He’s a pop artist with three platinum singles, a gold record and UTM hosted him four years ago for their own orientation concert. We knew all these factoids, but we still found ourselves asking—who the hell is Shawn Desman? Why him, and why not Drake?


Desman peaked in popularity during the early ’00s, right around the same time this year’s froshies finished potty training. Following the announcement that the dated 33-year-old would be U of T’s frosh concert headliner, the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU) was met with the harshest shade of indifference from first year students who expected something more from a top-rated international university. For many of them, it was probably one of the first impressions of student life U of T had offered. 

In comparison, McMaster University nabbed NYC-based DJ duo The Chainsmokers for their own orientation week in early September. The duo is known for their viral tongue-in-cheek hit“#SELFIE” and have been releasing chart-topping singles ever since. Though neither local nor refined, The Chainsmokers’ ostentatious beats expectedly sold tickets regardless.

But it’s not just pop that sells. Although McGill went along with the club standard and scored DJ Dannic, Western headlined with the crowd-pleasing, up-and-coming indie rock group, Walk Off the Earth. And while all the neighboring frosh concerts went on reveling in their own impressive-enough acts, Ryerson somehow managed to arrange a sold-out Future/Zed’s Dead/Miguel concert sprinkled with a little Drake on top. And no—we’re still not over it.


Most students wouldn’t expect a university to book an artist whose list of nominations and awards require their own Wikipedia page, yet of all the schools in the “6ix,” we expected U of T to snag Drake first.


Although guest passes sold out days prior to Ryerson’s concert, envious students still migrated all the way from St. George campus to Gould and Victoria in the rain just to listen to the bombastic ambience and possibly catch a glimpse of Drizzy through the drizzle.

Like so many other first year students, Woodsworth College student Neha Syed passed on U of T’s orientation concert entirely and instead visited the erupting Ryerson venue along with friends. “Obviously we didn’t get in, but because it was Drake, we were just waiting around outside. I think even that was better than being at Shawn Desman’s performance... I just wanted to be around Drake, like I didn’t care how far I was.”


Neha would later score a video of Drake entering his car along the curb following his performance—the highlight of her night.

Hiring a local act has always been a valid consideration for UTSU’s programming coordinators. Being from Toronto, Shawn Desman fit the bill for such an act, but this year’s students agreed that their local pride could have taken a backseat to accommodate a performance by a more popular, or at the very least relevant, artist. However, it’s not just a matter of Desman being old news. When asked, most first year students responded that they would have rather seen other shamefully nostalgic, circa-2000s Canadian artists instead of Desman.

“Simple Plan, Avril Lavigne—even Nickelback,” first year student Sara Zamani concurred. “I would actually rather see Nickelback than Shawn. It’s still not Drake, but like, it’s something.”

While criticism regarding the Desman vs. Drake debacle drenched social media the day following the event, there were still plenty of froshies voicing their appreciation towards the UTSU and their love for Shawn online.

Roshni Thawani, a Humanities student from Trinity College, proudly praised her frosh experience on social media by sharing a selfie she took with the pop star offstage, captioned, “Getting a selfie with Shawn Desman > getting a glimpse of Drake.”


In response to online outcry that Desman is still “nothing compared to Drake,” Thawani replied, “He’s the father of a 2 year old and still performing. I admire that.” She then went on to add, “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I still believe he did a fantastic show!”

Though the lineup for this year’s performance was unfamiliar and subjectively inferior to Ryerson’s, the forecast for future frosh fests at U of T may not always be. This has been the third consecutive year the UTSU has hosted their orientation concert in the rain, but King’s College Circle was still half-full. With students waiting throughout the opening acts with their rain gear on, sitting in circles and playing soccer in the mud, they made their expectations clear: they were there for the show, they were there to have fun and they’d be there through the worst.

That being said, if first year students would rather see Nickelback than their frosh concert headliner, the UTSU really needs to freshen up their first impressions.


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