Exclaim!'s 50 Best Canadian Songs of the 2010s

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Nov 6, 2019

With 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
"Closer" (2012)

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.
Matt Bobkin

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.
Scott Simpson

48. Grimes
"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.
Matt Yuyitung

47. The Weather Station
"Thirty" (2017)

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."
Alex Hudson

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"?
Luke Fox

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.
Steacy Easton

44. Arkells
"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.
Sofie Mikhaylova

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.
Joe Smith-Engelhardt

42. Charlotte Day Wilson
"Work" (2016)

"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.
Courtney Baird-Lew

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.
Matt Bobkin

40. Kaytranada
"Glowed Up" (ft. Anderson .Paak) (2016)

As a song, "Glowed Up" is peak Kaytranada. The hard-hitting track off his Polaris Music Prize-winning album 99.9% harnesses the electronic superpowers of the Haitian-born, Montreal-raised DJ and beatmaker for good, tossing in a collab with L.A. rapper and singer-songwriter Anderson .Paak in there for extra measure. The 2016 single is blissful in its approach of melding hip-hop, disco and house into something that's anthemic — all while exemplifying the mid-decade SoundCloud-era mindset: groove at all costs.
Ryan B. Patrick

39. July Talk
"Push + Pull" (2016)

Whether it's Netflix, coffee or something stronger, the last decade has been one of overindulgence. With their trademark angel-and-devil vocals dancing on your shoulders, July Talk's bluesy "Push + Pull" charts this storied excess with startling honesty. It's the dark side of the life pop stars boast of, cleverly playing against a beat that's dancier than is typical of the Toronto five-piece. Knowing when to hold back and when to strike, it slides sexily between rousing choruses, culminating in the night's final, epic fall: "And then we fought over dignity." A simple song about a complex generational fault, "Push + Pull" captures a decade of consumption in three minutes.
Oliver Crook

38. The Tragically Hip
"In a World Possessed By the Human Mind" (2016)

The year 2016 dealt many blows, including the news that Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The next day, the band dropped "In a World Possessed by the Human Mind," the first single from the Hip's final record, Man Machine Poem, and it's clear that the importance of the mind was in Downie's thoughts as he struggled with his own. Soaring with the Hip's steady, resonant guitars and Downie's held-then-fast vocals, "In a World Possessed" is an ode to the small moments in a life consumed by something bigger than us, yet somehow still undeniably human.
Kaitlin Ruether

37. Daniel Caesar
"Get You" (ft. Kali Uchis) (2017)

Leading his debut album Freudian to critical acclaim, Daniel Caesar's "Get You," featuring Kali Uchis, revived a sound in R&B that was quickly getting buried. Unmasked by all the bells and whistles, Jordan Evans and Matthew Burnett produced a simple bass line that carries both Caesar and Uchis's vocals into a dream-like state, while still paying tribute to the present moment. Admiring the essence of love, as well as its ability to make one vulnerable, "Get You" serves as both a moment of clarity and a pure reflection of how it feels to love and be loved.
Erin Lowers

36. Drake
"God's Plan" (2018)

Whether it happened thanks to divine orchestration or self-actualization, only the most resolute contrarian could argue against Drake's dominance during the 2010s. From Scarlett Road to handing out a million dollars in Miami, "God's Plan" is a succinct summary of a wild journey few could have ever imagined. Drake contrasts his accomplishments against those who have wished otherwise as his vocals trail off, proving that obsessing over the negative is fundamentally uninteresting. And while the lyrics are, at first glance, primarily a celebration of the artist born Aubrey Graham, it's really the underlying aspirational tones that helped break first-day streaming records and made it an anthem for everyone who loves their beds unconditionally.
Michael Warren

