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According to the internet, there are 208 songs that mention one of Canada’s biggest cities, Montreal. And, 113 of them have “Montreal” in the title and at least two bands have “Montreal” in their name. Toronto has 128 songs dedicated to its greatness (as well as the occasional tune about the city’s crazy real estate market or an overlong trip on a TTC bus). Of course, Vancouver’s amazing natural beauty inspires songwriters (32 times, to be precise), but other places across the country have their own tunes, too. Here are 10 of them:
Drake, “5am in Toronto”
The ‘6 God’ has at least six songs about The 6 (that’s Toronto, for those of you who haven’t gotten the memo on the GTA’s Drake-led rebranding campaign). How do you choose just one? Simple: this one wins for the way Drake respects the Toronto bylaw that bans smoking within nine metres of a public building entrance. See also: The Weeknd’s ‘King of the Fall’ for its shout out to Queen Street and Parkdale-set video.
The Tragically Hip, “Bobcaygeon”
Before Toronto was ‘The Six’, the big city, which gets a mention in this song, was a stopover on the way to the Kawartha Lakes and Bobcaygeon. One of Ontario’s most beautiful spots, it’s known for cottages and campgrounds. The Hip capture the open-skies essence of the town perfectly with the lyric “It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations/Reveal themselves, one star at a time.”
Neil Young, “Helpless”
“There is a town in North Ontario,” sings Neil Young in this 1970 song. Of course, there are a lot of towns in North Ontario—which means you get to choose your favourite and pretend this song is about it. Even Young says “It’s not literally a specific town so much as a feeling. Actually, it’s a couple of towns. Omemee is one of them. It’s where I first went to school and spent my formative years.” See also: Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “Sudbury Saturday Night.”
The Guess Who, “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon”
Blue Rodeo, “Western Skies”
An ode to Alberta’s gorgeous Rockies, Blue Rodeo’s “Western Skies” celebrates Canada’s natural beauty with lyrics like “I’d rather be back in the Rocky Mountains/Than sitting in some bar on Queen Street.” Although, we’d say both The Rockies and Queen St. have their own appeal, just depends on your mood/thirstiness.
Bon Iver, “Calgary”
Lethbridge (not to mention the continental USA) might object, but according to this Bon Iver song “There’s really nothing to the south”of Calgary.
The Weakerthans, “One Great City!”
Feelings about your hometown are often complicated. Like any long-term relationship, there are ups and downs, but when The Weakerthans’ John Samson sings “I hate Winnipeg” it’s really a lament about a place whose history he wants to protect: “Our golden business boy/Will watch the North End die/And sing ‘I love this town’/Then let his arching wrecking ball proclaim: I…hate…Winnipeg.” See also: Matthew Good’s “The Vancouver National Anthem.”
Barenaked Ladies, “Hello City”
Where is the east coast city that BNL references in this song? Halifax. Locals will recognize the names of former Haligonian haunts The Palace and The Warehouse as well as Barrington Street. The band’s ex-singer Steven Page calls Halifax his enemy in the song, but if you listen carefully it becomes clear that his real nemesis is too much of a good thing (read: partying).
Final Fantasy, “This is the Dream of Win and Regine”
Owen Pallett penned this song about Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne and their adopted home in Quebec. The lyric “Montreal might eat its young/But Montreal won’t break us down” doesn’t refer so much to the city itself, but to its competitive music scene. Originally from Texas, Butler’s love for Montreal is well-documented—he’s been trying to become a Canadian citizen for years.
Sloan, “The Rest of My Life”
“One thing I know about the rest of my life/I know that I’ll be living it in Canada.” When it comes to this country, Sloan’s lyrics say it all.