As we have remarked here before, Stephen Harper’s government has not been the complete disaster for Canadian artists that many expected it to be. For example, it has not cut funding to the Canada Council — in fact, it increased it and has held it steady at the new amount. And while it has cut funding to the CBC, it has not dropped a bomb on its headquarters in Toronto. So that’s good.
And now Stephen Harper has once again shown his support of Canada’s music industry by not performing a single Canadian song at the recent Conservative Party Christmas party. Instead, he offered a set-list comprised of British and American music, culminating in a horrible rendition of Guns ‘N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine”:
As Dan Aykroyd used to say as Leonard Pinth-Garnell on Saturday Night Live: “Exquisitely awful!” Had you continued watching that beyond the 15-second mark — and we know you didn’t — you would have heard the Prime Minister sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with the same lack of tone, plunking of keys, and complete absence of vigour. He provides a bracing lesson in the difference between, as this YouTuber has it, “How we think we sound vs. how we do sound”:
The Prime Minister famously began his clever career of not performing Canadian songs at the National Arts Centre in 2009, when he surprised the audience with a rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The CIA shortly after started to use the word “rendition” to describe its torture program.
He lapsed the following year when, according to the National Post, he performed Bryan Adams’ “Run to You” in a jam session with the rocker at 24 Sussex. It is rumoured that after the performance, Adams leaned over to the Prime Minister and said, “You know, Mr. Harper, it would be a really good thing for Canadian music if you never sang a Canadian song ever again.”
Since then, he has stuck near-perfectly to a repertoire of British and American songs only, despite protests from the ambassadors of both those countries. For example, there was this rendering of “Jumping Jack Flash” at the Jewish National Fund Negev Dinner in 2013 . . .
. . . . which threatened to derail Canada’s close relationships with both Israel and Britain, until Mr. Harper promised his hosts never to add any Israeli music to his repertoire. Britain, meanwhile, filed a diplomatic protest.
Insiders say he regards it as a sort of trade mission in reverse. Even as he travels to Britain and the U.S. to promote Canadian interests, he quietly subverts their cultural industries by playing their music. Apparently he has struck a nerve. “If that bastard keeps singing ‘Sweet Caroline,’ President Obama was overheard saying to an aide earlier this year, apparently unaware his microphone was open, “we’re sending in the drones.”
Which is why we think this video, which takes the Prime Minister’s notorious 2008 remarks about “a bunch of people at a rich gala” and sets them to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” is so unfair:
Obviously he has repented since then, and become one of the country’s key cultural proponents. He is reportedly planning to expand his support in 2015, by not performing Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” on the campaign trail, even though, according to a source particularly close to Harper, “I’m really quite good at it — I mean, he’s really quite good at it when he does it in the basement.”
Well-played, sir. And only slightly off the beat.