35. Carly Rae Jepsen
"Cut to the Feeling" (2016)

From the opening synth swirls leading into handclaps and thunderous, slapping drums, Carly Rae Jepsen captures everything you could want from a massive pop anthem on "Cut to the Feeling." Cut from E•MO•TION for being too "cinematic and theatrical," later withheld from E•MO•TION: Side B and ultimately released as a standalone single, it certainly holds its own. The anticipation-building verses are crafted without a ton of frills, leading into enormous choruses with gleaming melodies that hook themselves into your brain. Much like the song's title, CRJ cuts the bullshit and gives you what you want.
Joe Smith-Engelhardt

34. Godspeed You! Black Emperor
"We Drift Like Worried Fire" (2012)

"We Drift Like Worried Fire" sounds like hope surviving in an unjust world. Built around a simple melody introduced by ominous, plucked strings, this core is taken up by guitars, supported by looping, bowed counterpoints. As the volume and distortion increase, this core remains strong and joyous. The moment where it is isolated again as a screeching hammer-on solo — around eight minutes in — serves one of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's most ecstatic climaxes in a career defined by them. In the more droning back half of the 20-minute track, its counterpoints take over to create a second glorious peak.
Ian Rodgers

33. Lido Pimienta
"Agua" (2016)

Lido Pimienta's "Agua" is a joyful dance anthem that both honours water and highlights its abuse around the world. The dangerous predicament in which the planet's most important liquid finds itself — polluted, bottled, diverted — comes cloaked in a hip-shaking song with cascading synths, percussive pops like rain drops and an enchanting voice. The Afro-Colombian artist's first song on her Polaris Music Prize-winning La Papessa is a chant for water — part of the international movement of Indigenous water protectors — and a poem for her mother's Wayuu roots. It's the first of many refusals of the status quo that the multidisciplinary Pimienta crafted skillfully into her self-produced and independently released album.
Joseph Mathieu

32. Bahamas
"Lost in the Light" (2012)

Before "Lost in the Light," Afie Jurvanen was merely an impeccable self-taught guitarist from Barrie with a penchant for touring with Canadian royalty like Feist. But it was this song from Barchords, Jurvanen's second album as Bahamas, that proved he could also pen a universal breakup song unlike any we'd heard. With a handful of electric guitar chords, piano flourishes and passionate backing vocals making the whole thing soar, Jurvanen belts with unprecedented passion, "You wouldn't be wrong, being free, leaving me on my own." It's a lush, intimate anthem that established Jurvanen as one of Canada's preeminent songwriters.
Sam Boer

31. A Tribe Called Red
"Electric Pow Wow Drum" (2012)

While great art is inherently political, A Tribe Called Red's genre-defying "Electric Pow Wow Drum" demonstrated how the political could also be danceable. Blending electronic music with the rawhide drum beats and chanting of traditional powwows, the track emerged as both a source of pride and controversy amongst Canadians, with issues regarding musical assimilation and ownership being called into question. Yet, despite the tension between those hoping to spread the gospel of Indigenous culture and those hoping to sneak in a headdress or two onto music festival grounds, "Electric Pow Wow Drum" marked a moment in time where one act — and one track — got the whole world talking about First Nations music, heralding the impending Indigenous Renaissance.
Courtney Baird-Lew

"In Your Eyes" (ft. Charlotte Day Wilson) (2016)

While 2016's IV saw BADBADNOTGOOD wrangle features from Samuel T. Herring (of Future Islands), Colin Stetson, Kaytranada and Mick Jenkins, it was Charlotte Day Wilson who shone brightest alongside the band on "In Your Eyes." The album highlight saw the four-piece pare back their instrumental prowess to emphasize their arrangement skill, with romantic strings, smooth guitar and flighty flute trills providing a lush setting for Wilson's smoky, soulful delivery. Arriving before Wilson's own celebrated solo turn later that year, "In Your Eyes" not only strengthened a burgeoning group of collaborators that also included River Tiber and Daniel Caesar, but fostered a deeper love of BADBADNOTGOOD's original compositions.
Calum Slingerland

