Justin Bieber at Coachella with the Walmart kid, Mason Ramsey. Pic: The Daily Buzz
Justin Bieber at Coachella with the Walmart kid, Mason Ramsey. Pic: The Daily Buzz

Music News Digest, May 23, 2018

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards were handed out on Sunday night, and big winners included Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, and Taylor Swift. Canadian stars did not fare well, though Drake did win as Top Billboard 200 Artist (he was shut out in other categories). The biggest song on the night (with five trophies) was smash hit "Despacito," a track that features Justin Bieber. Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd earned nominations but came up short. A full winners list here

– The 2018 Indigenous Music Awards, held in Winnipeg on Friday and hosted by CBC Music's Jarrett Martineau and singer-songwriter Beatrice Deer, saw Buffy Sainte-Marie win two awards, for Best Folk Album (Medicine Songs),  and Best Video ("The War Racket"). Other winners included Northern Cree, Ansley Simpson, Shauit, and Black Bear Singers. A full list of winners here

Arriving yesterday (May 22) with little advance fanfare via XO/Republic Records/Universal Music Canada is Reckless, the debut full-length album from Grammy-nominated, platinum-certified, Toronto rapper and producer (Drake, Travis Scott) Nav. The first single, “Wanted You” feat. Lil Uzi Vert, has already surpassed 110 million Spotify streams. Other guests on the album include Quavo (Migos) and Travis Scott. Summer dates for Nav include Vancouver's Fvded in the Park (July 6) and Montreal's Osheaga Festival, Aug. 3.

– Vocal music will take centre stage at SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival, taking place at various downtown locations from May 23 to June 3, 2018. Canada’s premier a cappella festival features headliner performances by national and international vocal groups, intimate club shows, free concerts, educational workshops for singers of all ages and experience, and a school day vocal workshop program. Tickets and VIP packages are on sale now at singtoronto.com.

SOCAN has presented a No. 1 Song Award to Nashville-based songwriter Robyn Dell’Unto for co-writing The Good Lovelies’ “I See Gold.” The song topped the CBC Radio 2 Top 20 chart earlier this year. It was co-written by Dell’Unto and the three band members – Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough, and Susan Passmore – who were awarded earlier in 2018.

 – The River and Sky Festival near Sudbury turns 10 this year with a strong lineup. Running July 19-22 on the grounds of Fishers' Paradise in the community of Field, featured artists include Born Ruffians, Chad VanGaalen, The Pack A.D., Daniel Romano, Julie Doiron, Land of Talk, Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs, Shred Kelly, Operators, Laura Sauvage, Ansley Simpson, Twist,  Walrus, Bernice, and Michael Rault. More info here

– The provincial election in Ontario is heating up, and it is always interesting to note the musical choices made by parties on the campaign. At a recent gathering of trade union supporters, the NDP and Andrea Horwath went Cancon, blasting out "Feeling Good" by The Sheepdogs and Strumbellas' "Young & Wild." The word is that "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor has been featured by Doug Ford and the Tories at his rallies. Usually, in such campaigns, an artist will object when their song is hijacked for such purposes, but not on this campaign trail so far.

– Canada's newest print newspaper, West End Phoenix, is old-school in approach, as shown by its upcoming subscription drive. On June 9, the paper (the brainchild of author/musician Dave Bidini) stages a telethon at Toronto cultural hub, the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St West). It features Bidini and house band the Mercenaries with the Wheel of Song (which subscribers will get to spin). The WEP Telethon will feature banks of operators taking calls from re-subscribers and accepting subscriptions and donations on site during Gladstone brunch hours

The Telethon number is already live -- 1-866-416-NEWS -- to call in and hear testimonials by subscribers such as actor Denis Leary as well as poetry by Claudia Dey and music by Rheostatics with Alex Lifeson (a WEP contributor) and Kevin Hearn. On the day, the telethon will be live-streamed on the West End Phoenix YouTube channel. 

– On Friday (May 25), Canadian country star George Canyon will release his 12th new album, Southside Of Heaven, on ole label group/ red dot). The 12-track collection is produced by Jeff Johnson (Wes Mack, Chris Buck Band), and guests include Bruce Guthro. Look for Canyon's new take on Stompin' Tom classic "The Hockey Song" to grab attention. Summer touring begins at the Brooklin Spring Fair on May 31, and later fest dates include the Stompin’ Tom Festival, Sunfest, Rockin' River, Big Valley Jamboree, and Manitoulin Country Fest. Full itinerary here

– ViVA Trio recently won at the 2018 Mississauga Arts Awards (the MARTYs), in the Music Group – Established category. The group comprises three sopranos (Anna Bateman, Erin Fisher and Katya Tchoubar) and 2017 debut album Nothing Else Matters is winning praise for adventurous reinventions of rock and pop hits by Lennon, Cohen, Metallica and others.

– NXNE has just announced a few notable additions to its lineup for the Yonge-Dundas Square ‘Festival Village’ series in Toronto, June 15-17. They include Scottish synth-pop act Chvrches, Juno Award winner Lights, and Jasmyn Burke’s (Weaves) solo project Strands. Earlier lineup details here.


Reggie Lucas, a Grammy-winning musician who played the guitar for Miles Davis and later penned and produced some of Madonna's earliest hits, died May 18 at the age of 65, of complications from heart disease.

At just 18, the NYC-based guitarist was recruited to join Miles Davis' band in 1972. During a five year tenure, he appeared on such Davis albums as On the Corner and Get Up On It. Lucas later teamed with James Mtume to write Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's "The Closer I Get to You" and Stephanie Mills' 1980 Grammy-winning hit "Never Knew Love Like This Before,"

Following his 1978 solo LP Survival Themes and his 1982 Sunfire collaboration, Lucas entered the studio with Madonna in 1983 to record the up-and-coming singer's self-titled debut album. Lucas wrote and produced one of Madonna's biggest hits, "Borderline," and produced six of the album's eight songs, including "Lucky Star" and "Burning Up." Over the course of his career, Lucas also worked with such artists as the Four Tops, the Spinners and Lou Rawls. Source: Rolling Stone 

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