The History of Big Shiny Tunes

Take a handful of major American acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Beastie Boys. Add a bunch of CanCon standards like Sloan, Sum 41, and The Tea Party. At that point, you basically have a Much Music playlist. Put that playlist on a CD and sell a million copies, and you get the Big Shiny Tunes compilation series. 

If you listened to alternative music in the 90s, chances are you either had at least one Big Shiny Tunes album or could be reliably counted on to sing all the words to at least a third of an album at a sleepover or school dance. Big Shiny Tunes sold five million copies of their albums and they released fourteen of them between 1996 and 2009, but we mainly know the first five, so let’s talk about some 90s CanCon classics. 


Best Selling Album: Big Shiny Tunes 2

Big Shiny Tunes 2 went diamond, which means it sold over a million copies. The first five editions of the collection were easily the most successful, with one going triple platinum (i.e., more than 300,000 in sales), three and four going 8x platinum, and five going 6x platinum. Subsequent albums never sold that well again. 


Goofiest Song: “One Week”, Barenaked Ladies

Remember when the Barenaked Ladies were banned from playing in front of Toronto City Hall because the powers-that-be were offended by what may be the least threatening band ever produced in Canada? 


Song You Keep Hearing Everywhere You Go: “Closing Time”, Semisonic

It’s either a song about the end of a night at a bar or a song about being born. It’s also melancholy yet hopeful enough to frequently appear in TV and on movies, including in The Office, Melrose Place, and Friends With Benefits


Biggest Surprise: “Walkin’ on the Sun”, Smash Mouth

Everyone thinks of Smash Mouth as a one-hit wonder, thanks to “All Star”, which appears on Big Shiny Tunes 4. But “Walkin’ on the Sun” also took the top spot on the Billboard chart. 


Song That Is It’s Own Mood: “Remote Control”, Age of Electric

Appearing in Big Shiny Tunes 2, “Remote Control” speaks to everyone questioning their own low-key choices and lack of self control. 


Song We Unironically Love: “Iris”, Goo Goo Dolls

It’s a power ballad from that Nick Cage romance movie where he gives up being an angel to date Meg Ryan. But don’t lie: you know all the words and if no one else is in the car with you, you’ll belt them out, won’t you? 


First Appearance of Nickelback: Big Shiny Tunes 5

Canada’s most controversial export (until Bieber) made their first appearance on the 2000 edition of Big Shiny Tunes with “Breath”. It was a harbinger of things to come. Given the growing popularity of adult contemporary music played by Nickelback and nu-metal (Big Shiny Tunes 5 also featured songs from Disturbed and Limp Bizkit), future editions of Big Shiny Tunes would feature less and less alternative music.