29. Haviah Mighty
"Wishy Washy" (ft. Omega Mighty) (2019)

With "Wishy Washy," Haviah Mighty flaunts her carefree side – and damn does it ever look good. The track appears on the 2019 Polaris Music Prize-winning album 13th Floor. Haviah Mighty has always been all about starting conversations and inciting change, and that remained central to her debut album. In fact, it's the very foundation of it. "Wishy Washy," which features support from Haviah's sister, Omega Mighty, is backed by an infectious beat and catchy chorus that you're sure to be humming to yourself — perhaps while doing laundry — but still reminds us not to get caught in the cycle of toxic and unrewarding relationships.
Alex Rodobolski

28. U.S. Girls
"Velvet 4 Sale" (2018)

"Velvet 4 Sale" is a clinic in masterful songwriting, built for a purpose and executed expertly. The track initially captivates with a breathy, sultry funk loop that reels the listener in before Meg Remy's even uttered a single word; then, once you're really listening, she delivers the song's powerful tale, in which a woman insists to another that she take revenge on her abusive ex. Remy's lyricism here is tense but nuanced, acknowledging the way fear can both embolden and paralyze survivors as she croons that revenge by gunshot might "surely feel against your nature" to the other woman. It's darkly human subject matter wrapped in a groove so deep it's jarring — and utterly compelling.
Stephen Carlick

27. Preoccupations
"Death" (2015)

Calgary band Preoccupations' post-punk precision and gigantic, glacial tones on their debut album (originally recorded and self-titled under a different name, since changed for obvious reasons) garnered attention, and even a place on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist in 2015. Years later, the album's final track — an unhinged, 11-minute epic — still stands out. Chiming guitar interplay, arpeggios reminiscent of New Order's Ian Curtis tribute "Elegia," and drummer Mike Wallace's five-stroke roll set the tone for a track that moves beyond the sub-genre's narrow confines, gradually changing its tempo until all its moving parts coalesce into a chaotic clang, fighting for life once again before its cathartic release. Live, the jam often stretches past its runtime, because some songs you don't want to end.
Matthew Ritchie

26. Destroyer
"Kaputt" (2011)

"Kaputt," the title track of Destroyer's landmark 2011 album, captures a feeling of elation. Dan Bejar's lyrics chart rock clichés and abstract them, carried by a groove that could go on forever. Joseph Shabason's saxophone and JP Carter's trumpet playing drift in and out of the track, its woozy atmosphere grounded by the song's rhythm section. "Kaputt" is guided by its melodies, as Bejar allows his words to be spacious. The track represents what is ineffable about Destroyer, a band whose music you can enter fully into.
Anna Alger

25. Mac DeMarco
"Ode to Viceroy" (2012)

If there's anything Edmonton-raised Mac DeMarco has a handle on, it's merging the ironic and the earnest so that a line between the two no longer matters. His offbeat sense of humour makes its most iconic appearance in "Ode to Viceroy," a charming love song to a notoriously trashy brand of cigarettes. He cites the pleasure of a headrush in the early hours, and habitual corner store runs as the pack in his pocket grows lighter. Silly in theory, but honest in delivery, DeMarco's tribute to his favourite smokes boasts blunt dreaminess that's hard to argue against.
Safiya Hopfe

24. Ought
"Habit" (2014)

Montreal's Ought clearly have ambitions beyond their reach. "Habit" — the centerpiece of their debut album More Than Any Other Day — is a brainy expression of passion, theatrics and deftly restrained tension. On paper, "Habit" resembles the millennial response to Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," a nervy outcry against the mind-numbing shackles of the postmodern slog. Comparisons aside, "Habit" stands on its own for its beautifully thought-out melodic structure. Ought lock into sound nuggets that swirl in and out of tempo, turning on a dime from bait-and-switch melodies into pure euphoria. In a decade defined by political polarization, "Habit" offered a glimmer of hope to indie nerds and punk purists alike.
Calvin Cashen

