HomeUncategorizedTop 150 Canadian Songs Of All Time (Part 1)

Top 150 Canadian Songs Of All Time (Part 1)

We love Canadian music. In fact, we spend a fair bit our days here at Indie88 listening to Canadian bands, working with Canadian artists, and searching for the next big Canadian thing. This is why when it came to Canada’s 150th birthday we wanted to do something special.

Update: The results are in, check out what song you voted the best Canadian jam of all-time here.

We the staff at Indie88 pored over hundreds of the best Canadian songs of all-time and came up with 150 from across all genres. We are handing it over to you, our readers and listeners to help us determine the greatest Canadian song of all-time. So read, listen, and select up to five songs that you would like to see in the running for the greatest Canadian cut.

Remember, it’s about having fun. The write-ups accompanying the songs were not in all cases written by the people who selected them. That’s it, get in here, vote, share, and debate!

Vote for your top five below and scroll down to read what makes each song worthy of this list.

54-40 – “One Gun”

Outside of The Tragically Hip, it’s hard to name a more quintessentially Canadian band from the 80s and early 90s than 54-40. Their unique sound was largely due to Neil Osborne’s distinct vocal timbre and their music was often politically charged, tackling tough issues in a way that never felt pedantic. “One Gun’s” simplicity and poetic treatment is the perfect example of this ability. – Paul Moran

54-40 – “She La”

54-40’s 1992 record Dear Dear was a massive success in Canada, and it also featured a cheeky runtime of 54:40. The album’s opener “She La” stands as one of the Vancouver-based band’s biggest hits and remains a crowd pleaser today. – Scott Lewis

Alanis Morissette – “Ironic”

To sum up this song in one word: Iconic. The video, the lyrics, and the artist behind it all. Alanis Morissette’s rebrand from teen pop star to scorned alternative icon was a revelation and “Ironic” was the simple yet powerful song that marked this turning point. – PM

Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”

1995 saw Morissette breakthrough on the international scene with her widely celebrated and critically acclaimed record Jagged Little Pill. Its lead single “You Oughta Know” earned two Grammy Awards in 1996 for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. – SL

Alexisonfire – “This Could be Anywhere in the World”

The blistering drama of “This Could Be Anywhere In The World” helped St. Catharine’s post-hardcore darlings Alexisonfire to their first hit single on the Canadian charts. Even more than the amped-up distortion, it’s Dallas Green’s crystal clear clean vocals against George Pettit’s wild, guttural yells that provides the tune’s heavy tension. – Matt Williams

Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

“Adult Diversion” kicks off with a promising bass rumble and swirling, clean guitar that gives way to a driving verse and subsequently a hazy, blissful chorus. The melodic six-string lines sparkle all the way throughout, diving in and out of left-of-the-dial pop that bounces along with jangly tambourine. -MW

Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”

Alvvays made a major first impression with the sugary, throwback alt-pop of “Archie, Marry Me.” Their lush guitars build an ocean of noise for Molly Rankin’s gorgeous, rising vocals—a mix of dreaminess and wistful yearning. Hooks like this don’t come along very often. – MW

Anne Murray – “Snowbird”

Written by Canadian Gene MacLellan, “Snowbird” has been performed by the likes of Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, but it’s best known for Anne Murray’s rendition on her 1969 record This Way Is My Way. Murray became the first Canadian solo female artist to earn an American Gold record certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. – SL

April Wine – “You Could Have Been a Lady”

April Wine have released upwards of 20 albums since bursting onto the scene in the early 1970s. Their second album, On Record, featured what would go on to become one of their biggest hits and a staple on Canadian classic rock stations for decades, “You Could Have Been a Lady.” – SL

Arcade Fire – “Ready to Start”

Arcade Fire’s outstanding 2010 record The Suburbs launched the band into another stratosphere in terms of popularity. Its third single, “Ready to Start,” is a helluva album opener, not to mention the song a certain Liberty Village-based radio station used as its introduction to the airwaves in 2013. – SL

Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)”

When Arcade Fire dropped Funeral in 2004, it landed like a bomb, and “Rebellion (Lies)” was one of its most life-affirming songs—a relentless indie rock tune that railed against the dying of the light, insisting to the kids that, “sleeping in is giving in.” Its final, wordless coda fuels a massive crescendo that has inspired entire arenas to rise up and sing out. – MW

Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

Arcade Fire is known for its big, booming songs, and “Wake Up” may still be the heaviest they’ve ever written. When Win Butler yells, “Children, wake up! Hold your mistake up!” it’s impossible to avoid the heart-swell that comes along with it. Funeral was a record that demanded we fight to keep every beautiful, leaving a lasting intensity that bursts inside our chests, and “Wake Up” was its thesis statement. – MW

A Tribe Called Red – “R.E.D”

A mission statement of sorts to one of the greatest Canadian records of all time by one of the best groups working today. This is exhilarating music. – PM

A Tribe Called Red – “SILA”

This isn’t just music. It’s experience. To quote the top comment on ATCR’s YouTube channel: “I’m a punk rock bass player in a metal band so I don’t really like electronic music, I love Tribe Called Red. I love indigenous music from all over the world but I hate it when they decorate it with electronic backgrounds, I love the way this band decorates indigenous music with electricity. To me this is not music, it’s more than that, It’s magic.” – PM

Avril Lavigne – “Complicated”

Prior to a brief marriage to Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, and long before ridiculous rumours that she was actually dead and had been replaced by a body double, Avril Lavigne was massive pop star. Her debut record Let Go was a mashup of highly polished pop stylings and Lavigne’s cultivated skater girl aesthetic. “Complicated” became one of the biggest hits of 2002 and earned the Ontario native two Grammy nominations. – SL

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Takin’ Care of Business”

From their 1973 album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II, Randy Bachman and Co. secured what stands as one their biggest hits with “Takin’ Care of Business.” Originally titled “White Collar Worker,” “Takin’ Care of Business” was once slated to be performed by The Guess Who before Bachman and Burton Cummings pulled the plug over worries it was too similar to The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” – SL

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

BTO landed their first and only No. 1 U.S. single with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” from their 1974 record Not Fragile. Surprisingly, the song almost didn’t make the cut as Bachman felt it was more of a joke than a serious song. It was a late addition to the album’s arrangement, and the rest is history. – SL

The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

Another cut from The Band’s second album, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a classic in the sense that it’s often in the discussion among the greatest rock songs of all-time. Levon Helm once again took lead vocals on this Robbie Robertson-written song.

The Band – “The Weight”

Arguably one of the greatest rock outfits of the 60s and 70s, The Band fronted the likes of Dylan and Hawkins but didn’t truly emerge beyond their industry cred into the public consciousness until they were their own thing. At close to five minutes “The Weight” is an imposing song with amazing songwriting, vocal harmonies, and great storytelling, brought to life by one of the most talented set of musicians to form a popular rock group. – PM

The Band – “Up On Cripple Creek”

Written by Robbie Robertson and lead vocals sung by drummer Levon Helm, this single from The Band’s self-titled second studio album peaked at No. 10 in Canada and No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. – SL

Barenaked Ladies – “Brian Wilson”

Steven Page takes on mental health issues in this dark, beautiful number that ranks high in BNL’s impressive discography. – PM

Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”

Their best performing single of all-time in the U.S. and U.K., the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its 1998 release, claiming the No. 1 spot two weeks later, where it would ironically spend one week as the No. 1 single. – SL

Bedouin Soundclash – “When the Night Feels My Song”

The first single off their second album, Sounding a Mosaic, Bedouin Soundclash landed a breakthrough in 2004 with the release of “When the Night Feels My Song.” The video for the song reached No. 1 on the MuchMusic Countdown in November of 2004. – SL

