The top 100 Canadian songs of 2021
From pop smashes to R&B gems, these were the tracks we had on repeat all year
Even though there's never a shortage of new music in a given year, last year saw many musicians hold back releases as a result of the worldwide pandemic. New music, after all, is no longer the revenue machine it used to be. Nowadays, new releases are often followed up by tours where the majority of an artist's income is made.
So it only made sense that, as music venues gradually started reopening in 2021, many of music's biggest names returned: Adele, Justin Bieber and Drake were examples of stars who returned with new albums and chart-topping singles.
But as you'll see from our list of the top 100 songs of 2021, this year brought us viral hits, pop smashes, political songs, R&B anthems and more from a mix of household names and emerging talent who got us excited to hear more. Taking radio play, streaming and cultural impact into account, these 100 songs from 2021 have either turned heads, drummed up a lot of buzz or will be important to Canada's musical landscape for decades to come — or all things at once.
Join host Grant Lawrence on Monday, Dec. 27, for a four-hour radio special counting down all these songs. Tune in at 3:05 p.m. ET on CBC Music, or via CBC Listen.
100. "Brazilian Love Song," Keys N Krates.
99. "Adapting," Beatchild.
98. "Get High," Hillsburn.
97. "Run Away With Her," Sook-Yin Lee and Adam Litovitz.
96. "One Thing I Know," Arkells.
95. "Fonction Naturelle," Ouri.
94. "Burnin' Love," Shawnee Kish featuring Jamie Fine.
93. "Want You More," Amaka Queenette.
92. "Losing my Mind," New City.
91. "Tupperware," Field Guild.
90. "Amnesia," Shan Vincent de Paul featuring Ami.
89. "Bless me Down," Tika.
88. "Push it Down," Taylor Janzen.
87. "Fearless," Borelson featuring Teebee, Eyeami and Dolothegifted.
86. "Wake up, Get Down," Kallitechnis, Cupidon and Ric Wilson.
85. "Paradise," Astrocolor and Cayley Thomas.
84. "Tiempo," Mas Aya and Lido Pimienta.
83. "When the Moving Stops," Planet Giza.
82. "Namu," Aasiva and FxckMr.
81. "Rain," Grandson and Jessie Reyez.
80. "Waiting in Line," Kiwi Jr.
79. "Bought the T-Shirt," Brittany Kennell.
78. "Inside Out," Postdata.
77. "Love Potion," Ralph.
76. "Candied Tangerines," Jon Bryant.
75. "Classic," Adria Kain featuring Leila.
74. "You Can do It," Caribou.
73. "Head Rush," Art d'Ecco.
72. "Black Coffee," Aviv.
71. "Love is a Losing Game," TheHonestGuy featuring Malaika Khadijaa.
70. "Cocoa Beach," Munya.
69. "Moteskano (Les sentiers de nos ancêtres)," Laura Niquay.
68. "Change Ur Mind," Sarcastic Sounds featuring Clinton Kane and Claire Rosinkranz.
67. "Soft," Grae.
66. "Flamenco," Haviah Mighty featuring Mala Rodriguez.
65. "KD and Lunch Meat," Boy Golden.
64. "Love Will be Reborn," Martha Wainwright.
63. "Run," William Prince.
62. "Now You Don't," Ocie Elliott.
61. "Anishinabe," Samian and Mashtan Newashish.
60. "Let me In," Rezz.
59. "About Her," Jhyve.
58. "When the Summer Dies," Deadmau5 featuring Lights.
57. "Circles," Drezus and Dakota Bear.
56. "4 a.m. in Toronto," Junia-T featuring Miloh Smith.
55. "Until You," Ahi.
54. "Tried to Tell You," the Weather Station.
53. "Calls," Charlie Houston.
52. "Head of the Lake," Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.
51. "Pigeons," Les Louanges.
50. "Woo!," Charmaine.
49. "All Along," Rochelle Jordan.
48. "Signal From the Noise," BadBadNotGood.
47. "Something Else," Snotty Nose Rez Kids.
46. "You Were in my Dreams Last Night," Babygirl.
45. "(We Like to) Do it With the Lights On," Islands.
44. "Black Averageness," Shad.
43. "While we Wait," Dominique Fils-Aimé.
42. "Revolver," Bülow.
41. "Do U Mind? (Leave the Light On)," Fleece.
40. "WFM," RealestK.
39. "All I Need," Jayda G.
38. "White Buffalo," Crown Lands.
37. "Shapeshifter," Alessia Cara.
36. "Edamame," bbno$ and Rich Brian.
35. "To You," Cri.
34. "Like 1999," Valley.
33. "Girlfriend," Alex Porat.
32. "Bouge ton Thang," Clay and Friends.
31. "24 Hrs," Savannah Ré.
30. "Have You," Boslen.
29. "Blow," Ruby Waters.
28. "Beside Myself," Lights.
27. "Stay," the Halluci Nation featuring Antoine, Tom Power and Chippewa Travellers.
26. "Intimidated," Kaytranada featuring H.E.R.
25. "Nightflyer," Allison Russell.
24. "Waves of Blue," Majid Jordan.
23. "Mermaid in Lisbon," Patrick Watson featuring Teresa Salgueiro.
22. "I'm not Pretty," Jessia.
21. "Sleepwalking," Chiiild.
