‘If I Can Make it There…’: Jann Arden’s American Dream
In this chapter, Austen explores the implications of a Canadian mythos of success which assumes that to succeed is to be recognized and valued by the US. From Northrop Frye’s 1965 contemplation of Canada’s inability to create a ‘literary great’ to the more contemporary pursuit of Jann Arden to break into the American music industry, what it means for a Canadian artist to achieve greatness and success has remained a fraught question. Does success in Canada count as success if it does not achieve validation from outside Canadian national borders? The American music industry, with its vast market and Billboard charts, wields great hegemonic pressure, perpetuating a Canadian inferiority complex that assumes that to ‘make it there’, the US, is to ‘make it everywhere’, while to make it here, Canada, is to make it nowhere. After making the Billboard charts with 1994’s ‘Insensitive’, Jann Arden has yet to chart another single in the US, despite continued success in Canada, including sold-out shows and albums that persistently achieve Gold or Platinum status. Arden’s struggle to at last achieve more lasting success in the American market became the topic of the 2003 documentary Jann Takes Manhattan. Contemplating this documentary’s emphasis on the importance of achieving American stardom and its simultaneous reinforcement of Arden’s Canadianness, this essay queries to what extent that Canadianness stymies her so-called ‘American Dream’.