Big Sugar – “Turn the Lights On”

Big Sugar’s fourth album, Heated, earned certified Platinum status in Canada thanks to a strong run of singles, which included one of their most celebrated tracks, “Turn the Lights On.” – SL

Blue Rodeo – “5 Days in May”

After cranking out iconic records and hits that have become ingrained in Canadian culture for nearly 20 years, Blue Rodeo scored their biggest commercial success with 1993’s Five Days in July. Singer-guitarist Jim Cuddy has said the album opener, “5 Days in May,” was inspired by the sound engineer’s penchant for writing his wife’s name in the sand when he visits beaches. – SL

Blue Rodeo – “Lost Together”

Listening to “Lost Together,” is a religious experience under the right circumstances (live at Massey Hall for example). This is a Greg Keelor song, and when his opening vocals float on top of Bob Wiseman’s organ, you are compelled to listen. The subsequent rise and falls married with swelling strings and the vocal pairings of Keelor and Cuddy provide all the drama and joy of a truly compelling song. – PM

Blue Rodeo – “Rose Coloured Glasses”

Blue Rodeo’s 1987 debut album Outskirts is certified 4x Platinum in Canada. It featured several songs that became hits for the band, one of them being “Rose Coloured Glasses,” which stands as a fan favourite to this day. – SL

Blue Rodeo – “Try”

The second single from Blue Rodeo’s debut record Outskirts remains one of their most recognizable hits. “Try” took home two Juno Awards in 1989 for Single of the Year and Video of the Year. – SL

Born Ruffians – “Hummingbird”

Ontario-born indie rockers Born Ruffians scored a critical success with their 2008 debut Red, Yellow & Blue. It’s tough to highlight just one standout track, but the album’s first single “Hummingbird” remains a modern Canadian classic. – SL

Bran Van 3000 – “Drinking in L.A.”

“Hi, my name is Stereo Mike.” Bran Van 3000 are certainly a one-hit wonder, but it’s a hit that continues to hit the airwaves 20 years after its release. “Drinking in L.A.” was a massive hit in this country, as well as in the U.K. and in pockets across Europe and Scandinavia. – SL

Brave Belt – “Dunrobin’s Gone”

After leaving The Guess Who, Randy Bachman formed Brave Belt with former The Guess Who bandmate Chad Allan and others. They scored a couple of hits, including “Dunrobin’s Gone” before being persuaded to change their name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. – SL

Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”

What a jagged, non-stop, gorgeous mess of energy this song is. It speeds along through frenetic noise, the entire time threatening to either explode or disintegrate or fall apart, and it does all those things in a way that somehow makes total sense. After a din of guitar stabs and saxophone blasts, Leslie Feist declares, “we’ve got love and hate—it’s the only way,” with Kevin Drew eventually joining forces for its wild finale. – MW

Broken Social Scene – “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial Canadian who didn’t hear this song in high school and feel like someone had dove inside their chest and figured out how to make everything they felt into blissful music. Emily Haines’ star vocal turn here is one of Social Scene’s most distinctive moments, rising gently over a weeping violin, calling out, “park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.” – MW

Broken Social Scene – “Cause=Time”

Few anthems are as askew and cryptic as “Cause=Time,” blending a coiled first half built on driving rhythms and wispy guitar lines with a second half that explodes abruptly out of its confines. By the time it reaches its finale, after Kevin Drew sings the chorus one final time, it becomes a full-on crash of sparkling guitar lines and feral noise. – MW

Bruce Cockburn – “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”

“Lovers in a Dangerous Time” first appeared on Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 album Stealing Fire, where it reached as high as No. 25 on Canadian charts. The song was famously covered by the Barenaked Ladies on a 1991 Cockburn tribute album. – SL

Bruce Cockburn – “Wondering Where The Lions Are”

Cockburn’s only single to crack the Top 40 south of the border was “Wondering Where the Lions Are” off his 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws. – SL

