By Jonathon “Bizz” Brown
Have you ever noticed how many popular songs employ the “I Love New York” archetype? Of course you have, it’s the most amplified, glorified, and personalized metropolis in the world, the perfect pillar for a song about a single city the whole world can embrace. “Empire State of Mind” is the latest in the looong line of hip hop songs dedicated to the lights, camera, action of the biggest apple we’ve got. And as I drove down the 401 the other day and Alicia Keys belted out the chorus to radio’s new favorite song, it occurred to me just how cool it is to say “New York”. There’s something inherent in merely mentioning the city in music that gets the masses attached. Being the Toronto-centric individuals we are in my circle sometimes, Bishop Brigante and I started discussing how difficult it seems to envision a time when “Toronto” could connect in any comparable way.
Now, it’s not as if it’s a secret why “New York” resonates to strongly with music fans. New York is a wordly city, it hosts a ton of visual and cultural representations in the media, and it’s long been synonymous with adventure, stardom and potential. Frank Sinatra, Alice Cooper, Kurtis Blow, John Mayer, The Beach Boys, Sex Pistols, Neil Diamond, John Lennon, 50 Cent, Nas, Jay-z, Fat Joe, and every other rapper from the 5 boroughs has capitalized on New York’s sexy auditory appeal and perpetuated it’s mass cultural pull in doing so.
With this being said, it’s easy to understand why Toronto doesn’t work on the same level. Even though it’s on a much smaller scale, Toronto is a lot like New York in many ways, but not in this way. Toronto doesn’t have the artistic, cultural or commercial groundwork of New York so it can’t expect to hold the same top of the mind awareness. But what about just a little bit? Other cities have had their shine; you’re telling me nobody here can associate Toronto with feelings of opportunity, enlightenment, power, diversity and freedom? It’s one of the most interesting cities to navigate and nobody can verbalize it well enough to garner any level of attention?
Well for this I have no solution, but instead a challenge. And it’s not to the artists, but instead to the regular people reading The Fine Print: spread the word about the cityscape, about the laughter, about the festivals, about the lights, about the education, about the cleanliness. Tell the people what’s great about the place we call home. And then tell them what we live through that makes us appreciate it all even more. Tell them about the transit strikes, about the taxes, about the smog alerts, about the traffic, about the snow storms and the erratic weather. Just tell them about Toronto and sooner or later, somebody somewhere will successfully verbalize a song that makes “Toronto” mean to the world what it means to us.
That’s The Fine Print.