The 27 Best Songs About Toronto
Go running through the 6ix with PUP, Neil Young, Shad and many more
Published Aug 30, 2021Given how many bands have come out of Toronto, it's hardly surprising that the city has repeatedly popped up in song lyrics. Whether it's Drake rapping about the 6ix so many times that the nickname finally stuck, or a surprising lineage of artists singing about TTC stops, the Toronto skyline casts a long shadow across music history.
We've collected 27 of our favourite Toronto-specific lyrics for this list, running the gamut from loving tributes to the city's diversity to grim depictions of its winters. We limited it to one song per artist (mostly so that the list isn't too clogged with Drake songs), but we made an exception for a certain Hip individual's solo project. The songs are presented in chronological order, so you can take a tour through Toronto over the years.
"Alberta Bound" (1972)
Toronto lyric: "Oh the skyline of Toronto / Is something you'll get onto"
Alberta is the titular character in this jaunty folk song — but Toronto plays a strong supporting role, as Gordon Lightfoot sings about the "brown and gritty" streets and awkwardly harps on about how all of the city's pretty girls don't like him. We're still waiting for a follow-up song about how Alberta also turned out to be disappointing.
"Ambulance Blues" (1974)
Toronto lyric: "I'm up in T.O. keepin' jive alive"
After spending decades based in the U.S., Neil Young recently revealed that he's currently living in Ontario, close to where he grew up. There's currently no word as to whether he plans to use this newfound proximity to Toronto to, uh, keep jive alive.
The Shuffle Demons
"Spadina Bus" (1986)
Toronto lyric: "I don't give a damn 'bout the Bathurst tram / So I'll make a fuss about Spadina Bus"
This retro TTC anthem reminds us just how much has changed in Toronto in the past 35 years. Back then, Spadina had busses instead of streetcars, and this hippity-hoppin' jazz song was considered good enough to his the Top 40 and earn a Juno Award nomination. Okay, actually this song actually still kinda rules. Check out the video to watch commuters getting inconvenienced by the most irritating people in the world.
"Trinity Bellwoods" (1994)
Toronto lyric: "It all comes down to some patience and trust / Trinity Bellwoods all around us"
Before becoming the pop-punk band behind hits like "American Psycho" and "Brand New Low," Treble Charger played indie rock under the name NC-17. Their debut album as Treble Charger was also called NC17, and even though it's not on streaming services, the track "Trinity Bellwoods" reveals a slice of moody, quintessentially '90s rock that's very different from the radio hits.
"One Week" (1998)
Toronto lyric: "Birchmount Stadium, home of the Robbie"
Yit's been 23 years since BNL offered this tribute to the Robbie International Soccer Tournament, which takes place at Scarborough's Birchmount Stadium, with the closing lyric to their mega-hit "One Week." See also: "The Old Apartment," which references the Danforth.
The Tragically Hip
Toronto lyric: "That night in Toronto / With its checkerboard floors"
Ontario cottage community Bobcaygeon is located about two hours' drive from Toronto. Downie apparently chose the setting simply because it (sort of) rhymes with "constellation," but he also name drops Toronto just as the Phantom Power hit is ascending towards its glorious crescendo.
"BaKardi Slang" (2000)
Toronto lyric: "All of the West Indies combined / To make the T dot O dot one of a kind"
Just like Drake gave us the 6ix, Kardinall Offishall popularized the nickname "T-dot" on this comprehensive rundown of the city's lingo. A decade later, Kardi celebrated Toronto again with "The Anthem" — but this first anthem remains a classic.
Toronto lyric: "Open up and spend the night in Parkdale"
Metric recorded their album Grow Up and Blow Away in 2001 but didn't release it until 2007. In those intervening years, they removed the track "Parkdale" — although you can still find the jazzy trip-hop tune on YouTube. It's tough to know exactly what to make of its commerce-fixated lyrics about shops and shoppers, but the very last lyric situates the story in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood.
Great Lake Swimmers
"I Will Never See the Sun" (2003)
Toronto lyric: "I will never see the sun / Spadina, St. George, Bay and Yonge"
This waltzing folk shanty will make riding the TTC feel a bit like sailing the high seas, as frontman Tony Dekker lists off Toronto streets amidst hypnotic acoustic strums and cavernous reverb. It ends with wheezing accordion, an announcement listing off stops and the hum of the subway.
Toronto lyric: "Walking down Yonge Street on a Friday / Can't follow them, gotta do it my way"
This Juno Award-winning single about crab mentality — when a group drags down any individual that excels — finds k-os going his own way while strutting through Toronto.
"The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead" (2005)
Toronto lyric: "The CN Tower is built upon our bones / The CN Tower will always be our home"
Owen Pallett's debut album contains a peculiar, morbid orchestral track that imagines Toronto's CN Tower as a funeral monument. In the jaunty-yet-mournful song's final passage, Pallett imagines being at the top of the tower and sings, "We can see your house from here."
Apostle of Hustle
"Chances Are" (2007)
Toronto lyric: "Drunk, drunk in the dark of Bellwoods / Smashed, two bikes smashed against a tree"
This rather bitter, gloomy lyric sounds downright joyful when Andrew Whiteman sings it amidst bopping hand percussion and jaunty acoustic strums. With twee horns and harmonized hooks, drunken vandalism in Trinity Bellwoods Park has never seemed quite so wholesome.
"Red Elephant" (2008)
Toronto lyric: "Let's meet at the fountains in Dundas Square"
Sure, what time?
