The music scene in Newfoundland is an interesting one, largely consisting of many groups performing Irish-influenced music. This type of music has propelled bands and artists to become household names in Newfoundland and Labrador, but usually leads to little notoriety outside of the province. In this article we’re going to check out the most popular music from Newfoundland and Labrador.
We’re looking at what music from the province has found the most success elsewhere in Canada and around the world.
What is the most popular song from Newfoundland?
Internationally, it looks like this contest is not even close. We have only found one song by a Newfoundland artist to ever chart internationally, and that’s “Jerk” by Kim Stockwood in 1996. The song hit #23 in New Zealand, #33 in Iceland, and supposedly charted in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore as well.
As far as popularity across Canada goes, the race is a lot tighter. “Jerk” is right up there again, hitting #3 in Canada and #36 on the year-end chart for 1996. Stockwood had two more top ten songs in Canada, too. “You Won’t Remember This” went to #10 shortly after the success of “Jerk,” and “12 Years Old” found itself at #7 a few years later in 1999. That year, “12 Years Old” even charted at #33 on the year-end chart – higher than “Jerk” did in 1996!
Competing in Canada as well is Great Big Sea with tFheir cover of “When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)” from their Play album. It went to #6 in Canada and #62 for the entire year of 1997. Other singles from the same album, “Ordinary Day” and “End of the World,” found their way into the top 30 as well. Great Big Sea’s second highest entry would come from their 1999 album Turn, with “Consequence Free” hitting #18 in the nation.
One more artist found particular success in the 90s and needs to enter the discussion of the most popular music from Newfoundland. Labrador’s Damhnait Doyle is the only other act from the province to hit the top ten in Canada. “A List of Things” peaked at #10 in May 1996, also landing on the year-end chart at #89. In 2000, she garnered national attention again with “Tattooed,” reaching #33 in Canada.
Looking Beyond Charts
As the way we consume music evolves, so does the way we can judge the success of a song. Chart positions these days mean much less than they used to. With this in mind, it’s hard to debate Fortunate Ones’ influence when determining the most popular song from Newfoundland. Their track “Before You” has over 4,000,000 listens on Spotify as of writing, while songs like “Jerk” and “A List of Things” don’t come near that. Fortunate Ones also have several other tracks with over 1,000,000 plays. Great Big Sea, however, is quite competitive with Fortunate Ones on this front. Fortunate Ones’ top five listened-in cities on Spotify include three cities outside of Canada, while all of Great Big Sea’s are in Canada. Maybe Fortunate Ones have the most well-known song from Newfoundland internationally?
Any of the songs listed in this section certainly make a case for being the most popular song from Newfoundland and Labrador!
What is the most popular artist or band from Newfoundland?
It’s hard to argue that anyone besides Great Big Sea deserves this distinction, both in Canada and internationally. Their sustained popularity over decades is unparalleled. Consider this: Kim Stockwood’s 1996 album Bonavista charted at #53 in Canada. Damhnait Doyle’s album Shadows Wake Me, from the same year, hit #43 nationally. Great Big Sea have had a whopping eight entries on Canada’s albums chart, including seven which landed in the top ten!
- Up (1995, but didn’t chart until its 1996 re-release) #47
- Play (1997) #9
- Turn (1999) #6
- Sea of No Cares (2002) #1
- Something Beautiful (2004) #4
- The Hard and the Easy (2005) #3
- Fortune’s Favour (2008) #5
- Safe Upon the Shore (2010) #2
Safe Upon the Shore is also the only album from Newfoundland that we can find any trace of international success with. It was ranked #159 in the United States on July 31, 2010. Their 1997 album Play even got a release in Japan in 2016, as did thirteen other albums as part of an “Irish & Celtic Heartbeat” collection that was released over a few weeks around St. Patrick’s Day. Lead singer Alan Doyle has had a successful solo career as well, including his EP Rough Side Out reaching #2 in Canada in February 2020. Great Big Sea’s XX compilation released in 2012 is an absolute staple for anyone who wants an introduction to Newfoundland music.
We think the only competitor to Great Big Sea as the most popular artist or band is Fortunate Ones. Great Big Sea looks to be much more popular than Fortunate Ones in Canada. However, Fortunate Ones may have found more success internationally with today’s trend of online streaming.
Other Popular Music From Newfoundland
Let’s run through some honourable mentions of popular music from Newfoundland. These artists and bands didn’t make quite the impact outside of Newfoundland as the other ones we’ve mentioned, or they involve several members not from NL. Nonetheless, they’ve still found success.
Indie rockers Hey Rosetta! have had their 2011 album Seeds and 2014 album Second Sight chart in the top ten of the Billboard Canadian Albums chart. Lead Singer Tim Baker’s 2019 solo album Forever Overhead landed at #13.
Shaye, a supergroup of which two thirds were Kim Stockwood and Damhnait Doyle, found success in the early-to-mid 2000s. This was a time when Canada’s music charts were not archived particularly well, but it looks like the title track from their second album Lake of Fire charted at #13 in Canada. “Happy Baby” and “Beauty” from their first album received national attention, too.
Former drummer of The Trews, Sean Dalton, is a Newfoundlander and was a member of the band as they found four top-ten entries into the Canadian albums chart from 2005-2014. Their songs “Not Ready to Go” and “Yearning” both went to #2 on Canadian rock charts.
I Mother Earth
Brian Byrne, born in western Newfoundland, was vocalist of I Mother Earth for two of their albums. Most notably, he provided vocals for the 1999 track “Summertime in the Void.” It peaked at #5 on the Canadian alternative chart.
What do you think?
What do you think is the most recognizable song from Newfoundland to people in the rest of Canada? The world? What about the most well-known artist or band to mainlanders? Let us know your thoughts on the most popular music from Newfoundland and Labrador in the comments! Or, click here if you want some more 90s memories.