Music News Digest, Nov. 23, 2020

The Weeknd (pictured) and Justin Bieber dazzle at The American Music Awards, Shawn Mendes has a film documentary premiering today, and Radiohead’s Toronto tragedy is back in the spotlight. Also making news are Lil Berete, Jimmy Rankin, Pretty, Aluna, Kaytranada, MPC, Wade MacNeil, Larnell Lewis, AGH, and farewell Tony Hooper.

Music News Digest, Nov. 23, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Canadian stars shone brightly at The American Music Awards, held last night in LA. The Weeknd was one of three artists (Taylor Swift and Dan + Shay, were the others) to win three AMAs, taking home trophies for for Favorite Soul/R&B album (After Hours), Favorite Soul/R&B Song (Heartless), and Favorite Soul and R&B Artist., while Justin Bieber won as Favorite Male Artist - Pop/Rock. Bieber's hit collaboration with Dan + Shay, 10,000 Hours, won two awards, for Favorite Country Song and Collaboration of the Year.

The first performance of the night featured Bieber excelling on versions of two of his hits, Lonely and Holy, before being joined by Shawn Mendes for their brand new duet, Monster. Shortly after, The Weeknd arrived onstage to receive his first award. His head wrapped in bandages, he noted that he previously received this award from Prince, stating that "he is the reason I get to challenge the genre of R&B. I'd like to dedicate this award to him." The Weeknd later delivered a powerful outdoor performance, with the unlikely brief accompaniment of Kenny G. See the full list of winners here.


– Shawn Mendes’ fourth studio album, Wonder, comes out on Dec. 4 via Island Records/Universal Music Canada. Fuelling interest is the just-released single and video Monster, a collaboration with Justin Bieber. The two superstars also teamed up for a music video directed by Colin Tilley. Extra exposure for Mendes will come from the Nov. 23 Netflix release of In Wonder, a feature-length documentary portrait of Mendes' life, chronicling the past few years of his rise and journey. 

– The tragic death of Scott Johnson, a member of Radiohead's tech crew at Toronto's Downsview Park prior to a 2012 show returned to the news last week. The Discipline Committee of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario had a hearing into the actions of Domenic Cugliari, the man responsible for the design and approval of the stage for that show.  During the hearing, Cugliari “acknowledged…his catalogue of errors and the negligence on his part that led to the stage collapse and Scott’s death,” the band said.


Initially, the concert promoter, Live Nation, the staging company, Optex Staging, and Cugliari were charged with 13 offences under Ontario's provincial health and safety laws. The charges were ultimately stayed after the defendants successfully argued the case had faced unreasonable delays. In April 2019, an Ontario coroner's inquest into Johnson's death made 28 recommendations. Incensed by what they see as a miscarriage of justice, members of Radiohead have long been very vocal about the incident.

– Rapper Lil Berete, hailed by some major US mags as being Toronto's most important new MC on the scene, has teamed up with Louisville rapper 2KBABY on his latest single Murda. It is the lead single from Lil Berete's forthcoming album, Icebreaker 2, due early next year.

– The ECMA winner of this year’s Fans’ Choice Entertainer of the Year, Jimmy Rankin announces an online concert, Jimmy Rankin’s Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, to be streamed on Dec. 11, at 8 pm Atlantic time via  This virtual experience, originally filmed at The Derby Showbar in Halifax on Nov. 7, features the music and stories that have made Rankin a fan fave. Special guests are Lennie Gallant and The Fare Thee Well


– Toronto psych-rock quintet Pretty has been releasing new tracks co-produced and recorded by Aaron Goldstein (City and Colour, Espanola). Here is one we especially dig. Check out more on Bandcamp.

– UK dance music artist Aluna has put out an official music video for her latest single The Recipe, her collaboration with Polaris-winning Montreal producer Kaytranada and Nigerian singer-songwriter Rema. It is taken from Aluna's acclaimed debut solo album Renaissance.


– With support from Ontario Creates, Music Publishers Canada (MPC) is presenting a panel on Indigenous Creators in Film and Music in Canada, on Nov. 26, 4:15 - 5:15 pm. The panel is free to attend, with advance registration. It will feature Naomi Johnson, Executive Director of imagineNATIVE, and noted singer/songwriters Amanda Rheaume and ShoShona Kish (Digging Roots). More info here.

– Slasherman Theme Song (Remix), performed by Wade MacNeil (Alexisonfire, Gallows) is from the original score for the Jay Baruchel directed horror, film Random Acts of Violence, written by   MacNeil and Andrew “Ango” Macpherson (Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Dark Side of the Ring). Here's the video.

– Toronto-based Grammy-winning musician/composer Larnell Lewis (Snarky Puppy) released a new album, Relive the Moment, on Friday. Lewis’s potential was noted when he won the 2004 Oscar Peterson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music, and he has worked with the likes of Jully Black, Molly Johnson and acclaimed vocalist Matt Dusk. Here's a track from his new release.

– The Art Gallery of Hamilton's annual gala is going virtual this year (you know why). The Virtual Dream Gala (presented by Liuna and RBC) is set for Nov. 28 and includes entertainment from Terra Lightfoot, Logan Staats,Layla Black and the Hamilton City Ballet, plus a look at exhibition artist Sylvia Nickerson and an AGH Vault Tour. Info and tix here.


Tony Hooper, the co-founder of English folk-rock band the Strawbs, died on Nov. 18  of cancer, age 81.

Hooper and Strawbs frontman Dave Cousins met back at school at Thames Valley Grammar, quickly becoming firm friends and musical partners. They collaborated in an early skiffle group, the Gin Bottle Four, then as the Strawberry Hill Boys (later the Strawbs).


That band gigged pretty constantly in UK clubs and colleges from 1963 onwards, until the band's breakthrough with Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios in 1970. The vocal interplay of Hooper and Cousins was a key feature of the group's sound.

After leaving the Strawbs in 1972, Hooper spent more time producing other artists – The Settlers, Cindy Kent, Wooden Horse, Garth Hewitt, Ian Page, Narnia, Davey & Morris and various others.

He then left the music business altogether, working at book and journal publishers Macmillan for many years, but returned to the stage with Strawbs in 1983 till the 30th-anniversary celebrations in 1998. Outside of the Strawbs, he collaborated with Elaine Charlson in Misalliance (who produced three albums in the 1990s) and Pitchfork, a popular barn dance and ceilidh band.

On Strawbsnet, Dave Cousins noted Dave Cousins "I am deeply saddened at the passing of Tony Hooper. Without Tony, there would have been no Strawberry Hill Boys. Sources: StrawbsnetWikipedia

Yseult, Sevdaliza and Pabllo Vittar

Yseult, Sevdaliza and Pabllo Vittar

Chart Beat

Sevdaliza, Pabllo Vittar & Yseult's Multilingual Hit 'Alibi' Debuts on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100

The single by the Iranian-Dutch Sevdaliza brings together a host of cultures and styles in a winning mix that features French singer Yseult and Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar and samples Colombian legend Magín Díaz.

A viral song featuring no less than four languages has debuted on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 this week.

"Alibi" by Iranian-Dutch singer Sevdaliza arrives at No. 96 on the chart, while it holds the No. 19 spot on Billboard's Global 200.

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