After more than 2,000 entries from across Canada, we're down to the Searchlight top 25. Comprised of one winner from each of the 23 regions, plus the two artists who got the most votes nationwide, these artists will compete for a slot in our televised finale.
To determine the top 25, we sent the industry panel our regional top 10 acts and asked them to rate them. Below, you'll see comments from the panelists alongside the winners. From here, we'll send the top 25 to our celebrity judges, Ruth B., Dan Kanter and Jarvis Church, who will help us pick three artists to move on to the finale. On top of that, one act with the highest amount of votes will also be invited to the final four to compete for the grand prize. You can vote for the top 25 artists until Friday, March 17, at 2:59 p.m. ET. Best of luck to everyone!
Calgary and Southern Alberta
Artist: The Static Shift
Song: "Common Bliss"
“Catchy with an edge, polished but groovy. Their danceable rock sound made me want to see them live because I know the energy in the room would be great, especially during one of those catchy guitar riffs.” — Olivia Diamond, Pop Montreal
Artist: Terry Savage and the Wonky Honkees
Song: "Runnin' through my mind"
“I'm a sucker for good, honest, well-played country music and this tune certainly fits the bill. The next time I'm passing through Swift Current or the Soo or Edmunston on a road trip, I want these guys playing in the local dive bar. And I want it to be $2 beer night.” — Dave White, CBC Yukon
Edmonton and Northern Alberta
Artist: Darren Frank
Song: "Something New To Me"
“Darren's music has a warm and full sound but if the music were stripped away the songwriting could stand on its own. His voice is calming and his delivery is confident and I can easily see this finding a home on many playlists regardless of genre. This stood out as one of my clear favourites." — Jonathan Ramos, INK Entertainment
Greater Vancouver Area
Artist: Carousel Scene
“Absolutely loved the vocals and melody. She makes me want to tell her all my secrets. I understand they are band and this is more of an acoustic thing, but I would love to hear a whole album like this. There is something unique here and I want to see them live.” — David "Click" Cox, CLK Creative Works
Artist: T. Thomason
Song: "My Kind (filmed by Southern Souls)"
“Raw and dirty, love the gritty feeling of this tune! His vocal doesn't feel calculated and technical, rather, emotive and guttural. I also like the way the melody isn't fully symmetrical and floats around the chords. Sonically, the grimey guitar hits me in a Jay Reatard/Michael Rault/Jack White kind of way and the melody and delivery remind me of Tymon Dogg or Karen O, real punky and urgent. 'My Kind' is a specific lyric about a person, and the writing immediately puts the listener in the first-person mindset. The raucousness of this song and lyric make it a strong contender." — Eon Sinclair, Pirate's Blend Records
Artist: Emma VanDyk
“A nice polished song in all aspects. While the production is sparse at the beginning, it grows and swells into a song that is full and vibrant. Emma's voice also has a nice tone and depth. I found myself wanting to go back and listen to this again. Really good song.” — Rob Lanni, Coalition Music
Interior and Northern B.C.
