The 7 Best Songs Titled "Montreal"

The Tragically Hip, The Weeknd, Allison Russell and more have paid tribute to the Quebec city
The 7 Best Songs Titled 'Montreal'
Photo: Kim Jay
Montreal has spawned an incredible amount of musicians — and it's also inspired a lot of songs simply titled "Montreal." There are so many songs, in fact, that we've decided to rank our seven favourite tracks named after the city.

To lay out some pedantic ground rules: for this list, we only considered songs called "Montreal," so songs like "Montréal -40C" by Malajube or "Montréal $ud" by Dead Obies were out of contention. Accents were allowed, so songs called "Montréal" by Bran Van 3000 or Blue Rodeo were eligible (although neither made this list). Instrumental songs were fair game, although none of those made the list either — sorry, Ben Harper and Autechre!

Here are the seven best songs titled "Montreal."

7. Allison Russell
"Oh my Montreal / Can I dream of you tonight?"

With minor-chord flourishes and lyrics that shift between English and French, Allison Russell opens her Grammy-nominated 2021 album Outside Child with mysterious, theatrical swagger. For the singer, now based in Nashville, it's a loving tribute to the city where she was born, full of nostalgic lyrics about cathedrals, "azure light" and how "shadows felt like loving arms."

6. Penelope Scott
"Go get laid in Montreal / The world's so big and I'm too small"

This lo-fi piano pop ditty from 2020 recalls the cabaret explosion of the turn of the millennium (right around the same time when Gen Z songwriter Penelope Scott was born). With the lyrics and theatricality of Rufus Wainwright or Regina Spektor, "Montreal" is full of self-defeating lyrics about a seemingly abandoned plan to go to Montreal. Both depressing and hilarious, Scott sings, "It's not that it's a bad plan / No, the plan fuckin' slapped." 

5. Roosevelt
"Took my heart, to only let you go"

With vague lyrics that seem to allude to a breakup and never actually mention Montreal by name, it's not entirely clear what this 2013 single from Berlin beatmaker Roosevelt has to do with the titular city. But don't overthink it — just dance along with the song's bass-driven disco groove and dreamy washes of chillwave reverb.

4. Ariane Moffatt
"Je reviens à Montréal / Le cœur emballé de courage"

Quebec songwriter Ariane Moffatt repeatedly sings "Je reviens à Montréal," a line that translates as "I'm coming back to Montreal." Judging by the tone of "Montréal" — a track from the 2005 album Le cœur dans la tête — she's coming to the city with a swagger in her step, as the track struts along with a reggae rhythm, dubby echoes and jazzy piano leads.

3. The Tragically Hip
"The snow is so merciless / On poor old Montreal"

This live track from the Tragically Hip's Saskadelphia EP, captured live in the titular city in 2000, was inspired by the horrifying École Polytechnique massacre, in which 14 women were killed (and 14 more people were injured). The Hip's signature brawny rock is laced with melancholic riffs, and rather than surging to a crescendo, the song evocatively gets quieter as it reaches a haunting end.

2. Kelly McMichael
"When we went in Montreal that time / The trip went long, we found a ride"

Several songs on this list are sepia-toned tributes to Montreal, but none of them are quite as achingly nostalgic as this one by Newfoundland-based songwriter Kelly McMichael (from her 2021 debut album Waves). Over classic pop chords that evoke "Crimson and Clover," McMichael sweetly remembers a summer visit to the Quebec city that was "the best time of my life." Subsequent visits to city have been fun, she sings, but "it's never quite as nice." 

1. The Weeknd
"Laisse tomber les filles / Un jour c'est toi qu'on laissera"

The Weeknd's Trilogy era is very much rooted in Toronto — including the real-life House of Balloons — but this Echoes of Silence track takes listeners 500 km east to Montreal. With lyrics that characteristically allude to loneliness and some French passages made almost incomprehensible by the cavernous reverb, it captures Abel Tesfaye at his most eerie and mysterious. He's become an enormous pop star in the decade since "Montreal" and his songwriting has gotten sharper, but he's never again been quite this good at world-building and mood-setting.