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Emjay, Love Inc. and beyond: remembering Canadian Eurodance
By
Editorial Staff

Published

February 24, 2015

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Written by Chris Dart

When we talk about the music of the 1990s, we tend to focus on pioneering alt-rock acts or hyper lyrical late golden age rappers. We never talk about Eurodance.

Eurodance was a mixture of house, techno and bubblegum pop, which resulted in high-energy blasts of synthesizer arpeggios, banging four-four, 140 beat-per-minute kick drums and heavily emotional lyrics. The imported product was so popular in Canada that we started making our own. (Because Canadian Eurodance sounded like an oxymoron, it was dubbed with the awkward portmanteau of Candance, which only kind of half stuck. People usually stayed with Eurodance, or just "dance music.")

And yet for all its popularity, we pretend Eurodance didn't exist. There's a reason for this. It didn't seem cool or subversive. It didn't have angst, or a social message, or even lyrics that totally made sense. (Candance had an oddly high number of songs sung in English by French Canadians.) It was, at best, rave culture's goofy younger sibling, but with all the breaking into warehouses, mind-expanding drugs and PLUR utopianism replaced with modified Honda Civics, Kappa tearaways and lip liner that was intentionally darker than your lipstick.

All that said, if you grew up as a distinctly uncool suburb of a major Central Canadian city in the '90s , or in a mid-sized industrial town in the same region, Candance was probably as much the sound of your youth as Pixies or Wu-Tang Clan. Even if you didn't listen to it, even if you hated it, it was around and hard to ignore.

So this goes out to everyone who spent a summer night in the parking lot of a strip mall in Scarborough or St. Catharines or Rivière-des-Prairies, leaning against your buddy Paul's mint new CR-X, watching Maria and George break up for the seventh time in front of the Country Style, and hoping that Emjay would come on the radio soon. 

Scroll through the gallery below for details.

For more '90s coverage, check out all our '90s Week content, including the 50 best Canadian songs of the decade, which songs you cry-drove to and an ode to girl groups.

Emjay

The musical pride of Rockland, Ont., Marie Josée Riel had a string of hits on the Canadian dance charts in the mid-'90s, including a cover of Company B's "Fascinated." She also opened for the Backstreet Boys on an early Canadian tour. As the Eurodance market went soft toward the turn of the millennium, her career started to lose steam. She recorded a couple non-Eurodance French language singles in the late '90s before eventually retiring. 


Jacynthe

Of all the artists on this list, Jacynthe is the one who had the most staying power. While English Canada knows her for a few mid- to late '90s dance tunes, she actually produced a string of hits in Quebecduring the 2000s, and was the Paris Hilton equivalent on the Quebecois version of The Simple Life.


Joée

Torontonian Joey DeSimone was sort of the missing link between Eurodance and late '90s boy band pop, releasing straight-up pop singles that came with more dancefloor-heavy remixes.


Kim Esty

It was sometimes hard to tell where Kim Esty stopped and the Boomtang Boys ended. They produced many of her hits, and she did the vocals on many of their singles. They were sort of two indepedent but highly connected units.


Jefferson Project

"Jefferson" was the stage name of producer Jean-Francois Laprise. The rest of his project was rounded out by vocalist Sylvie Desrochers and keyboardist Luc Dubois. The released four singles in 1995 and '96, and amazingly one more in 2011.


Capital Sound

A frequently forgotten feature of Eurodance was the addition of a (usually terrible) rap verse in the middle. While not every song had one, a lot of big hits did. (If you're looking for an example, think of Culture Beat's massive 1993 hit "Mr. Vain.")

Capital Sound really embraced this trend, carving out a niche as the group in which every song has a bad rap verse, as opposed to just some of them.


Shauna Davis

Shauna Davis was the stage name of Haitian-born, Montreal-raised Stéphane Moraille, whose hit "Get Away" was nominated for a Juno in 1995. She found bigger fame later on in the '90s as the singer for Bran Van 3000.

After leaving music, she became a lawyer and ran, unsuccessfully, for the NDP in Montreal's Bourassa riding in the 2013 byelection.


Solina

Solina, real name Isabelle Plante, released the song "Summer Nights" in three different languages (English, French and Spanish) in 1995. Like several other artists on this list, she moved into making straight-ahead pop music in the late '90s. She now owns a spa in Laval.


Nadia

If you watch Nadia's old performances from Electric Circus and Bouge de la, you'll be struck by how aerobic they are, which makes sense, as she was a national aerobics champion in 1993. Post-music, she's gone back to the fitness industry and now runs a yoga studio in Gatineau.


Love Inc.

Love Inc. had the most commercial success of anyone on this list. It was the only domestic dance music act to have a record go platinum in Canada, and chart in the U.S.U.K.Netherlands andIreland. And they did all this without producer Chris Sheppard ever taking off his sunglasses.


Temperance

Best known for the single "Music is My Life" — as well as a slew of covers including "Do They Know It's Christmas," "Forever Young" and "Chains of Love" — Temperance was the brainchild of Toronto producer Mark Ryan. (Ryan's real name was H.A. Der-Hovagiman.)

While he ended the Temperance project in 1997, he still makes music, most recently under the name DerHova.