Back in 1996, MuchMusic launched a compilation series that would go on to produce 17 albums in total, selling millions of copies over a span that lasted 13 years. Big Shiny Tunes CDs and cassettes were commonplace at parties, in car stereos, and in those bulky discmans and walkmans that many used to carry around in over-sized hoodie pockets.
There’s no denying the impact the Big Shiny Tunes series had on Canadians. The second entry in the series sold 2,000,000 copies alone, reaching Diamond status. Another nine entries were certified Platinum, many of them several times over. In honour of one of the most successful compilation series this country will ever know, here is our ranking of Big Shiny Tunes records from worst to best.
Big Shiny Tunes 5
To be fair, both Matthew Good Band’s “Load Me Up” and Deftones’ “Change (In the House of Flies)” rank among the best alternative rock songs to hit the airwaves in 1999-2000. Unfortunately, in the case of Big Shiny Tunes 5, they’re surrounded by cuts from the likes of Matchbox Twenty, Three Doors Down, The Bloodhound Gang, and Disturbed. Certified 6X Platinum, the album clearly resonated with its audience.
Highlight: As evidenced by his fantastic Beautiful Midnight Revisited: I Miss New Wave tour, Matthew Good’s “Load Me Up” rips as hard as anything from the late 90s alt-rock era.
Lowlight: Several strong candidates here, but Kid Rock’s country music turn in “Only God Knows Why” has aged about as well as Macaulay Culkin.
Big Shiny Tunes 6
The 2001 entry in the series was heavy on the nu-metal/butt rock stylings of the day, with artists like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Puddle of Mudd, Default, and 3 Doors Down littering the tracklisting.
Highlight: Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood” was the genre-bending jam we deserved and it’s probably this compilation’s strongest cut, with all due respect to Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” and Moby’s “South Side.”
Lowlight: There are several forgettable numbers on this collection, but Puddle of Mudd’s “Control” is the one forgotton the most.
Big Shiny Tunes 4
We’re here for this 1999 record’s tracks from favourites like Matthew Good Band, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, and Orgy’s fantastic cover of “Blue Monday,” but nothing says “it’s time to move on from the 90s” like Sugar Ray and Goo Goo Dolls.
Highlight: Chemical Brothers struck gold with “Let Forever Be.”
Lowlight: Sugar Ray aptly titled 1999 record 14:59 saw the band copy the “Fly” formula that served them so well a couple years earlier. “Someday” is unforgivably bad, but at least the band was well aware their time was almost up.
Big Shiny Tunes 7
The series went all-in on masculinity-fueled rock to open this 2002 compilation, with the first five songs belonging to Nickelback, P.O.D., Staind, Puddle of Mudd, and Theory of a Deadman. Several songs that have stood the test of time followed the rough liftoff, with classics from Sam Roberts, Matthew Good, Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41, and Weezer, helped fill out the record.
Highlight: Sam Roberts’ “Brother Down” belongs on any best Canadian songs of all-time list.
Lowlight: It’s take your pick of tracks 1-5.
Big Shiny Tunes 11
No. 11 experienced some sort of identity crisis, leaning far too heavily on artists like Avenged Sevenfold, Underøath, and Thirty Seconds to Mars. It’s buoyed by great songs from the likes of Metric, Sam Roberts, and AFI.
Highlight: Wolfmother’s “Woman” rips hard.
Lowlight: “Twisted Transistor” by KoRn is up there among the worst songs to appear in the series.
Big Shiny Tunes 14
Released in 2009, the final proper entry in the Big Shiny Tunes series (two 90s compilations and an 80s record would follow) includes fantastic songs from Paramore, Arkells, and Alexisonfire, to name a few.
Highlight:Gotta run with Beastie Boys featuring Nas on “Too Many Rappers” here.
Lowlight: The series’ Canadian content, which could be its source of strength in so many instances, could also be its Achilles heel. Nickelback’s “Burn It To The Ground” is unnecessary in so many ways.
Big Shiny Tunes 12
The series is pretty solid from this point onward, so No. 12 is this list’s turning point. It was an excellent blend of top-40 friendly efforts from the likes of Maroon 5 mixed with hard-hitting cuts from Queens of the Stone Age and Alexisonfire.