20. "Fancy," Lennon Stella.
19. "Situation," Ruth B.
18. "On s'aimera toujours," Cœur de pirate.
17. "I Got Love," Mother Mother.
16. "7am on Bridle Path," Drake.
15. "Throw That Back," DijahSB.
14. "Summer of Love," Shawn Mendes and Tainy.
13. "Raw," Loony.
12. "Line by Line," JP Saxe and Marren Morris.
11. "Stay," Justin Bieber and the Kid Laroi.
10. 'Child of the Government,' Jayli Wolf
Jayli Wolf's debut EP, Wild Whisper, is a jaw-dropping collection, but "Child of the Government" is one of the most important songs of the year. The Indigi-electro-R&B track is a percussive powerhouse of bass, beats and samples. This is an evocative landscape for an autobiographical song about the ongoing intergenerational effects of the Sixties Scoop. Wolf's coolly detached delivery creates a space between herself and her lyrics where she can unpack some of her own lived experiences (Wolf belongs to the Saulteau First Nation, which is near Chetwynd, B.C., but she did not know that growing up) as well as what being a "child of the government" cost generations of Indigenous people. — Andrea Warner
9. 'Don't Touch,' Tobi
Tobi dropped this track hours before he took home the Juno Award for rap recording of the year, further cementing his place in the Canadian rap canon. Produced by BadBadNotGood and fellow 2021 Juno winner Kaytranada, "Don't Touch" has the bounce of confidence and that intimate, sweaty vibe that each member of this trio is so good at creating solo. "That's a crown on my head/ don't touch that," Tobi raps, claiming his seat at the royal table. — Holly Gordon
8. 'You,' Tate McRae, Troye Sivan and Regard
Tate McRae may be in her natural element when she's pouring her feelings out into a sweeping ballad, but on her upbeat collaboration with Troye Sivan and DJ Regard, the emotional woes are transported to the dance floor. "You" is powered by Sivan and McRae, who infuse every lyric with such a palpable sense of longing and obsession that the idea of tangoing with an ex is more fantasy than nightmare; no logic, just pure desire. — Melody Lau
7. 'Worldwide,' Emanuel
Emanuel will tell you this track is about taking his music "worldwide," but reading between the lines, you might come to believe it could be about something more.... intimate. Either way, "Worldwide" — just like the rest of his standout debut album, Alt Therapy — has the power to transport you into an almost hypnagogic state, thanks to his now trademark, silky smooth vox and this effortlessly dreamy beat. — Ben Aylsworth
6. 'I Can Only Whisper,' Charlotte Day Wilson feat. BadBadNotGood
This standout single off Charlotte Day Wilson's exceptional debut album drips with hazy, mid-century soul — letting the deep jazz grooves of frequent collaborators BadBadNotGood shuffle under her throaty poeticism. It solidifies that Wilson is years ahead of her time, and quickly on her way to becoming Canada's favourite vocalist. — Jess Huddleston
5. 'On Me,' Cadence Weapon feat. Manga Saint Hilare and Strict Face
Using a bouncing grime-inspired beat — "One of the most surveilled and policed music genres in history," as Cadence Weapon explained in his newsletter — "On Me" explores the link between facial recognition technology and racial discrimination. As a musical documentarian of Black Canadian history, the Edmonton-born, Toronto-based rapper masterfully illustrates how racism has persisted and evolved, warning people, "You gotta watch out for the lurkers out there, you know." — ML
4. 'The Hearse,' Mustafa
Mustafa's memory of preparing a friend's body for burial becomes a song about cathartic rage and revenge, fuelled by harrowing grief, his sombre croon contemplating the state of constant war he finds himself trapped in. He artfully expresses tragic desperation as he sings "I wanna throw my life away for you." — Kelsey Adams
3. 'Meaningless,' Charlotte Cardin
Charlotte Cardin's 2021 album, Phoenix, was a singles-rich release, but none of them resonated as much as the breakup pop hit "Meaningless." Cardin unleashes her full vocal power on the chorus of the pulsing, synth-heavy track, singing, "I don't wanna live/ a meaningless/ life without you" — uniting fans in a cathartic plea. The video even comes with low-key choreography for those long, lonely nights. — HG
2. 'Take my Breath,' the Weeknd
The Weeknd has long cemented himself as the king of R&B and pop innovation — where he leads the sound follows. On "Take my Breath," he looks backward to the heyday of disco and brings us to his own dark and moody Studio 54. The disco-lite track is pure, hedonistic fun. — KA
1. 'Peaches,' Justin Bieber feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon
When "Peaches" dropped in March, it came fully formed as this year's song of the summer. But as the season came and went, the Justice single continued to hang out for 30 more weeks on the Billboard charts — Bieber's eighth longest run on the charts, which also secured his seventh No. 1 song on the Hot 100. Its success is justified, though, as Bieber triumphs with a perfect blend of both his pop and R&B sensibilities. Backed by Daniel Caesar and Giveon, the trio provide listeners with an escapist fantasy: picking peaches in Georgia, smoking weed in California, a rendezvous up north. Sure, it's less about the journey than the company you keep (in this case, it's another one of Bieber's romantic odes to his wife, Hailey), but in a world that is still slowly crawling out of a pandemic, "Peaches" is a dream we can't wait to fulfil. — ML