It’s a music biz maxim: you have a lifetime to write your first album, but when it comes to making the follow-up, the clock is ticking. For Alyssa Reid, her sophomore effort turned out to be a ticking Time Bomb.

That’s the name the 21-year-old, Toronto-based, pop singer-songwriter gave to her second album, released in February. But in truth, Reid took enough time to make sure the follow-up to her very successful 2011 debut, The Game, got all the attention it deserved.

And it seems to have paid off. The Time Bomb’s been exploding thanks to the singles “Satisfaction Guaranteed” (Top 10 in Canada) and “Running Guns,” both of which appear on the album.

Reid worked on Time Bomb in Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto, collaborating with top-notch producers and songwriters such as Billy Steinberg (Madonna, Heart), Josh Alexander (Demi Lovato, Leona Lewis), Thomas “Tawgs” Salter (Walk off the Earth, Lights) and Jamie Appleby, co-founder of her record label, Wax Records.

“Every single one of these songs is very personal to me.”

But this time around, Reid also took on a larger role, writing or co-writing every song on the album, and she felt more prepared to offer input, whereas on her debut album, she admits to being unsure of her footing.

“On my first album, it was my first time working with producers, first time working in a real studio with people who were trying to help shape me as an artist,” she says. “Getting to make Time Bomb, I was definitely more free with my opinions, and I knew more about what I was doing. I knew what I wanted. I definitely think that came through.”

Born in Edmonton, Reid wrote her first song at the age of seven. The singer’s family moved to Brampton, ON, where she finished high school and continued to focus on music, winning scholarships to attend performing arts schools in L.A. and New York City.

Then came the ‘Tube and the Bieb. In 2009, Reid posted a YouTube performance of the Justin Bieber hit “One Less Lonely Girl,” but re-interpreted from a girl’s perspective. The song, re-titled “One More Lonely Boy,” went viral and drew the attention of Wax Records.

By 2011, still in her teens, she was working with some of the most successful producers in pop music on her debut album. Propelled by the double-platinum single “Alone Again” (featuring rapper P. Reign), an updated take on the 1987 No. 1 hit “Alone” by Heart, The Game launched Reid into the stratosphere internationally. The song sold more than a million copies worldwide. In 2012 it won a SOCAN Pop/Rock Music Award and garnered Reid a JUNO nomination for Best New Artist.

To build on that success, Reid knew she had to step up her game, and she feels the songs on Time Bomb do that by showing a greater emotional maturity. “Every single one of these songs is very personal to me,” she explains, “whether it’s a relationship with a family member, or a friend, or a boyfriend, or just something that I’ve gone through.”

On the title track, a tender ballad she wrote after a sleepless night, featuring just Reid’s vocal and piano accompaniment, she lays her feelings bare. “At about five a.m., I went down to the piano and I just started writing,” she says. “I think that was the first song where I really put myself completely out there.” She kept the song’s sparse arrangement and chose to name the album after the track because she felt it represented her best. “I know it was a risk to name the album after a song that’s probably not going to be a single,” she says, “but it felt important to me.”

Taking risks. Following her feelings. The rookie from a few years ago wouldn’t have dared such things. Is the singer who popped up out of a YouTube clip now blossoming into a bona fide pop artist?

“The success of ‘Alone Again’ was so big, I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to follow it up,” Reid says. “But I find people are embracing me as an artist now more than just the song. I’m very grateful for that, and I’m really excited to continue on with this album and to see where it goes.”

Wax On Wax Off Publishing, Third Side Music
The Game (2011), Time Bomb (2014)
SOCAN member since 2007

Typically, you have the singer-songwriters on one side, the performers on the other side, and the authors, composers and songwriters somewhere in the middle. Occasionally, these roles become blurred, and the end result is a rich and varied repertoire such as that of Hugo Lapointe, whose two most recent albums out of four in a 10-year career – Hugo Lapointe (2010) and La Suite (2013) – contain collaborations with a staggering number of Quebec stars, including Daniel Boucher, Luc De Larochellière, Daniel Lavoie, Jamil, Lynda Lemay, Térez Montcalm, Maryse Letarte, Edgar Bori, Alexandre Poulin and Alexandre Belliard.

Unlike most artists, Lapointe released two collections of original songs – Célibataire  (Unmarried) in 2004 and La trentaine (The Thirties) in 2007 – before turning to collaborations. Was this due to a loss of confidence, a failure of inspiration, or the need to do something different?

“I definitely needed to try something new,” the singer reassures us, in a raspy voice that leaves no doubt about the familial link with his famous rocker brother Éric Lapointe. “In the very beginning, I mostly performed other people’s songs. That was my school. But I soon realized that if I wanted to stand out in this business, I needed original material. So I decided to start writing songs. After releasing my first two albums, however, I felt the need to go to places that I would not necessarily explore if I were to continue writing my songs all by myself.”  

“Dealing with someone else’s lyrics is certainly touchy.”

That said, Lapointe admits he experienced some relief in being able to lean on the pens of writers other than himself: “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make it easier for me and didn’t lift some weight off my shoulders… Having access to outside help also allowed me to involve myself more deeply in the recording process, whereas before, I remained fixed on lyrics until they shut off the recording console and locked the studio’s door. I was too absorbed with that aspect of music at the expense of all the rest.”

As he began the process of putting together a dozen songs (including a few self-penned pieces) for his next album, Lapointe started looking for people to help him with words or music contributions: “In most cases, I was presented with turnkey songs. With artists like Bori or Jamil, I did the music myself. For “Te retrouver” (“Finding You Again”), for instance, I set Bori’s lyrics to a music I had carried with me for five years without being able to find the right words for it. With Jamil’s “Moi j’suis qui?” (“Who Am I?”), it was more like a remote work in progress, sending each other words and music back and forth.”

