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After captivating audiences in 2018, The Launch (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV) returns with a new line-up of incredible up and coming artists and A-list mentors for Season 2. On Wednesday’s season premiere, solo artists Cassiøpeia and Vi put their own spin on mentor Ryan Tedder’s dark pop track “Better,” with both artists recording versions that felt like instant hits. Kicking off the season with a huge dose of girl power, the mentors ended the episode by launching 16-year-old Cassiøpeia and her brooding and theatrical version of “Better.”

This season of The Launch returns with the same nail-biting format as Season 1 as well as a handful of changes that pack even more music and excitement into each episode. Season 2 features the addition of host Liz Trinnear, who is best known for interviewing superstars from film, TV, and music on MUCH and etalk. Additionally, extended performances have been added to each episode, giving viewers more chances to find their next favourite artists each week. Also new this season are cameras in the iHeartRadio Media Lounge, providing unprecedented access to the backstage experience at The Launch, including footage of the artists hanging out together and watching one another audition.

Each week, five artists from across Canada will audition for show creator and Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta, award-winning singer Marie-Mai, and a guest mentor. Two singers will be chosen to record their version of a new original song, which they will then perform for a live studio audience. Each episode will end with the mentors choosing one song to launch, with last year’s season of The Launch seeing many of the original songs hitting number one on the charts. So, prepare to discover your new favourite jam.

Scott Borchetta, who is best known as the guy who signed Taylor Swift when no one else would (a gamble we think paid off), has once again used his industry contacts to amass an incredible line-up of mentors for Season 2. Joining him each week is French Canadian singer Marie-Mai, with this season seeing the return of Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and OneRepuplic frontman Ryan Tedder for the season premiere.

Vying for the chance to record Tedder’s track “Better,” the season premiere featured an incredible group of solo female singers, including BC singer-songwriter Amber J, Toronto indie soul artist Dey, Richmond Hill powerhouse pop singer Noa, Ottawa alternative pop musician Vi, and Burnaby writer and composer Cassiøpeia, who was the early favourite for being launched this week.

We don’t promote illegal gambling, but if there was a bookie taking bets on which artist was going to be launched on Wednesday’s season premiere, we could have a made a lot of money with Cassiøpeia.

SHE’S GOT THE RANGE

Up first at the auditions was 16-year-old Cassiøpeia, who stunned the mentors with her range while performing a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line” and her own song “Wake Up.” The teen singer impressed the mentors with her deep and rich vocals, with Marie-Mai saying “The way that you sing, it’s very, very intriguing.” Though Scott was worried the lyrical content of “Better” may be too adult for the young artist, the mentors had no doubt Cassiøpeia would succeed regardless of whether she recorded the song.

Cassiøpeia the launch
CTV

“You have a sound, you have a vibe, it’s dialed. You’re not looking to us to define who you are,” said Ryan. “Whatever happens today, I have zero doubt you will succeed as an artist. I feel like if the song fits you, if it doesn’t, you’re so far ahead of the game.”

SHE WAS AN EASY ‘YES’ FOR RECORDING

From the first note of her audition, it felt like Cassiøpeia was an automatic ‘yes’ for moving on to the recording studio. As for the second spot, all four remaining singers delivered strong auditions, but Ottawa artist Vi stood out as someone who has developed their own unique sound and voice, especially when it came to her writing. Ryan was the first to compliment Vi following her cover of Gary Jules’ version of “Mad World,” saying “That was awesome. Killer voice. You don’t really sound like anybody else.”

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SHE NAILED THE SONG IN ONE TAKE

Once in the studio, Cassiøpeia impressed Ryan and Scott with her professionalism and quick reaction to their notes, with the young singer nailing the track on the first take. “Notice how she got rid of the quiver?” Ryan said to Scott following one of Cassiøpeia’s takes. “Only took saying it one time.” At Scott’s request, Ryan added an extra layer to Cassiøpeia’s version of “Better” with a guitar solo, showing exactly why he’s a Grammy-winner. “Watch this,” said Tedder, grabbing his guitar. We aspire to be even remotely cool enough to pull that line off.

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SHE HAS HER OWN PERFORMANCE STYLE

Next up was performance prep, with Marie-Mai helping both women find their confidence on stage. For Cassiøpeia, that meant reeling in her movements and creating a more natural approach to choreography.

For the final performance, both artists rose to the occasion and made their mark. Vi stumbled through some of the lyrics, a move that was understandably caused by nerves, while Cassiøpeia showed off a more polished performance than we saw in rehearsals, including the addition of a pink box as a prop, a small but important detail that added to her stage presence.

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SHE’S GOT THE FOCUS

Following the performances, the mentors deliberated while making what Ryan called a “terribly, terribly difficult decision.” Cassiøpeia’s age likely played a factor in the debate, with the mentors concerned about the pressure that comes with a career in the music business being placed on someone so young. But throughout the episode, Cassiøpeia’s incredible talent, professionalism and readiness never ceased to impress the mentors and the viewers.

Speaking to the two performers together, the mentors complimented each artist on their performance. Ryan said that if he had Cassiøpeia’s poise and confidence at 16-years-old, his band OneRepublic would have started 10 years earlier. It was this poise and confidence that helped make Cassiøpeia the first artist of Season 2 to be launched! “Your focus is the reason you’re standing here,” said Scott.

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Now, excuse us while we listen to “Better” on repeat:

 

New episodes of The Launch are available on Crave immediately following their broadcast debut every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.