23. Hubert Lenoir
"Fille de personne II" (2018)

"Fille de personne II" wastes no time setting the stage for its unique blend of glam rock and '70s pop wrapped in chansons for good measure. Lenoir's theatrical flair introduces his concept album's central characters, Ash and Darlène, and their journey through life, love and rebellion in superb detail. It's hard to imagine a more sublime chorus than this one; its refrain of "J'ai vu ton avenir" keeps you coming back for more. Filled with plenty of sax riffs, piano grooves (including a righteous organ solo in the bridge) and Lenoir's towering vocal presence, this track is a sublime calling card for the self-styled "French-Canadian nightmare."
Josh Weinberg

22. Caribou
"Odessa" (2010)

Few albums are gifted with the ultimate opening track — a song that makes it impossible not to explore the record further — but Caribou's Swim is one of them, kicking off with "Odessa." For starters, that squeaky androgynous quiver atop the track's beast of a bass line is one of the catchiest combos around. Then the funky guitar riff of the chorus sucks you in even further, before the final couple of minutes dish out those glorious synth ripples and bring Dan Snaith's angelic vocals back in for one last hurrah. On reflection, it's not just the perfect opener, it's a perfect track.
Daryl Keating

21. Leonard Cohen
"You Want It Darker" (2016)

Leonard Cohen has always been a man on the threshold of eternity. With the title track of the last album before his death, however, "You Want It Darker" is a gracious surrender — a proclamation, even — of his mortality in the face of a higher, inevitable power. With a deep, rumbling baritone suspended over a grooving bass line and a solemn synagogue choir, Cohen recounts Judeo-Christian imagery while exclaiming "Hineni, hineni," Hebrew for "here I am." A grand, at times unsettling, song that stares straight into the void with arms outstretched, "You Want It Darker" was Cohen's gorgeous, dignified goodbye.
Courtney Baird-Lew

20. Carly Rae Jepsen
"Run Away With Me" (2015)

"Call Me Maybe" cemented Carly Rae Jepsen's status as Canada's preeminent pop star, but "Run Away With Me" is what confirmed her as a talent to be reckoned with. While her debut album had all the makings of a strong entry in the pop pantheon, "Run Away With Me" encapsulates everything great about her followup E•MO•TION: a perfect combination of earnest and catchy. From its infamous opening saxophone notes to the staccato refrain, "Run Away With Me" is as close to pop perfection as you can get. Years after its debut, it remains essential in a way few Canadian pop songs have managed.
Scott Simpson

19. Alessia Cara
"Here" (2015)

Alessia Cara's "Here" may be a hit pop song, but everything about it is antithetical to the typical chart topper. Her soulful melodies, a groovy beat created from a funky Isaac Hayes sample, and passive-aggressive, dismissive lyrics all combine to form a refreshing take on the party anthem. The Brampton native flexed her vocal chops with a full-bodied, expressive performance on this cut, demonstrating her smooth timbre overtop an instrumental that you can't help but rock back and forth to. Cara's "Here" was the exact song the mainstream needed.
Joey Chini

18. Mounties
"Tokyo Summer" (2014)

Thrash Rock Legacy was the perfect debut for Mounties, the supergroup made up of Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat and Limblifter's Ryan Dahle. Among the album's highlights is "Tokyo Summer," a song about embracing possibility — or at least trying to. Mounties don't attempt to let their individual music styles fight. Instead, they let them flow together, letting the vocals tell a bedtime story while the catchy synths lull the listener into a dreamlike state. It's fitting that the song was born out of an extended jam session between the band members, since there's nothing rehearsed about "Tokyo Summer."
Alex Rodobolski

17. A Tribe Called Red
"R.E.D." (ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear) (2016)

This heart-pounding track from 2016's We Are the Halluci Nation serves as A Tribe Called Red's brightest moment. When Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman chants the chorus — "A tribe called" — Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) spells it out for him. Their rhymes rip up the illusions of nationalism, of globalization, of profit over people and reject these trappings to focus on truth and life (core tenets of the Halluci Nation). Tribe's frequent collaborators, the Black Bear Singers and powwow drummers, make it slap. Fuelled by the vision of DJ NDN, Bear Witness, and 2oolman — who just wanted to make dance music, really — this song exemplifies power.
Joseph Mathieu