Bryan Adams – “Summer of ‘69”

Reckless sold upwards of 12 million copies worldwide, five million in the United States, and was upon its release in 1984 the highest-selling record in Canada of all-time. Adams released six singles off of Reckless, including “Summer of ‘69.” It climbed as high as No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. – SL

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Universal Soldier”

Although “Universal Soldier” originally appeared on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way! in 1964, it wouldn’t become a hit until 1965 when it was covered by Donovan. Sainte-Marie has said the song is about accepting responsibility for war and the archaic way of thinking that causes conflict. – SL

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Up Where We Belong”

“Up Where We Belong” is a Platinum-certified hit that was written by Buffy Sainte-Marie in collaboration with artists Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings. The Grammy-winning song was originally sung by Joe Crocker and Jennifer Warnes, though Buffy Sainte-Marie often performs it. It was originally written for the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. – Danielle Subject

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”

British Columbia native Carly Rae Jepsen can lay claim to one of the best-selling songs by a female artist this century. “Call Me Maybe” stands as the fourth best-selling digital single of all-time, and its place in the pop culture lexicon is undisputed. – SL

Chad VanGaalen – “Willow Tree”

Calgary, Alberta native Chad VanGaalen channels Neil Young’s vocals in this outstanding quiet number from his 2008 album Soft Airplane. “Willow Tree” helped VanGaalen land a Juno Award nomination for Alternative Album of the Year and was also shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize. – SL

City and Colour – “Save Your Scissors”

Dallas Green’s debut single as City and Colour is a heartbreaker of a tune that showcases his powerful voice over lush acoustic guitar. It’s a poignant ode to an on-again, off-again relationship, as Green sings, “so save your scissors for someone else’s skin, my surface is so tough I don’t think the blade will dig in.” – MW

Constantines – “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)”

No one does muscled-up punk like the Constantines. “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” is a jagged rager that starts at 11, goes for the throat, and then suddenly lets up halfway through. But it’s all a trick—the band collects itself and storms back with even greater intensity, as drummer Doug MacGregor pounds the skins relentlessly. – MW

Constantines – “Young Lions”

“Young Lions” is an anthem dedicated to the wild hurricane of youth—a fight song that barrels forward with its fists raised to the sky. Bry Webb growls over reckless guitar like he’s about to be torn apart, as he yells, “make your love too wild for words/stumblin’ through the city with the ordinary birds.” It’s a song built for back alleys and endless nights. Remember, Young Lions: “this is your kingdom.” – MW

Corey Hart – “Sunglasses At Night”

The mid-eighties in Canadian pop belonged to Corey Hart, and “Sunglasses at Night” was at the centre of it all. Hart’s bad-ass meets heartthrob persona, paired with slick music videos was the total package that housed great song-writing, excellent vocals, and pop hooks. – PM

Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”

Death From Above’s first single (when they still had the ‘1979’ at the end of their name) is a skittering, vicious dance-punk tune with an overdriven guitar riff and dark vocal hook that immediately grabs you and pulls you down into its dark, frenetic world. – MW

The Dears – “Lost in the Plot”

Originally released in 2003, The Dears’ second full-length record No Cities was such a success for the band that an extended version was released in 2005. One of its standout tracks, “Lost in the Plot” is arguably the Montreal band’s finest work. – SL

Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

The second single from his third studio album, Nothing Was the Same, Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” not only was massive success on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip-Hop charts, it was also designated as the best song of 2013 by Pitchfork. – SL

Dream Warriors – “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style”

Toronto hip hop pioneers Dream Warriors sampled Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” on their 1991 hit “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style.” The single captured a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year in 1992. – SL

Edward Bear – “Last Song”

Toronto-based trio Edward Bear hit No. 1 in Canada in 1972 with their best-known cut “Last Song” from their self-titled third record. It also reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. – SL

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