Exclaim!'s 50 Best Canadian Songs of the 2010s
Published Nov 06, 2019With the takeover of streaming platforms and playlists, not to mention the shrinking of our collective attention spans, a single track has never held more power than it does now. Exclaim!'s 50 Best Canadians Songs of the 2010s prove that the Great White North has contributed more than its fair share of choons, bangers and bops over the last ten years, from earworm-packed Top 40 hits to experimental meditations. From PUP to Drake to Alessia Cara, here are the best of the best. Read the full list below, and listen along in our accompanying Spotify playlist.
If you haven't already, don't forget to check out Exclaim!'s 50 Best Canadian Albums of the 2010s.
Exclaim!'s 50 Best Canadian Songs of the 2010s:
50. Tegan and Sara
Ditching their scrappy guitars for '80s synths and slick hooks, "Closer" routed Tegan and Sara's heartfelt witticisms through the mainstream pop machine without losing their edge. It positioned the twin sisters as a new breed of pop star — conscientious and intimate, aiming to engage as many people as possible without forgetting the alternative confines from which they emerged. It can be hard to believe a pop star when they sing lines like "I won't treat you like you're oh-so-typical," but thanks to the groundwork Tegan and Sara built in the first two decades of their careers, they made it feel that much more genuine.
49. Jacques Greene
"Feel Infinite" (2017)
Jacques Greene arrived at a time when electronic music was saturated by woozy R&B flips and "new" takes on house music, yet he still managed to carve out a place all his own. While the individual elements of "Feel Infinite" aren't necessarily unique, Greene has a knack for assembling them in such intriguing ways, crafting a song that feels both completely original and timeless. As the titular song of his debut album, "Feel Infinite" distills Greene's sound without diminishing it, highlighting all his considerable skills and making it feel effortless.
"Flesh Without Blood" (2015)
It can be easy to lose track of "Grimes the pop singer" under the weight of Claire Boucher's titanic persona. While "Grimes the fashion icon" and "Grimes, girlfriend of Elon Musk" will always exist, tracks like "Flesh Without Blood" are effective reminders of how strong her grasp of pop music truly is. It's a deceptively simple tune, but also a perfect showcase for all her pop idiosyncrasies. It's catchy and well-written, with some sharp lyrical barbs and Boucher's own airy soprano vocals. But it's still the type of tune only she could have written and pulled off, and Boucher's stamp of otherworldliness is all over this track.
47. The Weather Station
After a decade of performing as the Weather Station, folk songwriter Tamara Lindeman was in the mood to look back. "Thirty," the standout track from 2017's excellent self-titled LP, is a wistful examination of entering your fourth decade on Earth — that moment when "growing up" starts to feel alarmingly like "growing old." A momentum-gathering beat conveys the relentless passage of time, while Lindeman's acoustic chords capture a bittersweet sense of melancholy. And yet, what makes "Thirty" so great isn't its universality, but its specificity, as Lindeman paints vivid images with lyrics about a sibling in Nairobi, a hand on the small of her back, and the way "I noticed fucking everything."
46. The Weeknd
"The Hills" (2015)
We should've known we were in for the lusty, intoxicated, cold-blooded version of Abel Tesfaye when he nabbed a song title from a cult horror flick. "The Hills," which cribs its name and hook from Wes Craven's 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes, stuffs a special, vampiric brand of druggy booty call into a coffin, cranks it over a hypnotic 113 beats per minute, then repeatedly stabs it in the heart at a medium pace using a wooden stake. Seriously: does pop radio have a more haunting sentiment than "When I'm fucked up, that's the real me"?
45. Snotty Nose Rez Kids
"Boujee Natives" (2019)
Snotty Nose Rez Kids' "Boujee Natives" is a hell of a good time: tight rhymes and glorious beats, fantastic wordplay, that gorgeous coda. The video, with a house full of people — drinking, singing along, eating — takes up so much space and compounds so much joy. Settlers kill Indigenous joy, just as they killed the Haisla Nation's potlatch, among other rituals, language and objects — shuffling them off to museums, inconvenienced by their creators' persistence. This song is profoundly alive, pushing and grasping, reclaiming all that was stolen.
"Leather Jacket" (2014)
Arkells released "Leather Jacket" in 2014, and it hasn't left the airwaves since. Infectious, lovely and dripping in nostalgia, this is easily among one of the best singles to come from a Canadian band, like, ever. A little bit pop and a little bit indie, the combination is soft and fun, resulting in a track that's easy to sing along with. Perfect for all weather (meaning, of course, that "Leather Jacket" is not just a summer song), it's a track that can't easily be forgotten.
43. Jazz Cartier
"Dead or Alive" (2015)
After quickly rising to the top of the Toronto hip-hop ranks thanks to 2014 breakout single "Set Fire" and wildly energetic live performances, Jazz Cartier offered up the first full look at his skills with critically acclaimed 2015 mixtape Marauding in Paradise. Mixtape cut "Dead or Alive" stands out as a definitive banger amongst a pack of tightly written tracks. From the stacked beat to the powerful lyricism and Cartier's one-of-a-kind flow, this is not only the definitive song of his discography so far, but also a huge moment for Toronto hip-hop.
42. Charlotte Day Wilson
"Work" served as the international debut of one of Toronto's best-kept secrets. Introducing Charlotte Day Wilson as a soul and gospel-leaning R&B musician with a voice that seemed to transcend age, the slow-burning track serves as an ode to the hustle. While lyrics such as "It's going to take a little time, but with you by my side, I won't let go till I've got what's mine" ground the song in the present, the accompanying woozy, looping production renders it weightless. With an emotional atmosphere summarized succinctly in the accompanying Prism Prize-winning video, "Work" is a lush, unforgettable track.
41. Timber Timbre
"Black Water" (2011)
Timber Timbre have explored some dark directions since Taylor Kirk founded the project in 2005, but "Black Water"'s opening refrain of "All I need is some sunshine" serves as the band's most direct statement yet. A standout from the band's 2011 album Creep On Creepin' On, "Black Water" juxtaposes Kirk's pleading lyrics with a depressive doo-wop flavour bolstered by murky horns and strings, fully plumbing the depths of Kirk's sadness with a final, helpless cry of "Black water, call me down." Melancholia need not sound spare — "Black Water" proved that it's possible to groove out while you sulk.