition. 


– Drake has just set a monumental new record by scoring the most top 10 singles in the history of the US Billboard chart, overtaking previous record-holder Madonna. The rapper and singer scored his 39th and 40th top 10 hits on this week's countdown, as the vocalist on DJ Khaled's singles Popstar and Greece. The feat comes just 11 years after his first appearance in the top 10, with his breakthrough hit, Best I Ever Had. Madonna had held the record since 2008, after surpassing The Beatles' tally. Source:BBC News

– Barenaked Ladies have stayed productive during the lockdown by filming #SelfieCamJams. The ensemble pulled out all the stops on session #21 this week by inviting special guests Rough Trade (Carole Pope and Kevan Staples) for their cover of classic RT hit High School Confidential. The band invites fans to donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ontario, who provide virtual mentorship and guidance to kids in need while navigating through this health crisis.


– Toronto indie music stalwart Wavelength presents its 800th show on Aug. 15, as part of its 20th-anniversary celebrations. It takes the form of a live-stream mini-festival on Facebook Live - Wavelength 800. The eclectic lineup features fiery blues-punk duo CATL, non-binary underground hip-hop emcee DijahSB, Montreal alt-R&B singer/songwriter Janette King, and jangly new-wave popsters Twist. All the artists will be paid guaranteed fees to perform, while there is no charge for at-home viewers to tune in. This event is supported by Slaight Music, Collective Arts Brewing, YSL Pro Audio, Ontario Creates, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, Department of Canadian Heritage, the SOCAN Foundation, and TD.

– The 2021 edition of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas has been cancelled over covid concerns. It had been scheduled to run Jan. 6-9, 2021, but will now be presented as “an all-digital experience” on the same dates. it plans to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, “combining the best elements of a physical and digital show.” Source: Variety

Scott Helman has announced that the first instalment of Nonsuch Park – an album series – will be released on Sept. 4. He has shared an emotional video for his new track Papa, a tribute to his late grandfather Alan who passed away last summer. 


– Toronto hip-hop star Tory Lanez is in serious legal trouble in the US. Pitchforkreports that he is the subject of a petition to have the US government deport him back to Canada amidst unanswered questions about an alleged fight with fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion. She ended up shot in each foot before Lanez was arrested on a concealed firearms charge, though details of the incident remain unclear. 


– Created by SaskMusic, The Sask Venues Project pairs a graphic designer with a local music venue to create a custom, limited edition T-shirt, with all the profits going to the venue. Michael Dawson, executive director of Sask Music, told CBC News that he saw similar initiatives happening elsewhere and thought it was a good opportunity during the uncertainty created by Covid-19.

– The Canada Council for the Arts has appointed Indigenous broadcaster/writer Jesse Wente as the new Chair of its Board for a 5-year term, effective immediately. Wente succeeds Pierre Lassonde, who had held the position for the last five years. A press release states that “the appointment of Jesse Wente as Chair of our Board is an event of historic significance for the Council and for Canada. Jesse is a long-time advocate for First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights. His in-depth knowledge of film, media and popular culture and his critical discourse highlighting the role of under-represented voices in arts and culture has already made an invaluable contribution to the governance of the Canada Council.”

– Calgary alt-pop/dance act Selci released a new EP (her second), A Soft Place, on July 28. It is launched with a live-stream release party via Facebook Live and YouTube on Aug. 1.

– Toronto artist/producer DJ Agile made a major mark in the groups Big Black Lincoln and BrassMunk and with his series of mixtapes. We’re Never Done, his first official solo album has just come out, and it features guest vocalists Glenn Lewis, JRDN, Desiire, TOI, Chris Stylez, Richie Hennessey, and Ammoye. Check it out here

– The deadline for submissions to the CFMAs 2021 is tomorrow (July 31) at 5:00 pm EDT. Details at

