Toronto is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and diverse cities. Approximately two hundred different languages are spoken in the city. And nearly every race, ethnicity or culture can be found in the city. That diversity is also reflected in the music. Rap, jazz, rock or pop, Toronto has it all. From Drake to Metric, this playlist has a slice of Toronto’s incredible music scene.
1. All Hands – Tim Baker – 2019
Originally from the Maritime provinces, Tim Baker got his first start performing in Toronto and hasn’t looked back. His unique blend of folk-pop garnered him a spot on the shortlist for the 2019 Polaris Prize.
2. Eight Easy Steps – Alanis Morrisette – 2004
Alanis Morrisette helped shape the landscape for female alternative artists. Her album Jagged Little Pill remains a cult classic and the bitter irony of her lyrics is evident in her 2004 single Eight Easy Steps.
3. All I Want – Joni Mitchell – 1971
A true Canadian icon, Joni Mitchell is universally lauded for her songwriting, musicianship and performance. She is considered one of the greatest folk musicians of all-time, as well as one of the world’s best guitarists. Her unique open tuning on the guitar forever changed the genre, and her songwriting remains classically timeless.
4. Wavin’ Flag – K’NAAN – 2009
A poet, musician and songwriter, Somali-born K’NAAN is an example of Toronto’s incredible ethnic diversity. His music emphasizes the problems, concerns and challenges of life outside of the first world, and his music overtly avoids American gangsta rap clichés.
5. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo – 1993
One of Canada’s most well-known country rock bands, Blue Rodeo helped popularize the genre among the Canadian public. They have released fifteen studio albums and continue to be one of the genre’s most prolific performers.
6. Here – Alessia Cara – 2015
A musical activist, Alessia Cara is as noteworthy for her social stances and comments as her music. Her first single Here was an introverted anthem for social wallflowers, she’s spoken honestly about her struggles with hair loss due to alopecia and she’s noted for not wearing make-up or wearing provocative clothing while performing.
7. Take Care – Drake, Rihanna – 2011
Inarguably Toronto’s most famous son, Drake is one of hip-hop’s biggest. A relentless self-promoter, Drake is also an impassioned advocate for his home city. He’s become an icon of Toronto, commonly cited as a source for Toronto’s 2010’s tourism boom as well as working as an official spokesperson for the Toronto Raptors.
8. Help, I’m Alive – Metric – 2009
Indie band Metric hails from Toronto, even though their lead singer is Indian born and two members are American. The diversity of the band is emblemic of the city. Their music kept them as an indie favorite throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s.
9. Treat You Better – Shawn Mendes – 2017
One of Canada’s fast rising talents, Shawn Mendes burst onto the scene in 2014 with a self-titled EP before releasing three studio albums and launching multiple world-wide tours. He is one of the youngest ever to release three number one albums.
10. Sweetest Kill – Broken Social Scene – 2010
Featuring as many as nineteen artists at once, Broken Social Scene is less a band than a musical community. Most of the members are based in Toronto and all have different side projects that they shuffle between their Broken Social Scene responsibilities.
11. Fall To Pieces – Avril Lavigne – 2004
Another icon of her generation, Avril Lavigne merged punk and pop to make an alternative sound that forever changed the genre. An entire generation of artists from Paramore to Billie Eillish cite Lavigne as a major influence on their music.
12. Tom Sawyer – Rush – 1981
An eclectic rock band from Canada, Rush is known for their complex compositions as well as science fiction, fantasy and literary influences. They are one of the best-known progressive rock bands and worked within a wide variety of different genres.
13. The Watchman’s Gone – Gordon Lightfoot – 1974
One of the most popular folk artists to come out of the 60’s and 70’s, Gordon Lightfoot brought guitar virtuosity and insightful songwriting to an audience starved for folk revival music. He continues to be one of Canada’s most beloved songwriters.
14. Right Now – Jazz Cartier – 2018
Rapper, songwriter and musician, Jazz Cartier has been nominated for the Polaris Prize and is one of Toronto’s most popular hip-hop performers.
15. Simple Dude – Tokyo Police Club – 2018
An indie band originating out of southern Ontario, Tokyo Police Club has been nominated for multiple Juno Awards and are cited as one of Canada’s best contemporary alternative bands.
16. I Feel It All – Feist – 2007
An indie rock mainstay, Feist has been performing and releasing albums since the early 2000’s. She continues to tour and has released five studio albums and been nominated for multiple Juno Awards.
17. One Week – Barenaked Ladies – 1998
One of Canada’s quirkiest bands, the Barenaked Ladies were a popular throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s and matched unusual chord compositions with outlandish lyrics and artistic imagery.
18. Harvest Moon – Neil Young – 1992
One of the original rock stars, Neil Young is lauded for his longevity as much as his musicianship. A founding member of the two of the greatest rock groups in history in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young also released music under his solo label. He is famous for his emotionally poignant lyrics, distinctive voice and incredible guitar work.
19. You’re Still The One – Shania Twain – 1997
A country music staple, Shania Twain is one of Canada’s most beloved exports. She is one of the best-selling artists ever, and the best-selling country artist. Her album Come On Over is a country music classic and the best-selling country album of all-time.
20. Up We Go – Lights – 2016
Widely played in indie pop circles, Lights is a famous Canadian musician, songwriter, author and illustrator. She received a 2009 Juno Award for Best New Artist and has released four studio albums.
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