16. Arcade Fire
"The Suburbs" (2010)

Arcade Fire defined 2010s indie art pop with their third album The Suburbs. The title track is a perfect encapsulation of what made the album great – Beatles-esque song arrangements with modern production that sounds both hugely expansive and intimately personal. Described by vocalist Win Butler as "a mix of Depeche Mode and Neil Young," "The Suburbs" captured, in one song, the zeitgeist of the suburban-raised hipster generation that would populate coffee shops and microbreweries in the decade to come. With its layered instrumentals and wistful lyrics about a simpler time, it's not surprising that "The Suburbs" continues to inspire indie rockers to throw out the rulebook and record a string section.
Max Morin

15. Jeremy Dutcher
"Mehcinut" (2018)

If you're trying to be pedantic or assertive about your taste, you'll declare that "Mehcinut" is the kind of song you don't hear on the radio, precisely because it's seemingly void of the conventions of Top 40 playlists. It's operatic and traditional, yet innovative and subtle. At the two-minute mark, the preserved Indigenous voices find new life and you're stopped in your tracks. By the end, you're left wondering if you should hit repeat or check to make sure that other music hasn't been destroyed in its path. What could even compare? Then you'll wonder why the radio isn't overflowing with music that sounds like this. It seems so obvious.
David Falk

14. Kaytranada
"Lite Spots" (2016)

Kaytranada adapted Brazilian jazz/soul artist Gal Costa's 1973 track, "Pontos De Luz" — a Portuguese-sung song about embracing joy — for "Lite Spots," an unceasingly danceable track from his Polaris Music Prize-winning debut record, 99.9%. The tension and release in "Lite Spots" is intoxicating, constantly building on itself, only to unveil more complex layers and elements. The song has been a frequent staple of his live performances, alongside radio-ready tracks like "Glowed Up" and "One Too Many." Unlike the latter, "Lite Spots" acts more a testament to Kaytranada's signature remixing fortitude than as a vessel to feature other artists, and as such retains its immense lasting power.
Allie Gregory

13. Grimes
"Kill V. Maim" (2015)

"Kill V. Maim" saw Grimes triumphantly redefining her sound as punchier, more urgent and apocalyptic. Writing from the perspective of a vampire Al Pacino, she flickers between shrill chants and explosive screams. The DIY video features a blood-drenched rave and a spectacular cast of underground freaks, taking place literally underground in the Toronto subway. "B-E-H-A-V-E, arrest us!" she taunts, her anarchist spirit more potent back in 2015, before a giant Apple billboard of her face loomed over her old neighbourhood, and affiliation with a neo-colonial overlord prompted the removal of "anti-imperialist" from her Twitter bio. But it's still a damn good song.
Mie Beers

12. Drake
"Hotline Bling" (2015)

Few songs provided a template for the social media era as Drake's 2015 monster hit "Hotline Bling." Carefully constructed for maximum impact, the dazzling, minimal visuals of American artist James Turrell inspired the infinitely meme-able video. Complete with Drake's stylized dance moves, bold splashes of colour and Nineteen85's breezy production, these easily shareable clips dominated social media and helped the video garner over 1.5 billion views. Its rise to the top of SoundCloud provided definitive insight into the power of viral video clips and foreshadowed the impact of platforms like TikTok.
Anthony Augustine

11. Justin Bieber
"Sorry" (2015)

The release of Purpose was huge for Justin Bieber. Marking a notable change from the tweenage, bubblegum pop songs of days past, Purpose, Bieber's fourth album, was more adult. While third album Believe also sounded more grown for the longstanding pop star, Purpose allowed Bieber to shift from pop ballads to EDM and house-inspired tracks. "Sorry," an insanely quotable, BloodPop-produced hit, showed us a side of our Canadian sweetheart we were eager to get to know.
Sofie Mikhaylova

10. PUP
"DVP" (2016)

PUP are masters of self-directed ugly truths. "DVP" is a rare breed of song brave enough to wrestle with the idea that perhaps its narrator's problems aren't caused by some external oppressor like an ex-lover or an unfair society, but rather by their own shitty habits. The legitimate acceptance of criticism ("She says that I drink too much") coupled with more humorous, self-deprecating potshots ("Three beers and I'm so messed up") together build this deeply human little story of something resembling growth — all told in two-and-a-half minutes. All that, on top of relentlessly punchy instrumentals that sound dead set on busting your speakers, make "DVP" an easy contender for most intense track of the decade. Try not to lose your mind over this one live — it can't be done.
Corey Van Den Hoogenband

9. Marie Davidson
"Work It" (2018)

As electronic dance music exploded throughout the 2010s, a disturbing culture of workaholism became pervasive in the industry — multiple gigs in one night, tour listings that run on for pages on Resident Advisor were less a badge of success than a mark of legitimacy. No stranger to the game, when Marie Davidson delivered 2018's "Work It," she'd just come off a 70-date tour and readied herself for another. Declaring, "You wanna know how I get away with everything? I work. All the fucking time," it's part mock motivational guru, part brutal honesty, but at the same time, it's a self-referential parody of the culture. It's most importantly an anthem for self-care: "When I say 'work,' I mean you've got to work for yourself," she emphasizes. "Love yourself. Feed yourself."
Tom Beedham

8. The Weeknd
"Can't Feel My Face" (2015)

The Weeknd has always capitalized on chaos. The contrast between feelings of utter euphoria (often onset by drugs and affection) and total numbness (comedowns and heartbreak) is pretty standard for the Scarborough native. However, nothing captures the lack of emotion and the overwhelming dizziness of elation like Abel Tesfaye's 2015 track "Can't Feel My Face." The track is less brooding than Tesfaye's previous efforts, with disco sheen complementing moody lyrics ("I know she'll be the death of me / At least we'll both be numb"). He enlisted pop hitmakers Max Martin and Ali Payami as producers, along with the Cardigans' songwriter and guitarist Peter Svensson, to produce the track, but comparisons to "Thriller" might make you wonder if Quincy Jones had something to do with it. The layering of bass lines and vocals in the chorus, the infectious melody — hearing it is inevitably cause for celebration. It's a perfect storm.
Hannah Ziegler

7. Japandroids
"The House That Heaven Built" (2012)

In Japandroids' world, stasis is the cousin of death. Whether singing (yelling?) in unison about drinking, romance or heartbreak, the need to push forward is the band's beating heart, every song essentially a travelogue. "The House That Heaven Built" is no different, concerning a failed romance doomed by the protagonist's nomadic lifestyle. Its first two-thirds chronicle lovers settling into domestic life, and there's a moment after the triumphant bridge where it seems it might end here. But just as the song is about to peter out, life comes crashing down. The sense of melancholy is pervasive, even as the buoyant "oh-oh-ohs" of the chorus urge on the narrator's impulses, no matter their self-destructive nature. The guitars and drums fire up and the band hit the road once again.
Ian Gormely

6. Carly Rae Jepsen
"Call Me Maybe" (2011)

Who would have guessed that one of the decade's most enduring songs would come from a Canadian Idol also-ran and a guy who wrote songs for Faber Drive and Jakalope? But that's the world of pop music — sometimes all it takes is a killer beat and an even better chorus. Melding brilliantly gooey Eurodance piano hits with a whopping 15-second chorus, Carly Rae Jepsen managed to unleash one of the biggest earworms in the pop canon. But, aside from its sonic allure, "Call Me Maybe" remains timeless due to Jepsen and co-writers Tavish Crowe and Josh Ramsay's decision to avoid hackneyed clichés and of-the-moment trappings that leave even the most vibrant pop music sounding dated and forgettable. "Call Me Maybe" is a bulletproof song.
Daniel Sylvester