"Forests and Sands" (2009)
Toronto lyric: "If the blood pumping through my veins could freeze / Like a river in Toronto then I'd be pleased"
Glaswegian indie pop band Camera Obscura namecheck Toronto in a beautiful song from My Maudlin Career, seemingly just as a metaphor for how fucking cold Canada gets in the winter. Scotland is pretty cold too!
"Black Ice" (2009)
Toronto lyric: "I took the bus down Bathurst St. and saw where / All the lonely people meet down there"
When you compile a whole list of Toronto-themed lyrics, certain themes begin to emerge. Ohbijou's "Black Ice," with its references to the TTC and the cold Canadian winters, wraps up a couple of those themes into one swooning orchestral rock lament.
"Where U Goin" (2011)
Toronto lyric: "They never took you to Toronto"
Arkells are known for repping their hometown of Hamilton, but they they turn their attention a little up the coast of Lake Ontario with this Michigan Left track, which lists off a series of GTA highways with the line "403, 401, 402 you're on the run."
"Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)" (2013)
Toronto lyric: "Come a long way, you can move forward still / From the poorest to up by Lawrence or Forest Hill"
In this joyous celebration of diversity and immigration, Shad quotes Jay-Z (from Watch the Throne) while rapping about newcomers to Canada who just might end up living in some of Toronto's richest neighbourhoods.
"Know Yourself" (2015)
Toronto lyric: "Runnin' through the 6ix with my woes"
Of the many, many Drake songs that reference Toronto, "Know Yourself" is perhaps the most iconic thanks to its chorus phrase, "Runnin' through the 6ix with my woes." He also references the address of an apartment building on 15 Fort York, where he did some of his early recordings, and claims, "My city too turnt up, I'll take the fine for that."
Lilly Singh & Humble the Poet
Toronto lyric: "The Dot, the 6ix, T.O., the cold, last T silent, Toronto, you know / When I leave the YYZ, I always take a part with me"
Scarborough comedian and former late-night talk show host Lilly Singh honours Toronto's diversity in this party-starting rap collab with Humble the Poet, and they tell listeners, "Wanna trip around the world? Come to my hood." As for the title, "IV I VI" is "416" spelled out in Roman numerals.
"Toronto (Unabridged)" (2015)
Toronto lyric: "I'm back in Toronto, but just until tomorrow / That's when the bleeding stops again"
Silverstein's 2015 album I Am Alive in Everything I Touch is bookended by the snippet "Toronto (Abridged)" and the emo power ballad "Toronto (Unabridged)." Beginning with a TTC announcement about East Liberty Street and referencing Kensington Market and Sneaky Dee's, the song describes feeling like a stranger in your own hometown.
"Tell Your Friends" (2015)
Toronto lyric: "Used to roam on Queen, now I sing Queen Street anthems"
The Weeknd doesn't sing about Toronto nearly as often as his old buddy Drake, but he references his old haunts on this Beauty Behind the Madness cut. Fun fact: the name of his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, comes from the Parkdale home where he lived early in his career.
"Get Dark" (2016)
Toronto lyric: "Down on King Street, Kelly's getting dark at the Pharmacy"
Perhaps "getting dark" refers to having gloomy thoughts — but anyone who has been to Pharmacy on King Street knows that it's probably simply referring the fact that the bar is very, very dimly lit. Vancouver band the Zolas also refer to Toronto by name in the song, and reference King Street's streetcar lines.
Toronto lyric: "Doing 180 on the Don Valley Parkway"
Important safety note: the speed limit on the DVP is 90 km per hour.
"Introduce Yerself" (2017)
Toronto: "Went down the Danforth on Christmas Eve"
Of the many emotionally crushing moments on Gord Downie's Introduce Yerself, recorded while he was dying of cancer, there's perhaps no more tearjerking moment than the title track, when he describes a simple story of paying permanent tribute to a friend at the Danforth's Black Pearl Tattoo and Piercing.
"Jumped in the Humber" (2021)
Toronto lyric: "Jumped in the Humber / Or was he pushed?"
Folk rock singer-songwriter Jerry Leger sets this mob-motivated murder mystery — a bonus cut from the expanded reissue of 2019's Time Out for Tomorrow — on the banks of the Southern Ontario river. He sings, "You're hired if you know how to drive / Can you gun this sucker to the deep east side." The Humber runs through west Toronto, so it's going to be a pretty long drive.
"Highlights of 100" (2021)
Toronto lyric: "I knew you were trouble when you walked home / All the way from the SkyDome"
Wry indie rockers Kiwi Jr. love hyper-specific references, and their songs are packed with allusions to their East Coast upbringing and Toronto home base. Who's gonna tell them that they changed SkyDome's name to Rogers Centre in 2005?
"Let's Go" (2021)
Toronto lyric: "I'm just a girl who used to loaft at a Toronto art school"
Toronto rockers the Beaches pepper their new Future Lovers EP with Toronto lyrics; this song refers to the Bovine Sex Club, "Blow Up," name drops Summerville Pool, and "Bad Behaviour" calls out "Assholes from Mississauga." The band are even named after a Toronto neighbourhood, and they recently told Exclaim!, "Toronto is a big part about who we are as a band."
"Got All Night" (2021)
Toronto lyric: "Take the road that winds around / All the pretty shops on Dundas West / I'm just around the corner from the Laser Quest"
Dreamy folk rock singer-songwriter Alyson McNamara offers extremely specific directions to her house on this grooving standout from this year's Let Me Sleep.