UBC Press goes musical for Vancouverism advertising

This may not come as a huge surprise to some of you, given Vancouver’s moniker as the ‘no fun city,’ but Vancouver doesn’t have a colossal library of songs referencing it unlike, say, New York or Los Angeles. One might ask, “What is there to even sing about? Rain?” And darn it, you’re kind of right.

Vancouverism is a Spotify playlist curated by Megan Malashewsky, UBC Press’s agency and digital marketing coordinator, and was created in promotion of Larry Beasley’s new book Vancouverism. This playlist features a lot more than just rain-centric songs about Vancouver, and Malashewsky made sure of this.

“I [also] wanted the playlist to reflect my own experiences living here, and I think being curator of the playlist allowed me to make it a bit personal, while also tying it to the themes of the book,” Malashewsky wrote in an email to The Ubyssey.

Malashewsky’s playlist features classics from heavy hitters in Vancouver’s indie scene such as Said The Whale’s “Big Wave Goodbye” and “Black Day in December” that are quintessentially Vancouver and Dan Mangan’s “Pine For Cedars” that focuses on painting a scene of the city’s quiet nooks. The playlist also includes love songs from Canadian musicians outside the province, like Gord Downie and Leif Vollebekk. Downie’s “Vancouver Divorce” is a wrenching love song and Vollebekk’s “Vancouver Time” is hauntingly beautiful.

“When I initially thought of a Vancouver-related playlist to celebrate Vancouverism, I had intended it to be Vancouver-based bands and artists,” Malashewsky wrote. “However, when I thought more about the list and how it might parallel the themes in the book, it made more sense to showcase songs about Vancouver.

“Vancouverism is on one hand a celebration of Vancouver and the unique character of the city, and on the other hand an acknowledgment of what’s lacking.”

Larry Beasley, a distinguished practice professor at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, is a former co-chief city planner with the City of Vancouver and has had a major hand in crafting Vancouver.

“His optimism shines through the pages of Vancouverism, so I knew I needed to capture that through songs that pay homage to Vancouver and its history,” Malashewsky wrote. “On the other hand, Beasley doesn’t shy away from the darker side of Vancouver and the disparate experiences of people living in Vancouver — many struggling to get by in one of the most expensive cities in the world.”

“That’s why I had to include songs like “Vancouver National Anthem” and “Hell,” which clearly point a finger at Vancouver and say ‘We need to do better,’” Malashewsky wrote.

As to how a Spotify playlist can work as an advertising medium, Malashewsky highlighted the ability of music to enhance literary experiences.

“In the future, and if time permitted, I’d like to reach out to authors to curate their own playlists, as I think music can illuminate and enhance the themes and tone of a book, even a non-fiction urban planning book like Vancouverism.”

Malashewsky found that there’s a lot of creative freedom in making Spotify playlists, as “it allows the playlist creator to be a curator—to put some thought and creativity into it. I didn’t want it to just list a bunch of songs about Vancouver because, as I found out, you can easily find that online.”

Sure, a lot of songs about Vancouver talk about rain or our encounters with boisterous weather or, like in “Vancouver National Anthem”, the never-ending trials and tribulations of finding parking in the West End. But, there’s more to it. Vancouver is a thoroughly unique city in many ways, from how its hair-raising views being showcased through strategic mixed-use development to the city’s significant amount of green spaces mixed with sleek, urban architecture. Musicians will likely continue to be inspired by Vancouver so, as listeners, we certainly have a lot to look forward to.