5. Arcade Fire
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (2010)

"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" has become a staple of Arcade Fire's live show, but unlike other climactic Arcade Fire tracks, this one teases a peak but never crests it. Instead, the five-and-a-half minute anthem keeps steady, with Régine Chassagne's soprano vocals weaving with desperation. Rather than finding release, the song lets the energy stretch out, as endless as those dead shopping malls and rows of suburbia. The synths and drums pop while Chassagne sings of a futility that might feel grim, if it weren't for the '80s groove and absolute danceability. The accompanying interactive video even changed the pace of the song in time to your webcammed dance moves (from a time before we were quite so wary of our webcam privacy.) "Sprawl II" is about longing and movement inside boxes, but still finds significance in playground kisses and cut-the-lights darkness.
Kaitlin Ruether

4. Drake
"Hold On We're Going Home" (ft. Majid Jordan) (2013)

Drake put out a lot of excellent songs (by both popular and critical opinion) in the last decade, but "Hold On, We're Going Home" cemented Drake as the reigning champ of popular hip-hop. He ditched the rap bars in favour of his equally adored (even if incredibly Auto-Tuned) sing-songy croon, playing up a melody that remains stuck in our heads nearly seven years later — and will likely stay there for years to come. As if the song's title and hook weren't enough of an homage to Toronto, Drizzy reps his hometown by enlisting production from 40, Majid Jordan and dvsn's Nineteen85. It was simultaneously a hyper-local affair and a universal hit, proving that Drake is Canada's most valuable export of the decade, if not all time.
Sarah Murphy

3. Alvvays
"Archie, Marry Me" (2014)

For many, your mid-twenties is a time when you attend countless weddings and then a few years later learn that half of those couples are getting a divorce. During those years, feelings of love and bitterness are tightly tied together like the ribbon on the wedding gifts you give. In "Archie, Marry Me," from their self-titled debut album, Toronto-based band Alvvays write an unforgettable anthem for this chapter in life. Lead singer Molly Rankin sharply describes being a young adult ("Too late to go out, too young to stay in"), reflects on being in love, and the tired idea that marriage has to be the next step in a relationship. It's all done as a hazy, jangle-pop track whose driving rhythm mirrors a coastal drive in the summer. Five years after the song's release, its chorus is still stuck in our heads.
Laura Stanley

2. Caribou
"Can't Do Without You" (2014)

The warm intent behind Caribou's Our Love led Dan Snaith to wring plenty of human feel from his electronics on his seventh studio album, and opener "Can't Do Without You" stands as a perfect microcosm of that entire sonic achievement. On the surface, the song primarily revolves around Snaith's five-word affirmation and a chord progression some could deem simple by his musical standards. In his hands, these seemingly straightforward pieces are tweaked and treated to mesmerizing effect, pulling head and heart out to the dance floor and beyond. Snaith's looping vocal lines, pitch-shifted opposite one another, are the melodic drivers that leave space for a steady beat and filtered, kaleidoscopic keys to rise and fall ahead of a final dance break blowout, after which Snaith gets even more tender. The musical and emotional pull of "Can't Do Without You" is undeniable; it has even attracted the most reprehensible among us.
Calum Slingerland

1. Grimes
"Oblivion" (2012)

Given our current cultural moment, it seems obvious that a cyberpunk cri de coeur about post-traumatic stress brought on by sexual assault was a surefire way to launch Grimes into the wider cultural consciousness. Yet, "Oblivion" touched a nerve long before #MeToo, becoming not only one of Claire Boucher's signature songs, but her breakthrough to a broader audience. The song is a harrowing portrait of the aftermath of abuse, the terror that lingers long after the crime. Its power comes from Boucher's ebullient delivery, a lilting melody that reclaims the paralyzing fear of the refrain, "See you on a dark night," flipping it into a powerful call to arms. The iconic video, which plopped the diminutive singer into traditional male spaces — locker room, football game, monster truck rally — certainly helped break the song big. But Boucher grounds her futuristic production with real emotional stakes, her looped, ethereal voice riding overtop a burbling bass line that burrows into your skull. That the song still sounds so alien, its message so necessary, speaks to Boucher's forward-thinking influence and the shittiness of modern culture.
Ian Gormely

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