Ok, I’m being facetious; the Big Shiny Tunes compilations haven’t been around since 2009. But if you were growing up loving music in the late 90’s and early 2000’s chances were you’d be getting this CD, released yearly around the holidays by Canadian companies MuchMusic/MusiquePlus. A dated concept that’s for sure, the world of downloading and streaming music has little need for a compilation package of hand-selected tunes that brought you the best of alternative rock from that year; but man, did Big Shiny Tunes have its moment in the sun! And I’d like to take a few words with my first rant of 2021 to look back and celebrate the beauty of the compilation album.
Picture this. Christmas 1997, a young thirteen-year-old Lee wrestles with his brother and sister to tear into the biggest gift they were all getting that year. A Nintendo 64 and…oh baby a copy of Goldeneye! Screams of absolute pleasure ring through the house as dad films the action (why did every dad insist on taking footage of Christmas morning on the camcorder? No one in history wants to sit back and rewatch that!) Mom pours out mimosas…was I drinking champagne at thirteen? My lack of memory suggests that I was. Through all the commotion and subsequent setting up of the N64, a CD called Big Shiny Tunes 2 lies on the floor near the Christmas tree buried in wrapping paper and getting stepped all over by the dog. I didn’t know it in those initial moments, but I would go on to spend more time with that compilation than I did playing Goldeneye! Don’t believe me? Ok fine, at the very least, they got an equal amount of attention from my impressionable teenage mind.
The Big Shiny Tunes compilations offered us a simple way to discover new bands in an age when finding new music wasn’t as easy for a youngin. More than half of the artists I heard that year on Big Shiny Tunes became lifelong favourites; it was my first taste of Radiohead, the Prodigy, Stone Temple Pilots. Bands that were breaking out or for whatever reason hadn’t hit me and my group of friends as hard as Green Day and Nirvana. I ran that fucking compilation into the ground, and it stayed in the family CD player that entire Christmas break. And in the same sense that we do not appreciate entire albums as much as a society any longer, we simply do not appreciate what these compilations once did for music discovery. Today there are hundreds of thousands of Spotify playlists that you can shuffle through and discover new artists through. I do it all the time. It’s nice and easy, but damn, is it less of a beautiful experience!
I went a couple more Christmases getting the Big Shiny Tunes compilation, it was always a treat, but I look back most fondly on the second version and my first experience with it. If you’re a few years younger than me, perhaps it was four that sticks with you the most? Or 8. But those compilations did so much for us in those days before the internet took over music. As much as it pleases me to have all the music in the world at my fingertips at all times, I think it’s important now a good ten years after the compilation has stopped to look back, give a little shout out to, and celebrate what a beautiful thing Big Shiny Tunes was. You can check out the compilations on Spotify. Shoot me a message with your favourite year or version. What would your 2020 Big Shiny Tunes compilation look like? Though the format may be defunct the joy of sharing music with each other is as exciting as ever!
Written by Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate