Northern love: An epic list of the greatest Canadian love songs
We may be known for our freezing winters and snowy streets, and even our biggest national sport relies entirely on ice. But Canadians evidently know a thing or two about staying warm on those chilly nights — at least if our incredible love songs are any indication.
So in honour of Valentine's Day, we've amassed a playlist of more than 50 of the very best, from Joni Mitchell to the Weeknd, Arcade Fire to Buffy Sainte-Marie.
You'll see all the tracks below, and you can listen to the full playlist here:
Joni Mitchell, 'A Case of You'
It may seem strange to begin with a love that's been lost, but with lines like "Oh you are in my blood like holy wine/ oh and you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet/ oh I could drink a case of you" it's a love that's far from over.
Leonard Cohen, 'Suzanne'
With his rugged voice and poetic lyrics, Leonard Cohen did love songs like nobody else — even when he sang about an imagined romance with a friend's girlfriend.
Ron Sexsmith, 'Secret Heart'
Ever had a secret crush, and tried (and failed) to muster the courage to say so? Beloved Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith perfectly captures that ambrosial ache in this unforgettable track — and provides that needed extra nudge.
Gentleman Reg, 'Give Me the Chance to Fall'
It takes two to fall in love, but it starts with one extending the invitation.
Buffy Sainte-Marie, 'Up Where We Belong'
Many associate this famous track with Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker, whose rendition was a 1982 hit. But many don't realize it was co-written by Canadian music legend Buffy Sainte-Marie, and her pared-down performance is just as arresting and uplifting.
Feist, '1, 2, 3, 4'
Thanks to a spot in an Apple ad, this schoolyard-sweet love song shot Feist into the international limelight — and won her adoring fans around the globe, as well as spots on shows from The Colbert Report to Sesame Street.
Sarah McLachlan, 'Ice Cream'
What's better than ice cream or chocolate? Your love, apparently — and this song, for the many couples who have used the tasty track as their wedding song.
Skydiggers, 'I Will Give You Everything'
Ever tried to win back a love that got away? You might learn a thing or two from this melodic and much-loved 1990 Skydiggers track, which has become a Canadian classic.
Gino Vanelli, 'I Just Wanna Stop'
Sure, it's dated, and it sits precariously high on the Cheese-o-Meter, but legions of Canadians will remember slow dancing to this '70s Canadian classic — and one that starts with "those nights in Montreal."
Royal Wood, 'I Want Your Love'
Canadians are better known for their sweetness than their steaminess, but Toronto's Royal Wood turns up the heat in this seductive track.
Destroyer, 'Canadian Lover, Falcon's Escape'
A sober note of caution, from Destroyer's Dan Bejar.
Céline Dion, 'My Heart Will Go On'
Not only did Céline Dion win millions of hearts with this song, the theme from the James Cameron blockbuster Titanic, but she did it in a single take — and that hastily recorded demo went on to become one of the biggest-selling songs of all time.
Diana Krall, 'The Look of Love'
With her rich, smoky voice, jazz musician Diana Krall could sing the dictionary and make it sound romantic, but her rendition of this Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic is as sultry as they come.
The Weeknd, 'Earned It'
With his dark, drug-addled and sometimes sadistic spin, the Weeknd's sex-fuelled songs are more Fifty Shades than Hallmark; still, their shadowy allure is irresistible.
The Rheostatics, 'Claire'
Toronto rockers the Rheostatics were given an assignment: write a hit song for Desmond Howell, the central character in the Paul Quarrington book Whale Music, which was being adapted for the screen. The harmony-rich love song turned out to not only be a huge hit for the fictional character, but also become the only top-40 song for the real band.
Great Lake Swimmers, 'Your Rocky Spine'
Geography meets romance in many of this Ontario group's songs, including this rootsy opener to the Great Lake Swimmers' sonically scenic 2007 album, Ongiara. "With your soft fingers between my claws/ like purity against resolve/ I could tell then there we were formed from the clay/ and came from the rocks for the Earth to display."