Highlight: Give us Queens of the Stone Age’s “3’s & 7’s,” give it to us all day.
Lowlight: Keyboards are not equipped with a backwards R feature, but KoRn’s “Evolution” is our pick this go around.
Big Shiny Tunes 8
For a compilation released in 2003, there’s a lot that’s stood the test of time here. Sam Roberts’ “Where Have All the Good People Gone?” and Queens of the Stone Age’s “Go With the Flow” could land on playlist any day of the week. Great stuff from Coldplay, AFI, and Jane’s Addiction here, to boot.
Highlight: Can’t say for sure if All American Rejects’ “Swing, Swing” should be a guilty pleasure, and frankly we don’t care.
Lowlight: If there’s one overarching complaint about Big Shiny Tunes, it’s that women were vastly underrepresented in most entries. They could have done better than Fefe Dobson’s “Bye Bye Boyfriend” here.
Big Shiny Tunes 10
Big Shiny Tunes would never turn its back on the Nickelback/Theory of a Deadman set, but on the series’ 10th entry they carefully sandwiched them in between anthems from My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, The Killers, Bedouin Soundclash, Gorillaz, Hot Hot Heat, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Highlight: Literally too many iconic cuts to choose from, but The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” is a banger we will always bow down to.
Lowlight: Weezer began a descent into new territory in the mid-2000s, “Beverly Hills” was an ejection point for many longtime fans.
Big Shiny Tunes
Maybe they all eventually found their way into the used bins, but there might have been a copy of the first Big Shiny Tunes in every Canadian household in 1996. It was a compilation done right, pulling cuts from artists like Beck, Radiohead, Marilyn Manson, Foo Fighters, Sloan, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Shout out to great Canadian content via Pluto, the Killjoys, and Limblifter.
Highlight: Hard to pick just one, but Sloan’s “The Good In Everyone” was a song that set the tone for the summer back in 1996.
Lowlight: Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ “Scooby Snacks” qualifies as pure 90s trash.
Big Shiny Tunes 13
Some of the best songs in the series sit here via The Raconteurs, Sam Roberts, Wintersleep, and Tokyo Police Club.
Highlight:Not even playing favourites, our friends Tokyo Police Club are just that good. “Tessellate” bangs.
Lowlight: One of the strongest records in the family, but no idea what Buckcherry is doing hanging around here with “Sorry.”
Big Shiny Tunes 9
Over a decade after their respective releases, The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” and Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” still resonate and keep a firm grasp on North American airwaves. They’re supplemented on Big Shiny Tunes 9 by fun tracks from The Darkness, The Hives, Jet, Blink 182, and more.
Highlight: Sweden’s The Hives are of the “The” bands who were actually very good. “Walk Idiot Walk” is a fun one.
Lowlight: Hoobastank’s “Same Direction” is stashed away at No. 17 on the tracklisting, where it could be easily skipped so listeners could get to Alexisonfire’s “Accidents” to close out the album.
Big Shiny Tunes 2
The highest-selling entry in the series, Big Shiny Tunes 2 was a landmark album in terms of compilations. The series opened its arms to electronica and experimental sounds from The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Radiohead, and Bran Van 3000. It’s outstanding, but it’s not the best…
Highlight: Checking in at just over six and a half minutes, Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” was hardly a conventional single. Kudos for MuchMusic for embracing the whacky video and including it on a compilation series marketed to the masses.
Lowlight: Smash Mouth have become a self-award parody of themselves, so they escape the lowlight hammer here. It belongs to the completely unnecessary “Temptation” (Tom Lord-Alge Mix) from The Tea Party.
Big Shiny Tunes 3
Not sure if this qualifies as a hot take, but BST 3 > BST 2. It didn’t sell as many copies, but it boasts classic cuts from Foo Fighters, Matthew Good, Beastie Boys, Rob Zombie, Radiohead, Sloan, and Monster Magnet.
Highlight: No matter how many times you hear it, Sloan’s “Money City Maniacs” stands as one of the greatest Canadian bangers of all-time.
Lowlight: Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” is unfortunately sandwiched between Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and Big Wreck’s Drop D anthem “That Song,” put a damper on an otherwise great run to the end of the record that culminates with Monster Magnet’s “Space Lord.”