– Last month, Tekashi 6ix9ine and his label Create Music Group made history by being the first fully independent distributor in modern music industry history to achieve Number One on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart, with his single Trollz with Nicki Minaj. This feat is used as a case study in an upcoming CMW Fireside Chat with Create Co-Founder & COO Alexandre Williams, moderated by Rolling Stone’s Senior Editor Amy Wang.  The conversation will also focus on today's most efficient music marketing strategies, leveraging Youtube, TikTok, and other relevant social platforms. Register here


– On Aug. 13, in partnership with the McMichael Art Gallery of Canada, noted Toronto singer/songwriter/pianist Sarah Slean will premiere some new material from Maudie, the stage musical she's writing about Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis. Running from 4 - 5:30 pm, the virtual presentation is hosted by McMichael Chief Curator Sarah Milroy and will include a look at Lewis' art as well as Slean's musical performance. 

– In light of the ongoing pandemic, CityFolk organizers have announced that the popular Ottawa outdoor music event will be going online. The fest, initially scheduled for mid-Sept., is now planning an event at Lansdowne Park, in the fall of 2021. Stay tuned for further details regarding the virtual concert series lineup and performance dates.


– Acclaimed folk music artist Jenny Mitchell has been named this year’s City of Guelph Artist in Residence. Mitchell’s project, #GoldenGuelph, combines silkscreening, audio recording and storytelling to explore Guelph virtually, from different perspectives. Mitchell is is currently the Volunteer and Mobile Studio Coordinator for CFRU, and has released 11 albums of original music.
–Members of Afro-Cuban jazzy roots ensemble OKAN earned a Grammy nomination for earlier work in Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.  Their current project has just released a new single, Espiral, the title track from a forthcoming album, due Oct. 9 via Lulaworld Records. On July 31, the group has a Toronto Jazz Festival live stream from JAZZ.FM, while an Aug. 14 live-stream is co-presented by National Arts Centre, Lula Music and Arts Centre and Philadelphia Folk Festival.

– Shania Twain, the top-selling female country music artist of all time, is taking on a new role. It has been announced that she is partnering with Reel World Management and the two executive producers of the Netflix Original series, Virgin River, to adapt bestselling author Debbie Macomber’s Heart of Texas novels as a TV series. Twain will be one of three executive producers and will contribute creatively to Heart of Texas.

– Justin Bieber is known as a frequent vacationer with price no object when he chooses a home. His Hawaii vacation home is featured this week at Word is the Biebs and wife Hailey have been sightseeing the western US in their multi-million-dollar tour bus. 

– FreeUp! Is an Emancipation Day 2020 event airing on CBC Gem on Aug. 1. Musicians featured include Chivengi, Janette King, Jully Black, Esie Mensah, Travis Knights, Jaz Fairy-J, Jendayi Dyer, Snoopy, and Kobena Acquaah-Harrison. More details here

– Motivated by the climate emergency, the Juno-winning Duo Concertante has initiated an ambitious commissioning project called Ecology of Being, where music and critical issues intersect. Ecology of Being will see Duo Concertante – Nancy Dahn (violin), and Timothy Steeves (piano) – perform five original compositions commissioned especially for this project by Dawn Avery, Carmen Braden, Ian Cusson, Melissa Hui and Bekah Simms. The world premiere of Ecology of Being will be presented online,  Aug. 10, 12, & 14, as part of the Tuckamore Festival’s 20th anniversary season. More info here  


Denise Johnson, an English backing singer for Primal Scream, New Order, and others, has died at age 56. A cause of death has not been revealed.

The Manchester vocalist also worked with Electronic, Pet Shop Boys, Michael Hutchence, and A Certain Ratio, and was most famous for working on Primal Scream's acclaimed Screamadelica album.

Despite her long career with so many dozens of recordings she was only in the stages of planning her debut solo album recently. The album Where Does It Go was planned for release on 25 September.

The Stone Roses singer Ian Brown and New Order's Stephen Morris are leading tributes to the singer, alongside 808 State, The Chemical Brothers' Ed Simons, and Primal Scream’s Simone Marie Butler, who shared the band’s Don’t Fight It Feel It in tribute to Johnson and producer Andrew Weatherall, who died earlier this year. Sources: Noise11, MusicNews, BBC



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