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, 'The Log Drivers Waltz'
These days, "Log driver who can waltz" may not be at the top of many Canadians' relationship must-haves, but this light-footed Kate and Anna McGarrigle classic, composed by Wade Hemsworth and paired with John Weldon's unforgettable animation, is a head-to-toe crowd pleaser.
Blue Rodeo, 'Lost Together'
You have to love a ballad that comes with some good old-fashioned Canadian second guessing: "Strange and beautiful/ are the stars tonight/ that dance around your head/ in your eyes I see that perfect world/ I hope that doesn't sound too weird." And it's a track that Blue Rodeo and its fans have been belting out for more than 25 years.
Dan Hill, 'Sometimes When We Touch'
"I want to hold you 'til I die/ 'til we both break down and cry/ I want to hold you 'til the fear in me subsides." You might not want to go quite that far this Valentine's Day — a nice dinner and some chocolate will usually suffice — but this dramatic 1977 ballad was a huge hit, and covered by stars from Tina Turner to Rod Stewart.
The Tragically Hip, 'Bobcaygeon'
The Hip's lyrics are often wonderfully cryptic, and frontman Gord Downie's explanations are ever-shifting. But he's often said that "Bobcaygeon" — named after a small Ontario town — is about two cops in love. At a 2013 concert, he took that explanation even further, saying it's about "a couple of gay cops that fall in love. One lives in the city, and the other lives in the country. You can see the dilemma … the commute."
k.d. lang, 'Constant Craving'
Before k.d. lang was a household name, the country crooner released this aching track, which became a crossover hit and landed a Grammy for best pop vocal and an MTV Award for the artful black-and-white video. "She wanted it to sound very European, almost like a Marlene Dietrich track," remembered producer Greg Penny in an interview. "She was making this movie [Salmonberries] in Germany with Percy Adlon and was very excited about European torch singers."
Shania Twain, 'You're Still The One'
Pop-country megastar Shania Twain was not the luckiest in love, but her ill-fated relationship with producer Mutt Lange inspired this heart-on-sleeve song, which charted around the globe and become another go-to wedding song.
Neil Young, 'Harvest Moon'
Most love songs are about new love, or lost love, but few tap into gentle, enduring love as Canadian icon Neil Young does in this classic. "Because I'm still in love with you/ I want to see you dance again/ because I'm still in love with you/ on this harvest moon."
Daniel Lanois, 'Jolie Louise'
A hardworking man from east of Gatineau pleads with "Jolie Louise" for her to marry him and live in a pretty house — but fate has different plans in this dark love song by legendary musician and producer Daniel Lanois.
Bryan Adams, '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You'
Bryan Adams has so many hit love songs — "Run to You", "Heaven", "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Straight From the Heart", to name just a few — but the cigarette lighters all came out for this 1991 hit as he belted out, "There's no love like your love."
April Wine, 'Just Between You and Me'
Some loves are best left a secret, and April Wine definitely promotes that strategy in this stadium-rock hit. The Canadian rock classic even includes a line in French — oh là là!
Jeff Healey, 'Angel Eyes'
Blues darling Jeff Healey sent legions of hearts into a swoon with this ballad, which also features some good ol' Canadian self-deprecation. "Girl, you're looking fine tonight/ and every guy has got you in his sight/ what you're doing with a clown like me/ is surely one of life's little mysteries."
Rufus Wainwright, 'April Fools'
The love train can come through on Valentine's Day, but then speed off to April Fools — or so warns Rufus Wainwright in this sweet and cynical hit. "And you will believe in love/ and all that it's supposed to be/ but just until the fish start to smell/ and you're struck down by a hammer."
Barenaked Ladies, 'If I Had a Million Dollars'
Pop favourites the Barenaked Ladies have had several romance-minded hits, but perhaps none as darling as this track from their now-legendary demo cassette. Besides, who doesn't love a ballad that includes a K-Car, Kraft Dinner and pre-wrapped sausages?
Bruce Cockburn, 'Lovers in a Dangerous Time'
Love knows no bounds — literally — and Bruce Cockburn taps into what it's like when love blooms during difficult times, be they personal or political. Don't miss the Barenaked Ladies' 1991 cover, too.
Blue Peter, 'Don't Walk Past'
The New Wave era had its share of memorable — and danceable — love songs, including this percussion-heavy Blue Peter favourite that pleads, "Don't walk on past, don't break this heart."
Drake, 'Take Care'
Just about everyone has had their heart broken. So how do you move on? And how do you help a new love pick up the old pieces? "If you let me, here's what I'll do/ I'll take care of you."
Arcade Fire, 'Crown of Love'
Arcade Fire puts a dystopian spin on school-aged love in this standout track from the band's debut album, Funeral. "My love keeps growin' still the same/ just like a cancer/ and you won't give me a straight answer."
Amy Millan, 'Skinny Boy'
"You've got lips I could spend a day with," sings Stars and Broken Social Scene's Amy Millan in this lazy Sunday soundtrack, which became an instant indie hit.
Patrick Watson, 'Slip Into Your Skin'
In this lovely track, Montreal troubadour Patrick Watson perfectly captures those magical moments when you're floating in love and your feet don't seem to touch the ground. "Be the blanket for my bones/ be a place that I call home."
Ian and Sylvia, 'Someday Soon'
You're young and in love and everyone says you don't know what you're doing — but every once in a while you do. And just because he's wild doesn't mean he's not the one.
Anne Murray, 'Could I Have This Dance'
It's Anne Murray singing what amounts to a marriage proposal. What more is there to say?
Gordon Lightfoot, 'If You Could Read My Mind'
Things don't work out for the lovers in this classic track, but few could complain about a break-up as poetic as this one.
Richard Desjardins, 'Tu m'aimes-tu'
Images of deserts, hidden treasures and Nefertiti line this highly evocative love song by Quebec legend Richard Desjardins, in which the main character calls his lover heaven-sent. And after a brief encounter in a hotel room, he asks honestly, "Do you love me?"
Whitehorse, 'Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song)'
"They are the eyes (they are the eyes)/ they are the eyes, I will to die with," sings husband-and-wife duo Whitehorse on this quietly powerful ballad about always coming back to the same eyes, no matter what life throws at you.
Cowboy Junkies, 'Anniversary Song'
Have you ever seen a sight as beautiful as that of the rain-soaked purple of the white birch in spring? Or a face in a crowd of people that lights up just for you? These are the questions that get asked when you're head over heels — and when you listen to this love-laden track by Cowboy Junkies.
Hawksley Workman, 'Don't Be Crushed'
"You're where all the poets go/ you're where all the ashes blow/ you're the kind of maker/ that makes the whole world come true."
Tegan and Sara, 'Closer'
Twin duo Tegan and Sara aimed for the pop music bigtime with this catchy love song, and they got there, landing a Juno for single of the year and a spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Carly Rae Jepsen, 'Call Me Maybe'
You know when you give someone your number and then pray your phone will ring? Evidently millions of people around the world can relate, because this Carly Rae Jepsen megahit is one of the best-selling digital singles of all time.
Joel Plaskett, 'Nowhere With You'
Need a pick-me-up? Nowhere better to start than with this irresistible Joel Plaskett love song, which never fails to get crowds on their feet.
The Weakerthans, 'The Reasons'
In the age of irony and sarcasm some shy away from showing their true feelings. But in this Weakerthans classic, John K. Samson waxes nostalgic and tells it like it is: "I know you might roll your eyes at this, but I'm so glad that you exist."
"Is it true when they say all you need is just love?" asks K'naan in "Fatima", a song about young love and the violence that can take it away.
Sarah Harmer, 'I Am Aglow'
Sarah Harmer taps into old-school roots in this light and lively love song. "Is it obvious? Does it show? With thoughts of you I am aglow."
Leonard Cohen, 'Dance Me to the End of Love'
"Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin/ dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in/ lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove/ dance me to the end of love." Seriously, how could anyone say no?
Oscar Peterson, 'Let's Fall In Love'
Because sometimes love doesn't need any words at all.