“However,” Lapointe continues, “even with a turnkey song, there was always room for a little tweaking with the author when there were things that didn’t sound quite like me.” In his mind, this possibility should always be negotiated ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings along the way. “Dealing with someone else’s lyrics is certainly touchy, but I’ve always been working with incredibly generous co-writers.”

Lapointe freely admits to milking that generosity when that special connection is there. His repertoire includes three songs by Maryse Letarte (“Soleil couchant,” “Mon grand air” and “Valse d’ici”) and two by Térez Montcalm (“Complice” and “Inconsolable”). Considering Lapointe’s “dude” image, this choice of female songwriters may come as a bit of a surprise, but he can explain it away: “At first, I thought working with a woman’s lyrics might require a bit more adapting, but then I thought, Who better than a woman to know what women want to hear? After all, the majority of my audience is female…”

“After receiving the first song from Maryse,” Lapointe goes on to explain, “we took a chance asking her for more, and each time she was able to focus exactly on what I wanted to express. Same thing with Térez and the way she capture how I relate to music on ‘Complice.’”

Lapointe often suggested topics or themes to his co-writers. One of these songs, Alexandre Poulin’s “L’incendie” (“The Fire”), is based on Lapointe’s activities as spokesperson for Maison Carignan, a Trois-Rivière alcoholism treatment centre. Daniel Boucher’s “Tu l’sais même pas” (“You Don’t Even Know”) is a quasi verbatim reproduction of a story Lapointe told him about not necessarily being recognized on the street.

“When I first receive a song,” Lapointe explains, “I learn it the way it is. Once that’s done, I allow it to mature in my head for a few weeks or months without listening to the original version. Then I go back to it and perform it my way. That’s how I can make a song my own.”

Isn’t this use of other songwriters’ material depriving Lapointe of some performing right royalties in an industry with waning revenues? “Could be… However, these works also help me reach a wider audience and possibly do more shows and generate additional revenues. Plus the fact that I think that the opportunity this gives me to meet and work with all these artists and perform their songs is payment enough. I feel privileged.”

“Started from the bottom, now the whole team here.”

So says Drake in “Started From the Bottom,” and that’s exactly how his big-bang explosion on the worldwide hip-hop scene has affected the fortunes of his whole team – more than 60 Canadian, Toronto-based songwriters, beat-makers, producers and other collaborators. Drake has almost single-handedly created an entire industry that has blossomed in his wake, and inspired the next generation of Canadian hip-hop in the process.

It’s already known that Toronto native Aubrey “Drake” Graham is gifted with a unique vernacular that has vaulted him into the forefront of rap music and placed him on the global sphere of influence shared by Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Now he’s also the first-ever recipient of SOCAN’s Global Inspiration Award, for being particularly generous in bringing his Toronto-centric crew along for the ride – to the tune of collaborating on 226 commercially released songs and four albums.

For a Grammy- and multiple JUNO-winning artist – who’s sold more than 5 million albums, staged multi-million dollar tours and, in five short years, already squeezed 36 songs onto the Billboard charts (including the Top 10 “Forever,” “Best I Ever Had,” “Find Your Love,” “Take Care,” “Make Me Proud,” “Started From The Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home”) – his sense of loyalty and devotion to T.O., and his hometown collaborators, is refreshing.

“I put a lot of people in positions to do great things.”

“When it comes to this city [Toronto], I mean, I’m so vocal about how much I care,” Drake told CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. “All I ever wanna do is just see this city get the recognition and the love it deserves, see people from this city shine. Y’know, I put a lot of people in positions to do great things. That’s all I wanna keep doing.”

So how deeply does “The Drake Effect” impact the contemporary hip-hop scene? Just look at the company his collaborators keep aside from Drizzy.

Some, like high-profile producers, engineers and mixers Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da (Matthew Samuels) who’ve been with him since he was spitting out his first rhymes back in the mid-00’s – have been tapped by some of music’s biggest names to share their expertise.

Boi-1da’s Drake connection has led to him working with Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Kelly Rowland, Meek Mill, and Lil’ Wayne – the American rapper who took first took Drizzy under his wing, signed him to his Cash Money Records/Young Money Entertainment label and management firm, and helped establish him internationally.

Grammy-winner 40 has been sought out by Trey Songz, Lil’ Wayne, Alicia Keys, Sade, fellow Canuck Melanie Fiona, Usher, Beyoncé, and many more.

When Boi-1da and 40 accepted SOCAN’s inaugural Global Inspiration Award on behalf of Drake, presented at the SOCAN Awards in June 2014, 40 made the point that almost all of Drizzy’s music is “written by Canadians, produced by Canadians, and recorded by Canadians… We make a conscious effort to keep this here [in Canada and Toronto].”

The Jamaican-born, Ajax, Ont.-based Boi-1da, says he’s known Drake since his Degrassi days, and confirmed the accuracy of the Nothing Was the Same Top 10 anthem in an interview with HipHopDX.

“We started working out of a studio that was rat-infested,” he said. “I was working at Winners at the time, and Drake was working at two places: He was working at Degrassi: The Next Generation and at a restaurant where he was doing spoken word over the piano.

“To me, he really started from the bottom. When I hear people say [that he didn’t], it really upsets me, because I was there when we all started it and went through the struggles… Drake made a lane of his own.

 “I’ve always said this. When I first met the guy and heard his music, I said, ‘This guy – and not to disrespect anyone – was going to be the next Jay-Z.’ He had everything working for him. He had the swag, the look, and the music was always spectacular. To this day, I’ve never heard a bad Drake verse.”