Three days before the Olympics began I had already lost count of how many times I heard I Believe.
The song, sung by 16-year-old Montreal phenom Nikki Yanofsky, must have been on three or four times a night, so you can understand, after 11 days of speed skating, hockey and skiing, just how deeply lodged that track (and its equally epic variations) is in my head.
We can debate whether or not the song is any good, but by now that’s irrelevant â€” would anyone be that upset if a day went by without hearing the tune? I Believe was chosen by CTV to inspire patriotic feelings among us Canucks, but for many it’s become a second anthem, one that’s supposed to represent Canadian ideals and, perhaps, our taste in music.
We pride ourselves on being a multicultural society, and that extends to music too â€” we’ve embraced rockers, jazz bands, opera singers, aboriginal artists and country music â€” so choosing an over-the-top adult contemporary track as the defining Olympic song leaves out a lot of great, Canadian sounds.
If the network had to pick a single genre to focus on, though, it’s not a surprise that they’d pick a song that sounds a lot like Celine Dion. One of the songwriters, Stephan Moccio, has written for the French-Canadian songstress (Glass Tiger singer Alan Frew was the other writer), and the track’s epic chorus and slick, mid-tempo verses follow a similar arch to Dion’s huge 1996 hit Because You Loved Me.
It may be a popular number â€” the single topped the Canadian iTunes and Billboard Canadian Hot 100 charts, so clearly lots of people like it â€” but it wasn’t necessarily the most representative piece of music, unless we think of ourselves as snoozy, inoffensive and middle-of-the-road.
There’s no right choice here â€” no song would satisfy everyone, and with so many genres to choose from, recording We Are The World-style ensemble with George Pettit, John K. Samson, Randy Bachman and Shania Twain could have been a disaster, but the songwriters at least could have tried to spruce the tune up with something other than a children’s choir.
Having a mix of the country’s more established and underground artists write their own Olympic songs would have been better, or at the very least, this one tune could have been recorded in myriad ways — as a folk tune done by East Coaster Joel Plaskett, a country song by Aboriginal singer Shane Yellowbird, a soft indie number by Jenn Grant.
In the end, the song is so safe and devoid of any real Canadian culture that it not only pales in comparison to our other big hits, but we won’t recall it a year from now. And that’s too bad, because we’ve got a lot of great music worth remembering.