“I’ve got a soft spot for bands from small towns who work hard at a sound like they belong on a world stage. Nice hooks, interesting arrangement (listen to the rhythm section!) and solid production show the potential of this band.” — Alan Cross, The Ongoing History of New Music
Artist: LoFi Mind
Song: "Matter of Time"
“Infectious vibe. It’s like a townhall meeting, with a deep pocket and great harmonies. Props for keeping a 12-piece band together for three years. I picked this band because of the high-level execution in a well-worn Canadian folk genre.” — Rick Baker, Watchdog Management
Artist: Erika Fowler
“Great voice, she might be the best guitar player in the bunch. At 16 she can only get better.” — Craig Mannix, Sony Music Entertainment Canada
Song: "Come With Me"
“Beautiful song. Really well produced and the singer's voice is compelling. The video is intriguing yet whimsical. I like the playfulness and youth captured in the masks. It keeps you interested and really captures the early summer feels of youth living in Montreal.” — Ian 'DJ NDN' Campeau, A Tribe Called Red
Artist: Apryll Aileen
Song: "Hey Sugar"
“This song is really well produced. Hooks galore and lots of dynamics throughout the song to hold my attention. I would love to hear more recordings from Apryll to see what other directions her music can take the listener.” — Craig Laskey, Collective Concerts
Newfoundland and Labrador
Artist: Mitchell Hunt
Song: "This Is Your Last Chance"
“Well written rock song that I think would do well on the radio.” — Barbara Sedun, SOCAN
Artist: Justine Giles
“The synergy between the song, the lyrics, the voice and overall aesthetic is so compelling and, what’s more, seems so natural. I love the depth of the lyrics here — that she can frame a 'typical' love song in such a way that it’s engaging even after repeat listens and never comes off as forced or hokey or clichéd. If this one song is any indication, I think she’s the total package and see a lot of potential in this artist.” — Andrew King, Canadian Musician
Artist: Kimberly Sunstrum
Song: "The Lullaby"
“Catchy, simple and it builds nicely as a song. Great voice and genuinity, lyrically and sonically, even in the video. I could be wrong but she gives a classic folk-rock vibe that I feel is missing among female artists right now.” — Maneesh Bidaye, OVO
Prince Edward Island
Artist: Maureen Trainor
“Maureen has been writing songs for over two decades, but it’s only now she’s recording them in the studio? I would have told her to do this earlier as the world could have been that much better with her music out there. Let’s not wait another 20 years for the next batch. Great stuff!” — Eric Alper
Artist: Marie-Eve Arsenault
Song: "The Invisible Land"
“This was my top pick because I was drawn in by the entire aural package. The voice and lyrics were different and interesting, melodies were captivating and the tone felt eerie and very original to me. I enjoyed that it was seemingly simple on a first play but after a deeper listen I found that it was structured very nicely with a very thoughtful arrangement. Very moody and a lot of vibes; I like that.” — Dougie Bohay, Deckstar Management
Artist: The Wolfe
Song: "Dumb Dog"
“Right from the word go this is a smile-inducing earworm of a song that begs you to sing along. Full of thought-provoking lyrics over memorable melodies, this is as close to a perfect song as a trio of 17-year-old musicians could get. 'Dumb Dog' is bound to find itself on the radio sooner than later. Then everyone can sing along.” — Ken Beattie, Killbeat Music
The Greater Toronto Area
Artist: Napalm Dreams
“Napalm Dreams has successfully created a signature breed of emotionally driven, new-wave R&B. This is the kind of music that demands attention because you're forced to experience it, instead of just listening to it. Whether you're by yourself and lost in your thoughts and feelings, or sharing a moment with a special somebody, Napalm Dreams becomes the soundtrack.” — Sarah Jay, HipHopCanada
Artist: Calla Kinglit
Song: "God River Waltz"
“The appeal of this song is borne in Calla’s strong vocal range, both immovable and light, weaving and situated on her band's stripped-down instrumental composition. The song has a classic sound carrying with it memories of the Canadian folk tradition, while announcing an exciting new voice. Calla will be one to watch.” — Louis Calabro, Canadian Screen Awards/Prism Prize
“Good visuals, vocals and great presence.” — Vivian Barclay, Warner Chappell Music Canada Ltd.
Artist: The Long War
Song: "Breathe In Breathe Out"
“Great traditional folk/soul sound. Love the vocal harmonies and dynamic between both vocalists. They look comfortable and natural performing.” — Nathan Stein, Arts & Crafts Productions
Artist: Miss Natasha Enquist
Song: "Golden Planet"
“This is really interestingly put together and presented. Her voice has a really nice quality to it and I know that if the song was played simply on acoustic guitar, it would still stand out.” — Peter Rowan, Peter Rowan Management
Windsor and London
Artist: the black frame spectacle
Song: "this train ain't stoppin'"
“One of the things I love is a band that knows how to capture their energy. Black Frames has that down! The song moves with reckless maturity. I really like it.” — George Stroumboulopoulos, The Strombo Show
Popular Vote 1
Artist: The Kwerks
“Living up to the homonym that is their name, both the music and video for their single, 'Lights,' are quirky in a good way, full of carefree dancing, colour and fun.”
Popular Vote 2
Artist: Jaryd Stanley
Song: “The End”
“Jaryd Stanley combines the passion of blue-eyed soul with the intimate introspection of singer-songwriter music to create a powerful, affecting song.”